The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables
A rare foray north last weekend (to noted literary destination Alton Towers, en famille) prompted me to start on The Familiars (Zaffre), set not that far away in Lancashire. The author is Stacey Halls, a former journalistic colleague, and I had long been promising myself I'd read her book. It has proved every bit as good as I had hoped, a gothic 17th-century tale of women, childbirth, sorcery and the infamous Pendle witch trials. And perhaps a subliminal reminder of what can happen to a society when it becomes divided by irrational beliefs...
First off, I love the cover of Diane Evans' Ordinary People (Chatto), designed by none other than PRH's design supremo Suzanne Dean - and that's not all. There's a wonderful realness to Evans' writing about the two couples at the centre of the book and the workings of their domestic lives. And Evans has done London proper justice, capturing a city I'm familiar with - from the quirks of a small borough to the best road routes.
Ann Patchett's The Dutch House (Bloomsbury) is a fine piece of work - but not quite as fine, in my view, as some of the reviews have claimed. I was sometimes aware, as I never was when reading Patchett's previous novel Commonwealth, that a thoroughly professional and skilled writer was doing a thoroughly professional and skilled job, while not convincing me entirely of the significance of her story.
I saw Robert Harris at both Wimbledon Book Festival and Frankfurt Book Fair talk about his latest book The Second Sleep (Hutchinson). It seems that more than one of our nation's best-loved novelists is looking to the future to try to make sense of where we are now - or is it vice versa? The result is a book that will delight Harris fans, though I was a tad disenchanted by the ending.
Eric Ambler's 1936 thriller Uncommon Danger (Penguin) is, like his other work, fast paced, well plotted and highly readable. And over 80 years later, some of the key themes continue to resonate. As our hero Kenton, a newspaperman who gets mixed up in some very dodgy dealings, muses: "It was the power of Business, not the deliberations of statesmen, that shaped the destinies of nations."
I am about 70 pages into Find Me, by André Aciman (Faber). It's the sequel to Call Me By Your Name, a wonderful book that nonetheless is one of the few novels that is not quite as good as its screen adaptation. So far, I am struggling to remain interested in Find Me, as the first - and unfortunately longest - section seems to be a pretty bog standard older man/younger woman romance that is rather pretentious and succeeds only in making one of the best characters in the original novel much less interesting. I am going to continue reading in the hope that I'll enjoy it more when the story finds its way back to Elio and Oliver, and that the perfect ending of the first book hasn't been too badly marred by this sequel.