30 great summer reads
HOLIDAY READING: Ferrying to France? Lolling in Lanzarote? Kicking back in Kerry? Wherever you’re heading for a break, ANNA CAREYrecommends books to take with you
By John Banville
Viking Penguin, £16.99
“Billy Gray was my best friend and I fell in love with his mother.” John Banville’s new novel grabs the reader with its opening line. It’s the story of an ageing actor called Alexander Cleave, who looks back on his illicit teenage affair with a woman he still calls Mrs Gray. But Cleave is haunted by memories not only of his youth in a small Irish town in the 1950s but also of his daughter, who died by suicide. (Arminta Wallace interviews John Banville on page 7.)
The Baroness: The Search for Nina, the Rebellious Rothschild
By Hannah Rothschild
Growing up, Hannah Rothschild was intrigued by stories of her mysterious Aunt Pannonica, known as Nica. Nica left her ultraprivileged life in Europe for the clubs of New York when she became entranced by the music of the jazz legend Thelonious Monk, who became her soulmate. Rothschild’s account of her aunt’s extraordinary life is utterly fascinating.
Me Before You
By Jojo Moyes
When Lou loses her job as a waitress and takes a job as carer-cum-companion to a quadriplegic young man, she doesn’t know what to expect. Her new employer, Will Traynor, is surly and uncooperative. But gradually Will and Lou start to expand each other’s horizons. So when she discovers he’s had enough of his life she is convinced she can change his mind. Written with warmth and wit, this superior weepie will have you sobbing on your sunlounger.
By Michael Clifford
Hachette Books Ireland, £13.99
This debut novel by the well-known journalist is a fast-paced thriller about two sorts of criminal: those who carry out their crimes with guns and those who prefer to do it all on paper. Well-meaning ex-con Joshua Molloy enlists the help of a solicitor, Noelle Diggins, to find his missing son, and both are soon enmeshed in a dangerous world of crime, greed and violence.
By Sarra Manning
This smart, snarky and sweet slice of young-adult fiction is perfect holiday reading for teens. It’s the story of Jeane, a blogging teenage wunderkind who has turned her outsider status into a global brand. She’s an eccentric dresser with a sharp tongue – and she has nothing in common with school golden boy Michael Lee, who’s sporty, academically gifted and adored by all. So why can’t they stop snogging? Told by both Jeane and Michael, Adorkable is a witty romance with a wonderfully flawed – and feminist – heroine.
By John Lanchester
Faber and Faber, £12.99
In his nonfiction bestseller Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, John Lanchester made the financial meltdown comprehensible to nonexperts. Now he has returned to fiction, with this Dickensian look at the residents of a London street as the financial bubble bursts. From rich bankers to the struggling immigrants who put parking tickets on their cars, all human life is in this epic story.
By Chris Cleave
If you’ve read Chris Cleave’s earlier novels you’ll know how well he wraps searing social commentary in a gripping and engaging narrative. In Gold he focuses his insightful gaze on the world of Olympic-level speed cycling. Gold tells the stories of cyclists Zoe and Kate, friends and rivals. In their struggle to balance their difficult personal and professional lives, he shows the cost of sporting greatness. It’s the perfect counterpoint to all the Olympic mania – but it’s one for sport fans too.
By Charlotte Rogan
After an explosion on a transatlantic liner in 1914, newly-wed Grace Winter is bundled into a crowded lifeboat. A few weeks later she’s on trial for a murder supposedly committed on the boat. From a Boston jail, Grace tells the story not just of her horrific time on the boat but also of the life that led her there. Charlotte Rogan’s debut novel is as gripping as a thriller. Just don’t read it on a cruise.
By Liz Moore
Arthur Opp is a massively overweight former academic who hasn’t left his Brooklyn home in years. Kel Keller is a high-school student with a talent for baseball. The two very different narrators of Moore’s stunning novel are linked by Kel’s troubled mother, Charlene, Arthur’s former student. As Arthur and Kel start to forge connections with those around them, readers of this exquisitely written and deeply moving book will long for them to find each other. If you plan to read Heft on a plane or by the pool, be warned: it’s a tear jerker.
