Patchett, Ann (2016) Commonwealth. Bloomsbury. When Bert Cousins turns up uninvited at Franny Keating’s christening party and kisses her mother, Beverly, the fate of two families is turned on its head. The kiss leads to a new blended family of the six Keating and Cousins children bouncing back and forth between Southern California and Virginia. Over the next five decades life unfolds, tragedy strikes and secrets are revealed. Franny’s relationship with a renowned novelist, who uses her childhood to write his bestselling comeback novel, will have consequences beyond her own story. A smart but disturbing insight into family life, betrayal and child-rearing. Rating: 8.5/10.
Harari, Yuval Noah (2014) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. Harvell Secker. 2.5 million years ago there were at least six human species belonging to the genus homo on Earth. Homo sapiens have only existed about 150,000 years. How did Homo Sapiens succeed when other homos became extinct? Harari explains it in a series of revolutions – from the “cognitive” revolution about 70,000 years ago to the agricultural revolution about 11,000 years ago, to the “scientific revolution” about 500 years ago, which triggered the industrial revolution, information revolution, and our current biotechnological revolution. Harari suspects that the biotechnological revolution signals the end of sapiens and that we will be replaced by bioengineered post-humans in millennia to come. Fascinating and provocative. Rating: 9/10.
Gregory, Philippa (2016) Three Sisters, Three Queens. Simon & Schuster. Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII, became a Queen when she married James IV of Scotland at the age of 14. Gregory’s Margaret is petulant and acerbic, often envious of the novel’s other protagonists – her younger sister, Mary, and her sister-in-law Katherine of Aragon. The narrative of three queens is told strictly from Margaret’s perspective – all creatures of a male-dominated and venal 16th century world. Whilst Gregory is a storyteller par excellence we are not given any of the rich detail of Gregory’s previous novels, and it is hard to empathise with Margaret. Disappointing. Rating:7.5/10.
Swanson, Peter (2o15) The Kind Worth Killing. Morrow. Ted Severson meets Lily Kintner on a light flight from London to Boston. Over too many martinis they build a bond. Ted tells of the betrayal of his marriage and of his desire to kill his wife and Lily offers to help. Lily has a lethal history of her own that becomes the focus of the book. In this extraordinary tale of murder, deceit and revenge, with many twists and turns, we are taken on a rather harrowing, although stylishly written, journey. Suspenseful – hard to put down. Rating: 9/10.
Durrant, Sabine (2016) Lie With Me. Mulholland. Embellishing a story for the benefit of a former acquaintance leads once acclaimed author, Paul, first to dinner and a meeting with Alice, a widowed lawyer, and then to a ‘dream’ holiday at her villa in Greece. Paul is a flawed rather unpleasant rogue who is happy to sponge off his affluent new friends, but when he is trapped in Pyros events take a sinister turn and Paul is forced to remember his uncomfortable past as he finds himself engulfed by lies, not all of them of his own making. This psychological thriller starts slow but has an unexpected denouement. Rating: 8/10.
Callaghan, Helen (2016) Dear Amy. M. Joseph. Margot Lewis is a secondary school teacher who moonlights as an agony aunt for her local newspaper in Cambridge. One day, shortly after 15 year old Katie from her school is abducted, she receives the first of several letters purporting to be from Bethan Avery, another local girl who vanished 20 years before. It is a desperate plea, but why are the police not interested? Is it a hoax? This development in an infamous cold case catches the attention of criminologist Martin Forrester, and the search leads Margot into danger. Psychological conundrum with a soft centre. Rating: 7.5/10.