Friday, August 29, 2014

Steady thy laden head: The Bone Clocks, The Secret Place and The Paying Guests

You may think 'the warm days will never cease' (although if you've been holidaying in the UK recently, this won't be uppermost in your mind) but the hints of Autumn and early September can only mean one thing - some of the biggest books of the year are arriving in bookshops, and front tables groan like harvest festival altars.

Picking three books from this cornucopia is a tad tricky, but here are three books we wholeheartedly recommend you make time to read.


It's been five years (yes, I had to double-check that) since 'The Little Stranger' so a new title from Sarah Waters is both an event and a celebration. 'The Paying Guests' is a tale set in the immediate aftermath of the First World War, with its backdrop of bewildering social change, faded elegance and missing men.

Frances and her mother are forced to take in paying guests to make ends meet, and so Lil and Len enter their lives: different class, different mores. At first Frances gains only glimpses of their lives through open doors, and sounds snatched through walls of the solid old house. But as time goes on, these barriers start to break down with increasingly dark and dramatic consequences. Waters' fans will love it, and it's going to introduce her to a whole new readership. Incidentally, amidst all the focus on sacrifice, duty and the physical fighting, the book is a welcome reminder of the devastating social consequences of the war.


In terms of suspense, we don't think anything can match the Tana French's 'The Secret Place', a journey into the dark heart of loyalties, rivalries and secrets of the intense emotional landscape of teenage lives.

A murder at an exclusive girls school gives Stephen Moran the chance for his big break - and an open door into the murder squad. But the suspects he has to crack are a bunch of close-knit girls, to whom friendship is more important than playing by any other rules. Trying to get teenagers to talk is about as impossible as enjoying working with Detective Antoinette Conway - tough, prickly, an outsider - with a background that couldn't be less like the suspects they are trying to win over. Both have a lot at stake and
watching them in action is really compelling, particularly in the claustrophobic school setting as they move painfully closer to the truth. A really different, original piece of crime fiction.



Finally - and we are going to unashamedly go slightly over the top about this one - you must, must, read 'The Bone Clocks' by David Mitchell.

Having received an early copy a few weeks ago, it is one of the most brilliantly original, bold and quality pieces of writing we’ve enjoyed in what has been an extremely strong year for great writing. The Booker judges have also agreed, placing it on their longlist of the best books of the year.

Starting in 1984, when a young Holly Sykes runs away from home in the aftermath of a disastrous teen romance, ‘The Bone Clocks’ unfolds in leaps and bounds, to the present day and then into the future, as a cast of misfits, misanthropes, writers and war heroes entwine themselves into Holly’s life – and she unwittingly gets caught up in a global battle for power that has been going on for centuries. Themes and deep truths swirl like snowflakes, but at its heart is an extended, wonderful and breaktaking riff on the true nature of our own mortality.

We don't often do this - no book can appeal to everyone - but we really urge you to read this. Mitchell has taken big risks with this story. Quirkiness abounds, at times you get the feeling you are reading a YA thriller, with dystopian and supernatural elements, sometimes it is laugh-out-loud funny. Characters from David’s previous novels rear their heads at various parts of the narrative. For some people, it'll be too much. But, blimey, this is such good writing...

So what we’re saying is: take a risk. We loved it so much, we've sweet-talked the publisher into securing some signed first-editions, so email us if you would like us to reserve a copy.

There you go - three books from many, many others we could have chosen. That's our favourites - what are yours? Come in and find out...

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