What We're Reading - 20 March 2020

Opinion - Books Friday, 20 March 2020

The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables


Lucy Nathan
I've been reading a lot of YA and thrillers, mostly because the world feels like a bit of a mess and it feels very soothing to read books that have specific, defined structures. Probably my favourite this week was You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (Macmillan). It's about Shay Miller, who sees a woman jump under a train on the subway and rapidly becomes obsessed with her - and with her suspiciously glossy and slightly creepy friends. I read it in an evening - it was completely absorbing and transporting, which was exactly what I needed.

Nicholas Clee
For review, English Monsters by James Scudamore (Cape). I shouldn't say very much about it here, except to note that it has a surprising amount in common with Kate Elizabeth Russell's My Dark Vanessa.

Neill Denny
My escapist book reading strategy is continuing in the shape of The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (Scribner). It begins in the Danish West Indies at the turn of the 19th century, and is narrated by Rachel, married off at barely 20 to a widower twice her age, both members of the island's tiny Jewish community. This is more like a mediaeval dynastic marriage, a business arrangement not a love match, but there are hints that love will find way in the shape of another man. I at first assumed that the backdrop to this love story was entirely fictional, but Wikipedia assures me that Denmark was an imperial power in the Caribbean at the time, that the lush and magical island of St Thomas is entirely real (now part of the US Virgin Islands) and it is home to the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the US or its territories. It is truly a world away from today's troubles, and I am happily self-isolated whenever I open it.

Jo Henry
With a diary completely free of all work and social engagements, now is clearly the time to attack my ever-increasing TBR pile - if I can stop obsessing about every newsflash that pops up on my phone. But to start with, I'm looking for something undemanding, and Alan Furst hits the spot. Spies of the Balkans (Phoenix) is set in Salonika in 1940. Working with the Resistance, police officer Costa Zannis, who handles 'political' cases, sets up an escape route through the Balkans to Turkey. Full of dodgy characters who will still do the right thing if paid enough, and with the Greeks fighting in the mountains against the Italian invasion, this is an atmospheric reminder of another, similarly grim, period.

David Roche
How many of us are keen to look on the bright side, and self-isolating with Hilary Mantel's monster The Mirror and the Light (Fourth Estate) this week? And quite possibly one or two more to follow...

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