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Muddy Book Club: beach reads bonanza

Photo: Ben White Photography

Never mind what to wear on holiday, what to read? There’s so much choice – and so much catching up to do, if you normally average 2 pages a night before collapsing into a coma. To help you avoid panic-buying a crap airport thriller, Muddy’s pro-bookworm Kerry Potter has selected 10 terrific tomes for you to squeeze into the suitcase or whack onto the Kindle. Some are brand new, some are ones you may have missed earlier in the year, all are ace. Happy holidays!

 

 

The Hearts Of Men by Nickolas Butler

Butler’s debut, 2013’s Shotgun Lovesongs is one of my favourite novels of recent years. Inspired by his smalltown Midwest upbringing, it traces the lives of a group of male friends, one of whom becomes a famous rockstar (Butler went to school with Justin Vernon from Bon Iver). This new one is as evocative, epic and affecting as the first, and tackles similar territory – the complexities of male friendships. Kicking off in a Wisconsin summer camp in 1962, it details the decades-long bond between oddball Nelson and cool boy Jonathan.

 

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

Where would we be without our friends? asks Fitzmaurice in this moving memoir. The author is a busy radio producer, who looks after a husband suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and their five (yikes) children. She copes with it all thanks to her ‘tribe’, The Tragic Wives Swimming Club. The women swim in the freezing Irish sea and then set the world to rights over a Thermos flask brew. If you love a triumph-over-adversity real life tale, Ruth is your gal.

 

How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

I’m a sucker for memoirs by people who are totally nuts – step forward Cat Marnell. The thirtysomething beauty editor is a mythical figure in NYC’s media scene, with her promising career on glossy mags wrecked by her Keith Richards-esque drug problems. Her book is jaw-droppingly raw and honest – she recounts emailing her boss to tell her she won’t be in, saying “Ugh, I did heroin last night and now I’m sick. Throwing up. Sooo sorry,”. Funnily enough, HR weren’t impressed…  Then there’s the bulimia, self-mutilation, upsetting sexual experiences, abortions and family fallouts. Sounds harrowing? Well, yes, but it’s also ridiculously funny – the girl can write.

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Fan of Toni Morrison? Like your fiction to be highfalutin’? Look no further. This hit debut begins in 18thcentury Ghana, with two half-sisters whose lives play out in starkly different ways: privileged Effia marries a British slave trader, while Esi is brutalized, sold and shipped to America. Through a series of character vignettes, the narrative traces the next six generations of their bloodlines, through the Southern cotton picking plantations to ‘60s Harlem civil rights protests to present day. Gyasi writes so beautifully about such ugliness, while deftly squishing an epic tale into just 300 pages.

 

 

Knowing The Score by Judy Murray

I love getting stuck into a good biography on holiday – you can’t beat whiling away an afternoon immersed in someone amazing’s life. Judy Murray, mother/coach of Andy and Jamie, was once derided as a pushy mum (funny how men aren’t accused of being pushy dads, eh?) but has now become something of a national treasure (Strictly helped on that front). This is a fascinating insight into what it takes to raise world-beating tennis players, shot through with wit and wisdom.

 

Marlena by Julie Buntin

This is one of those novels that makes you thank your lucky stars that you’re not a teenager any more. Cat is an impressionable 15-year old-who’s just moved to a new town and new school. She buddies up with Marlena, who is basically the girl your parents always warned you about. Her hobbies include: skipping school, smoking weed and taking risks. Within a year Marlena is dead… an event that, decades on, still shapes Cat’s life. This beautifully conveyed toxic female friendship brought Emma Cline’s Girls to mind.

 

Little Deaths by Emma Flint

One of the buzz debuts of the year, this was the talk of Twitter, as well as landing an endorsement from literary titan Donna Tartt. Based on a true story, it’s a ‘60s New York-set thriller, centred around mesmerizing femme fatale Ruth Malone, who reminded me of Joan from Mad Men. When her two young children go missing one summer night, hedonistic glamour-puss Ruth is the prime suspect – after all, she’s doesn’t act like a normal mother, does she? Journalist Pete Wonicke, however, isn’t convinced by the police’s open and shut case. A gorgeously written exploration of how society expects women to behave – and the terrifying consequences if they fail to conform.

 

City Of Friends by Joanna Trollope

Trollope is pigeon-holed as a writer of ‘Aga sagas’ about badly behaved country folk, but her latest one is more modern, urban and pacy. Londoners Stacey, Melissa, Gaby and Beth are fortysomething high-flying university pals whose friendship comes under pressure. I have a feeling it’ll resonate, given the narrative takes in career crises, relationship breakdowns and work/life balance disasters (oh yes). What’s more, the veteran novelist is so skilful at characterization that you really care about these women’s lives.

 

 

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

What do you next when your first novel sold 18m copies and become a Hollywood movie? Hawkins follows The Girl On The Train with something quite different –Into The Water is also a thriller, but this time it’s a rural setting (a small Northern town) rather than the city, and the story is told from many different viewpoints; so many in fact it gets confusing in places. Jules returns to her hometown – where everyone seems to have a secret – after the mysterious drowning of her estranged sister, Nel. Did the local river’s infamous suicide spot claim another victim, or are there darker forces at work? Either way, it’ll keep you glued to your sun lounger.

 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I absolutely loved this quirky debut novel when it came out in the spring and it’s since been picked up by Reese Witherspoon for her book club and optioned by for a movie adaptation. Eccentric and awkward, 30-year-old Eleanor is basically your classic office weirdo or the woman you hope you don’t get trapped with a party – not that she’d ever go to parties. At first you snigger at her strangeness, before becoming her cheerleader once you realize why she is the way she is. It’s a charming, hilarious, poignant book, it’ll encourage you to be kinder and it’s unlike anything else you’ll read this year.

 

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