By Danny Wallace
The broadcaster and journalist Danny Wallace’s debut novel is a romantic comedy aimed, unusually, at both men and women. It’s the story of Jason Priestley (no, not that one), who, after helping a woman into a cab, finds himself holding her disposable camera. Urged on by his hapless best friend, Dev, he gets the photos developed – and a quest ensues. The story of Jason’s search for the mystery girl is funny, charming and very readable.
Dark Lies the Island
By Kevin Barry
Jonathan Cape, £12.99
Short stories are the perfect companions for travel, easy to dip in and out of as you rush between hotels, airports and shuttle buses. This collection by Kevin Barry is anything but summery (though in the brilliant Fjord of Killary it does include a memorable hotel). Blackly comic, wonderfully written, Barry’s stories showcase an original Irish literary voice.
By Tana French
Hachette Books Ireland, £13.99
The acclaimed Irish crime writer returns with a timely tale. The bodies of a man called Pat Spain and his two children are found in their house in Broken Harbour, a ghost estate in Co Dublin; Spain’s wife, Jenny, has been seriously injured. Det Scorcher Kennedy initially believes that Spain, who has been hit hard by the recession, had tried to kill his entire family, then killed himself – but he soon realises that things don’t quite add up.
The Nameless Dead
By Brian McGilloway
Garda inspector Ben Devlin returns for another haunting mystery set in the borderlines of Donegal and Tyrone. The hunt for the body of a supposed IRA informer murdered in the 1970s uncovers the skeleton of a disabled baby instead. The rules of the Commission for Location of Victims’ Remains mean that no prosecutions can result from its findings, so Devlin is forbidden from starting an official investigation. But he knows a murder has been committed, and he’s determined to find out the truth.
By Nick Harkaway
William Heinemann, £11.99
Nick Harkaway has been compared (by William Gibson, no less) to Dickens and Mervyn Peake. Angelmaker is the dazzling story of Joe Spork, a quiet clockmaker whose father happened to be a master criminal. When Joe is asked to repair a mysterious 1950s doomsday machine, he ends up joining forces with retired superspy Edie Banister. What ensues makes for a witty and wonderfully sprawling fantastical thriller.
A Message to Your Heart
By Niamh Greene
Penguin Ireland, £12.99
Niamh Greene makes a welcome return to fiction with the story of Frankie, a workaholic who seems to be more attached to her phone than she is to her family and friends. When Frankie loses her phone on a business trip to San Francisco, she’s distraught. But when she gets a replacement and starts receiving texts for another woman, she doesn’t realise that her life is about to change forever.
By Casey Hill
Simon Schuster, £12.99
The second thriller by husband-and-wife team Kevin and Melissa Hill sees the Dublin-based forensic investigator Reilly Steel on the hunt for a serial killer whose first victims are found buried in sewage, frozen in a bath of ice and strung up in a tree. As Reilly tries to find out what links the murders, her colleague and friend Chris Delaney is struggling with his own demons. Gory but gripping.
Tell the Wolves I’m Home
By Carol Rifka Brunt
Fourteen-year-old June has always been close to her Uncle Finn, a celebrated painter. When he dies of an Aids-related illness in the mid-1980s she is convinced that no one understands her grief – until she meets Finn’s long-time partner, Toby, a man whose existence her family have studiously ignored. This beautifully written coming-of-age story is moving and original.
By Gillian Flynn
Weidenfeld Nicolson, £12.99
Nick Duane’s wife, Amy, disappears on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. He becomes the chief suspect, especially when Amy’s friends claim she lived in fear of him. But who, and what, can the reader believe? Gillian Flynn’s brilliantly unsettling and twisty new novel has been compared to Patricia Highsmith, with good reason.
The Soldier’s Farewell
By Alan Monaghan
In the final part of Alan Monaghan’s trilogy, Dubliner Stephen Ryan, who served as an officer in the British army during the first World War, gets embroiled in the political tensions of Ireland in the early 1920s while trying to protect his fiancee from a vicious enemy. As Stephen joins in the Treaty negotiations in London and becomes a part of the new Free State, his brother Joe remains firmly on the other side, and familial and political strife are intertwined in this accomplished novel.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple
Weidenfeld Nicolson, £12.99
Bernadette Fox has disappeared. The volatile, funny former architect has vanished a few days before a family holiday, and now her teenage daughter, Bee, is determined to find out what happened. Told through emails, notes, letters and reports by everyone from Bernadette’s husband and former colleagues to the other mothers at Bee’s school – her sworn enemies – this imaginative novel is a must-read.
