Mawer, Simon (2018) Prague Spring. Little Brown. In the summer of 1968, the year of Prague Spring, students James and Ellie set out to hitchhike across Europe. They decide on a whim to visit Czechoslovakia where Alexander Dubcek’s “socialism with a human face” is being proclaimed. Meanwhile cynical diplomat Sam is monitoring the unravelling situation through the eyes of his Czech student lover, Lenka. As the Red Army masses on the border a disaster looms. Chilling and flawlessly constructed. Can be measured against The Glass Room (2009). Superb. Rating: 9/10.
Haig, Matt (2018) Notes on a Nervous Planet. Canongate. This little self-help book gives you permission to declutter your stressful and nervous lives. How do you stay sane, happy and human in an increasingly technological world? After years of experiencing nervous attacks Haig addresses this urgent question with some honest answers about how to survive and feel whole in a 21st century world. Concise, generous and wise insight – good for your mental health. Rating: 8/10.
Steadman, Catherine (2018) Something in the Water. Ballantine Books. When newlyweds Erin and Mark make a dangerous discovery in the waters off Bora Bora they make a choice that could shatter their lives. Will their dreams become a reality or a nightmare? Steadman keeps building the suspense to a point when everyone appears sinister, including the seemingly naive Erin. This debut is receiving plenty of hype. Rating: 8/10.
Athill, Diana (2015) Alive, Alive Oh! and other things that matter. Granta. Centenarian Diana Athill wrote these personal vignettes at 97 from her retirement home “free of domestic worries”. She reflects on a life well lived stalked by her own mortality. Far from being morbid she records little moments, luxuries, misadventures and lessons that have sustained her in latter life. A candid and humane insight that reminds us that life is still worth living no matter how old we get. Rating: 8.5/10.
Moriarty, Liane (2018) Nine Perfect Strangers. Macmillan. Tranquillum House is a retreat that promises not only health and wellness but also total transformation. Can ten days in a resort really change you forever? Nine city dwellers are set to find out. Moriarty cleverly introduces us to the nine protagonists and their emotional baggage only to lose us in a psychedelic and psychotic haze. Bizarre! Warning: Stay away from health retreats. Rating: 8/10.
Mejia, Mindy (2018) Leave No Trace. Emily Bestler Books/Atria. Twenty-three year old speech therapist Maya Stark has built a career at the Congdon Psychiatric Facility where she was formerly a patient. Maya is putting her troubled past behind her until one day she is assigned to work with enigmatic teenager Lucas Blackthorn who has spent 10 years off the grid in the wilds of Minnesota. Lucas thinks he recognises Maya and they form a strong bond. Will Maya risk everything to reunite the desperate Lucas with his father in Boundary Waters? Compelling although often heart-wrenching tale of grief, abandonment and human resilience. Impactful. Rating: 8.5/10.