The Museum of You, by Carys Bray

The Museum of You, by Carys Bray

I’m absolutely delighted to be welcoming Carys Bray today, on the publication day of her new novel, The Museum of You. Carys’ first novel, A Song for Issy Bradley, was one of the books of 2014, winning, or being shortlisted for, a string of prizes over 2015. Hard act to follow, right? She’s done it, though: The Museum of You is captivating. Clover Quinn has just turned twelve, a significant birthday because, ‘in turning twelve she has crossed an unaccountable boundary.’ She has her own key, and is allowed to stay at home by herself in the summer holidays instead of going next door to be looked after by Mrs Mackerel. She has certain tasks to do, such as cycling to the allotment to pick the day’s harvest, but there’s still...

The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret Chord, by Geraldine Brooks

I’m not usually drawn to books like this. Epic tale. Sweeping Biblical history. Prophets. Cataclysmically misjudged sexual encounters. Ok, that last crops up in my reading pile fairly regularly. One of the pleasures of reading through a longlist like the Baileys Prize is that you do try books you’d never have picked up in a million years. Some of them remain a trial, even with your best endeavours. This one, though… King David. The one with the slingshot facing up to Goliath. With the pretty woman in the bath. And the Leonard Cohen song. (That was a real bonus, fortunately, because it started looping round my head every time I picked my Kindle up: I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord. And so on). Him....

Girl at War, by Sara Nović

Girl at War, by Sara Nović

The war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes So begins Girl at War, Sara Nović’s debut novel about Ana, the ‘girl’ of the title. It’s Ana’s tenth birthday and, during the family celebration dinner, her godfather has sent her out to the nearby kiosk to buy him cigarettes. It’s a common game: he times how long it takes her to run to the corner shop and, if she beats her record, she gets to keep some of the change. This time, though, she’s caught out by the clerk’s question. He wants to know if she’s buying Serbian or Croatian cigarettes. She just knows they’re the ones in the gold wrapper. The first half of the novel takes us through the outbreak of war and follows life in Zagreb as air raids begin...

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Here is an outline of my thought processes as I read The Glorious Heresies: What have we got here? A book set inside the head of an angst-ridden Irish teenager who’s about to have sex for the first time? It’s all going to go wrong, isn’t it? He’s going to be kicked out of school and enter a world of unrelenting darkness. Hang on, it’s switched. Gangster has to clean up after newly restored mother hits intruder over the head with a Holy Stone. Oh and back to boy. His dad. Here’s Georgie, she’s a prostitute. Interconnected lives. Oh, that’s clever, I see what she’s done there. Drugs, lots of drugs. No, no, stop doing that! It’s all going to go horribly wrong! Make the other decision, MAKE THE OTHER...

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett

I’ve got a lot to read in the next month or so as I work my way through the Baileys Prize longlist. I’ve not come across many of the books before, but browsing through them has me expecting this to be an excellent reading month. I started with Rush Oh! by Australian writer Shirley Barrett partly because of its beautiful cover. (There aren’t enough books in the world with lavender covers, in my opinion). And it turned out to be a pretty good choice. Rush Oh! tells of the disastrous whaling year of 1908, as seen through the eyes of Mary, the eldest daughter of George Davidson, the whaling legend of Twofold Bay in New South Wales. Brought up amidst the dramas and occasional triumphs of this all-encompassing profession, the early death of her mother...

My Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 Wishlist

My Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2016 Wishlist

When Naomi (The Writes of Woman) Frisby asked if I’d like to be on this year’s shadow reading panel for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, I fell over myself to say yes. Then I sat down to think about which books would be on my wish list. I have a very bad memory and, for one horrible moment, it felt as though I’d read nothing all year. NOTHING. Until I remembered how much of the year I’d spent reading, instead of writing my next novel and feeding my children. I can’t blame the lack of housework on reading. I don’t ever really do housework. I’ve read some brilliant books which don’t fit the rules (which specify they should be novels, written by a woman, in English, published between April 2015 and March...

Song of the Sea Maid, by Rebecca Mascull

Song of the Sea Maid, by Rebecca Mascull

I’m trying out a new format for reviews today, and I’m delighted that Rebecca Mascull, ace writer and fellow Prime Writer, has agreed to be my guinea pig. Rebecca’s gorgeous second novel, Song of the Sea Maid, came out in paperback last week. Set in the 18th century, it follows the fortunes of Dawnay Price as she evolves from destitute orphan to educated woman.     Questions for the author: Who, What, Why, When, How?   Who (is Song of the Sea Maid about, and who is it aimed at)? It’s about Dawnay Price, an C18th orphan who dreams of being a scientist. It’s a novel for adult readers. What (is Song of the Sea Maid about)?  Dawnay becomes a scientist, travels abroad and makes a remarkable discovery… Why (did you...