Ferrante, Elena (2013) The Story of a New Name. Europa Editions. Book Two in Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, sequel to My Brilliant Friend, does not disappoint. Lila is now imprisoned in marriage, while Elena continues her studies beyond the stifling confines of the neighbourhood. Their bond is challenged by wilfulness, jealousy, family, freedom and loyalty. This sweeping epic is cinematic – a stunning exploration of friendship in a working-class district of Naples. Rating: 9/10.
Simonson, Helen (2016) The Summer before the War. Random House. In the small idyllic coast town of Rye, in East Sussex the populace have been enjoying a beautiful summer. Into this peaceful setting steps bluestocking Beatrice who is immediately succoured by Agatha Kent and her nephews. Beatrice, bedeviled by the politics of her financial dependency stirs up intrigue and conflict in the town, however it is 1914 and the Great War is about to erupt. This comedy of manners and class snobbery, whilst multilayered, is slow and ponderous and does not deliver the original charm of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Rating: 7.5/10.
Barton, Fiona (2016) The Widow. Bantam. Jean was living a blissfully ordinary life with a husband she loved, until one day her husband Glen is accused of an unimaginable crime. As a supportive wife she stands by her husband as they battle it out in court with their lives are splashed across the media, while there is no sign of the the child he is accused of taking. Now Glen is dead and Jean is alone in facing the accusers for the first time. An unputdownable psychological thriller. Rating: 8.5/10.
Bate, Jonathan (2015) Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life. Collins. Ted Hughes, Poet Laureate, was one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. He was also a man of wild complexity who attracted plenty of drama and scandal. His lifelong quest was to come to terms with suicide of his first wife, Sylvia Plath. Jonathan Bate in his scholarly approach provides a revelatory, and often heart-breaking look, at Ted Hughes life – as he lived it, and reshaped his art. Richly layered and compelling – superb. Rating: 9/10.
Aveyard, Victoria (2016) Glass Sword. Harper. In this sequel to The Red Queen Mare is seeking to recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join the struggle against the Royal Court in her blood-segregated world. Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. Aveyard has created another imaginative dystopian world for young-adults; a somewhat oversaturated genre. Plenty of thrills and bloodshed. Rating: 7/10.