The temperature’s climbing, the flowers are out and I don’t know about you but I’m giving serious thought to playing hooky and spending the rest of the week reading on the beach. The next few months promise many a sun-soaked afternoon for lazy backyard and beachside reading, which means that you, my book loving friends, are in need of quality reading material. Allow me to make a few suggestions:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
From the outset, Fates and Furies sparks with theatrical flair: a tale of mythological proportions taken from the stars and strung together with dramatic irony, untimely deaths, family secrets, fatal misunderstandings—all the good stuff. It’s the story of a marriage: two bright young things drawn together, one an agent of Fate the other of Fury. Lotto is the shining hero—charismatic, if a little dim—and destined for greatness. Mathilde is the grit to his glitter, and their love is millennia of romantic myth distilled. But then there’s Chollie, twin of Lotto’s ill-fated childhood sweetheart, slithering slug-like through the narrative, leaving a trail of revulsion and oozing antagonistic intent.
The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas
The Gardener family tree is full of twisted branches and hidden hollows. Back in the late 1980s, Briar Rose, Grace and Plum Gardener went searching for a fabled orchid of incredible power and were never seen again. Now Great Aunt Oleander is dead and Fleur, Clem, Charlie and Bryony have each inherited a seed pod, believed to be from the same orchid their mothers went looking for years before.
If the Gardeners can figure out how to use them, the seedpods will give the them the fulfilment and happiness the so desperately seek—but at a terrible price.
There’s also a magic book floating about—a book with The Answer to whatever the reader most needs to know.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The night the world ends, Arthur Leander suffers a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. A paramedic-in-training rushes up from the audience to perform CPR while Kirsten, a child actor playing a ghostly apparition of young Cordelia, watches from behind a pillar. Within a month everyone else present at the Elgin Theatre will be dead.
Twenty years earlier, Leander’s first wife, Miranda, sits up late after a dinner party coming to terms with the end of her marriage and working on Doctor Eleven, a series of graphic novels about a physicist living on a damaged space station that once resembled a scaled down Earth.
Twenty years later, Kirsten, still in her Titania costume, flees from a cult town into the forest with the Travelling Symphony—a knife at her belt and two tattered Doctor Eleven comics in her backpack—to begin the long journey to the rumoured Museum of Civilisation.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a story about memory and a family torn apart by a tragedy they can’t give voice to. More than that it’s a story of avoidance and an examination of the narratives we construct in order to reframe an inconvenient truth.
I won’t say more, for fear of giving the game away.
Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Leaberlin
Tessie grew up in a fairytale, both grim and Grimm: an enchanted castle, a dead mother and endless adventures. But one day the fairytale took an unexpected twist and Tessie found herself surrounded by flowers—black-eyed susans—in a shallow grave filled with dead girls’ bones.
With the help of a top psychiatrist and her best friend, well-read and morbidly fanciful Lydia, Tessie fights to put the Susans’ killer behind bars. The problem is, she can’t remember the killer’s face, and while a man is sent to prison, every few years someone plants black-eyed susans where only Tessie would think to look.
Eighteen years later, Tessa has a new name and a new life. Her fourteen-year-old daughter is even more feisty and athletic than she was at that age, and her reputation as an artist is on the rise. However, the man accused of killing the Susans is facing execution and a sinister crop of black-eyed susans has just appeared beneath Tessa’s bedroom window.
With a good lawyer, a forensics expert and a child psychiatrist at her side, Tessa has one last chance to ‘walk the crooked path to [her] childhood’ and face her monster before an innocent man is put to death and the real killer strikes again.
Girl Defective by Simmone Howell
Summer is coming and the winds of change are blowing hard through St. Kilda. Fifteen-year-old Skylark Martin can ‘feel it in her waters’. A poster appears across the road from her dad’s record shop: ‘a stencil of a girl’s face, three feet high below a concrete sky … Three black tears trailed down her cheek.’ A week later a brick comes through the shop window, thrown by unknown assailants in a white jeep—a bumper sticker reading ‘Love Live Local’ the only clue to the assailants’ identity. Meanwhile, The Paradise music hall is coming down, making way for new developments. Skylark’s only friend, party-girl Nancy, has plans to trip the light fantastic out of town and a sad boy with a sketch book has taken up residence at the marina, looking for clues about his dead sister.
Skylark is sure all these things are connected, she just can’t figure out how. Fortunately, her kid brother, Agent Seagull ‘Gully’ Martin, is on the case and she’s designated babysitter. His investigation takes the Martins deep into the St. Kilda underbelly: shady stakeouts, red light street corners, underground gigs.
Girl Defective is a hard boiled coming-of-age story with all the sass and swagger of Raymond Chandler, a killer soundtrack and a distinct Aussie accent.
Got book recommendations? Spit ’em out in the comments below.
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