The Water Theatre by Lindsay Clarke
An intense, multi-layered story of myth and magic and their place in contemporary life (I think - I'm only halfway through). His brilliant The Chymical Wedding won the Whitbread prize in 1989. Read either or both – they’re like nothing else.
Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes
Dismissed as ‘chick lit’ (whatever that means – books for young women? What's wrong with that?), but her books never shirk the darker side of life – addiction, divorce, domestic violence. This one is about grief. Nobody however makes me laugh more than she does, or cry – in a good way. Her fabulous Rachel’s Holiday (my favourite, I think) was chosen as one of the dozen or so books to be given away free under a recent scheme to get people reading more and more widely.
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
I adored his scurrilous novels about life in Australia and as an academic (Coming From Behind, Peeping Tom and Redback) and his (non-fiction) account of a journey round Oz in a van, In the Land of Oz, so I thought I’d try this, his latest novel, which won the Man Booker prize last year. The same outrageous observations and superb writing. Such dry wit. Perhaps not quite enough plot for my taste though with this one (my failing, I’m sure).
Mini Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
Also dismissed as ‘chick lit’, this series was thoroughly enjoyed by my late aunt in her mid-eighties, so not just for ‘chicks’. This is the latest in the series, but it doesn’t really matter what order you read the books in. A sweet endearingly-fallible heroine, surprisingly complicated plots, and gentle humour.
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
I don’t usually enjoy books recommended to me by my mother but this was an exception, even if parts of it are almost unbearably sad. ‘Filth’ stands for Failed in
London, Try Hong Kong, and the book is about an elderly lawyer (who worked in Hong Kong) as he remembers his past. In particular he remembers his childhood as a ‘Raj orphan’, one of so many whose parents worked in different parts of the British Empire and who were sent ‘home’ at an early age to be educated.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Her books Surfacing and The Handmaid’s Tale have both made lasting impressions on me. She is the sort of writer who stuns you with the depth and accuracy of her writing, but she never comes across as ‘literary’. This won the Booker Prize in 2000. I’ve only just started it so can’t give you my complete reaction but I think it’s going to be good – and another book that jumps back and forth between the present and the past (which is something that currently interests me as that’s what I’m doing in my novel).
The pictures show a neighbour's glorious wild garden which is a riot of pink and yellow at the moment - yellow flag iris, buttercups, red campion and raggged robin.