Half Sick of Shadows
By David Logan
This debut novel by the Northern Irish author was joint winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett Prize for “stories set on Earth, although it may be an Earth that might have been, or might yet be” by unpublished writers. It’s the darkly fantastical and eccentric story of Edward, who grows up in an isolated country house with a very dysfunctional family.
Triggs: The Autobiography of Roy Keane’s Dog
By Paul Howard
Hachette Books Ireland, £13.99
Who could know Roy Keane better than his famous and faithful canine companion? That’s the premise of Triggs, the witty and charming book by Paul Howard, the creator of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. The real Triggs came to public attention back in 2002, when her owner walked away from the Irish World Cup squad; now the Labrador tells her side of the story. (See Pauline McLynn’s review, page 13.)
Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady
By Kate Summerscale
Kate Summerscale follows The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, her gripping reconstruction of a notorious Victorian murder case, with a look at domestic horror of a very different kind. It’s the heartbreaking true story of Isabella Robinson, an unhappily married woman who in the 1850s documented her adulterous longings in diaries that were later used by her husband as evidence when he divorced her.
By Laurent Binet
Harvill Secker, £12.99
It was said in the SS that Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich (HHhH), meaning “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”. The Heydrich in question was the Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich, who became known as the Butcher of Prague. Laurent Binet’s brilliant new book tells the true story of two Czech resistance fighters’ mission to assassinate him in 1942. But how can Binet’s narrator be sure he’s accurately depicting the past? HHhH is both a thrilling historical novel and a witty and fascinating examination of what it means to write a historical novel.
This Is How It Ends
By Kathleen MacMahon
One of the most talked-about books of the year, the RTÉ journalist Kathleen MacMahon’s debut novel is an extraordinary love story. In 2008, as financial structures start to crumble, an American former banker called Bruno arrives in Ireland to explore his family tree. There he meets Addie, an unemployed architect, and a romance ensues.
The Art of Fielding
By Chad Harbach
Fourth Estate, £8.99
Books and films about popular American sports don’t always work on this side of the Atlantic, but Chad Harbach’s tale of male bonding in the world of college baseball has won over readers who don’t know the difference between a shortstop and a pitcher. A freak accident during a baseball game transforms the lives of five characters, from talented shortstop Henry Skrimshander to college president Guert Affenlight.
Not Quite a Fairy Tale
By Cee Liddy
This likeable Irish romantic comedy is the story of John and Evelyn, two friends who meet at Trinity in the 1980s and become firm friends. Evelyn is the realist who doesn’t believe in fairy tales; John is the starry-eyed romantic. They’re just good friends, and over the years both find love with very different people. Could they be each other’s happy ever after? Cee Liddy’s charming debut is less predictable than it sounds.
The Age of Miracles
By Karen Thompson Warner
Simon Schuster, £12
What would happen if days started to get longer? Very bad things, if Karen Thompson Warner’s chilling debut novel is to be believed. When the world starts turning more slowly, the longer daylight hours cause an environmental catastrophe as crops fail, animals die and gravity shifts. At first, 11-year-old Julia doesn’t see what the big deal is – she’s more concerned about missing soccer practice. And as society starts to disintegrate, she’s still going to sleepovers and yearning for the boy she has a crush on. Is this really the end of the world? A powerful and original dystopian novel. (See Carlo Gébler’s review, page 13.)
Complete Short Stories
By Elizabeth Taylor
This is the first complete collection of short stories by this hugely underrated writer. The work of Elizabeth Taylor (no, not the film legend) is witty, sardonic and humane, and her many gifts are on display in this superb collection, introduced by her daughter Joanna Kingham. Highlights include the novella Hester Lilly, a remorseless look at a disintegrating marriage disrupted by the arrival of the husband’s naive young cousin.
You Are Awful (But I Like You)
By Tim Moore
Jonathan Cape, £11.99
In his previous books Tim Moore has roamed through Iceland, explored hidden London, cycled through France and walked across Spain with a donkey. Now one of Britain’s funniest travel writers sets himself a grimmer challenge: visiting his native land’s least appealing holiday resorts. Read this hilarious, poignant book while on holiday somewhere that isn’t Skegness – and count your blessings.