What We're Reading - 13 March 2020

Opinion - Books Friday, 13 March 2020

The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables


David Roche
I am new to Belinda Bauer but really enjoyed her latest book which is due out in June. In Exit (Bantam Press), a do-gooding pensioner assists people who are suffering to depart this world with dignity and no pain. Until one day he makes an assumption that has devastating consequences. It’s cleverly plotted and full of surprises which confound the attempts to second guess what is going to happen next. Importantly, it also has a cast of characters that make you want to know how it turns out for them. Felix Pink is the loveliest of killers.

Neill Denny
These troubled times demand the literary equivalent of comfort food, so I am safe in the tender embrace of Jack Reacher. Lee Child was introduced to me by the unholy combination of Larry Finlay and Gerry Johnson, and his formula has remained reassuringly unchanged over the 16 years since. Currently I am half-way through Past Tense (Transworld), but to be honest, they do tend to blur together somewhat. Normally Reacher randomly arrives somewhere in the US, uncovers a sinister conspiracy run by super-clever master criminals who have been at it for years, and then destroys it in a climactic finale. There are also two standard sub-plots: Reacher tangles with local rednecks in a bar fight, which he invariably wins, and he has an affair with a member of the local law enforcement community. Reacher is an agreeably three-dimensional character, with his fixation on coffee, terror at any sort of emotional or physical encumbrances, fear of new technology, hero worship of the US Army, and may very well be on the spectrum. Physically, the closest real-life equivalent is probably Tyson Fury, which makes the casting of Tom Cruise to play him on film all the more laughable. Although Reacher is essentially a vigilante, he is gentlemanly in his treatment of women, scrupulous in the avoidance of collateral damage to civilians during gunfights, and unfailingly kind to oppressed minorities. But the real twist is that Lee Child is from the Midlands, and isn't American at all.

Lucy Nathan
Every time I think about Rebecca Serle's new book, In Five Years (Quercus), I feel slightly sick. Don't get me wrong, I loved it: it was beautiful, and gorgeously written, and the way the prose flowed was effortless and wonderful, and it was full of genuine suspense and very clever plotting. The premise is that Dannie, a lawyer, wakes up five years into the future with a man who is not her fiancé. Then she returns to her normal life to grapple with her new truth. It is a love story, but not the love story that the premise implies, and it is desperately bittersweet. The ending was perfect and it's one of the best books I've read in a long time, but just a heads up: you will absolutely require tissues. I require tissues right now just thinking about it.

Nicholas Clee
I don't have any qualms about recommending my friend Sarah Long's A Year in the Chateau (Zaffre), because one is more inclined to be critical of fiction by people one knows, I find - the antennae are especially sensitive. My enjoyment of this novel was untarnished by my fondness for the author. A chateau in Normandy populated by friends: shopping, cooking, gardening, emotional entanglements, tragedy, romance. It's a treat.

Jo Henry
Charles Frazier had a huge success with his debut novel, Cold Mountain, which won the 1997 National Book Award in the US - and I can't remember hearing anything more of him until I came across Thirteen Moons (Sceptre) the other day, his second novel published in 2006, which is perhaps strange as apparently (accordingly to Wikipedia), he got an $8m advance for. And I'm delighted to say I'm absolutely loving it. Set in the mid 19th century, it covers a time of profound change for the Indian community, with President Jackson intent on re-settling all Indians in a new homeland to the West - what becomes known as the Removal. Told through the long life of Will Cooper (based loosely on the life of Will Holland Thomas, the only white man to become an Indian Chief), adopted by and eventually becoming Chief of the Eastern Cherokee, this is a profound meditation on life, love, the natural world and man's place in it. Highly recommended.

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