My week in books

Another week has whizzed by and it’s time to round up my biblio-highlights. I’ve read/finished three books this week, got excited about a few others, and once again sorted through a stack of boxes from my old study (20-odd boxes reduced to 2, it was a tough week).

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Social CreatureI read a book I hadn’t expected to this week. Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton is not what I thought it would be. I almost missed this entirely despite having seen an advance copy ages ago, because of the jacket. It’s a classic case of judging a book by its cover, literally, and making a wrong judgement at that. I admit I was completely put off by the shiny bubbly image. But, I then saw a few positive things about it and I looked again and saw it was from the Bloomsbury imprint, Raven Books, which have been publishing books I like very much. I made a last minute decision to read it before pub date, and that turned out to be a good idea. It’s a compelling, addictive read in the vein of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley or Daphne du Maurier’s The Scapegoat, with the contemporary sensibilities of Olivia Sudjic’s Sympathy. If you’re after a disturbing and hugely satisfying holiday read, this will go down a treat.

IMG_4645You Were Made For This by Michelle Sacks comes out at the end of the month and is as chilling a domestic drama as you could wish for. All the people in it are utterly awful and I loved the book for this. We start off with a perfect family leading a perfect life in Scandi-heaven but it doesn’t take long for the cracks to show. It’s chilling and genuinely upsetting in places, but good heavens, it’s a good read.

IMG_4637The third book I read was I Feel You by Cris Beam, which is an exploration of what empathy means in theory and practice, and how far and to whom can it be extended. It’s pretty challenging in places, both in terms of some of the histories Beam relates and in how we perhaps ought to apply empathy to those deemed beyond redemption. It’s thoughtful and the author’s quest for understanding is apparent throughout. I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy recently, it does seem to be a watchword of our times, and how it intersects with compassion and sympathy and kindness, and reading around the subject. I’m not sure I Feel You has clarified my thoughts at all, but it has given me a lot to think about.

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My book of the week is actually one I read a little while ago but was officially published last Thursday. Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott is a brilliant (fictionalised) account of Truman Capote’s cynical betrayal of his coterie of women friends, his swans, in a desperate bid to reclaim literary glory. The book is dripping with atmosphere and character and is such a pleasure to read. HistFic is my favourite (as I may have mentioned once or twice) and I love it when I get something fresh and new to me to revel in. If you’re tempted by Swan Song (and you should be), it’s only fair to let you know it’s currently Half Price Debut at Foyles (in store and online) this month, and as an extra ‘bonus’ you can read the Staff Pick I wrote for it here too.

Lastly, I want to mention Lissa Evans’ Old Baggage, which is my next read. I meant to read it before publication date, but time got away with me. However, it’s getting so much love from so many people that I can’t bear to miss it out. Another HistFic, and I’m rather pleased about that.

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