The Whispering Muse by Laura Purcell is published in hardback by Raven Books
Set in Victorian London, this Gothic mystery novel sees Jenny Wilcox navigate tragedy, betrayal, dubious moral choices, and whispers of a mysterious mythical muse. The young woman, struggling to support her family, has her life turned upside down after she is hired by the wife of a West End theatre owner, to spy on their lead actress. Life seems to imitate art at The Mercury, a theatre specialising in tragic plays – and she had no idea what she was signing up for. Eerie throughout and surprisingly gory at times, this book is not for the fainthearted. Bursting with vibrant, believable characters and imagery that makes you feel like you’re there, the story will stay with you long after you put the book down.
Are You Happy Now by Hanna Jameson is published in hardback by Viking
This book will make you want to throw it across a room… and then pick it back up again. The plot follows an unlikely group of friends navigating a pandemic in New York. The so-called catatonia becomes the talk of the city, as people begin to sit down and simply never get up. Every member of the group is going through their own troubles, and each chapter allows you to explore the mind of each individual. At times, this is a hard book to read, as the emotions, they are going through can hit a little too close to home. But this is a testament to the fantastic writing, making the story so easy to relate to. There is a blend of romance with dystopian future in the plot, making it really different from anything you might have read before. A fantastic read.
A Wild & True Relation by Kim Sherwood is published in hardback by Virago
This book initially appears to be a swashbuckling romp through 18th-century Devon, with smugglers and swordfights aplenty – but while the tale of an orphaned girl, Molly, living as a boy on a ship is the main plot, there are plenty of undercurrents swirling beneath the surface. The storyline is engaging and the characters are convincing and well-drawn; the author’s research is evident without a heavy-handed touch. However, this isn’t a quick or easy read. Molly’s story would have been enjoyable on its own as a romantic period adventure, but the author has attempted to broaden the scope of the book to deliver a message on the suppression and marginalisation of women’s voices in history. Whilst this is a brave and effective device, the switches between generations can be disconcerting and the pace slows considerably in certain sections; yet the need for resolution in the central tale ensures the reader never quite jumps ship. This is a book that requires investment but ultimately proves a rewarding read.
The Call Of The Tribe: Essays by Mario Vargas Llosa is published in hardback by Faber & Faber
Best known for historical thrillers, Peruvian-born Mario Vargas Llosa shifts his focus to the political figures who shaped his intellectual life. Through personal biographies of thinkers from the economist Adam Smith to philosopher Isaiah Berlin, Vargas Llosa charts his steady drift across the spectrum, from a former supporter of the Cuban revolution to now ardent fan of the free market. Vargas Llosa may rail against the negative associations of the term ‘neo-liberalism’, but that is exactly what this is, and his conclusions seem particularly untimely, having been published amid a great global economic crisis that so many believe has been caused by the dominance of the very theories he is espousing. Nevertheless, anyone who has enjoyed Vargas Llosa’s immersive fiction will recognise his mastery of language and ability to wring something utterly readable out of what, on the face of it, is a less-than-alluring subject. The reader will find a few better books to disagree with.
Children’s book of the week
Like A Curse by Elle McNicoll, illustrated by Kay Wilson, is published in paperback by Knights Of
Ramya Knox never seems to fit in anywhere – she knows she’s different and is frustrated by the labels applied to her, because of her dyspraxia. With two busy parents and a rift in her family, she feels like she has to battle against the forces of evil she has discovered, thanks to her magical abilities. In this sequel, picking up soon after the first book Like A Charm, the neurodivergent Ramya tries to understand her magical potential but is frustrated by the limitations the adults set around her. Desperate to set the world to rights, Ramya and her cousin Marley try to rescue both humans and Hidden Folk who have come under the sway of malevolent forces creating havoc. This latest action-packed page-turner speaks to all children who feel misunderstood and put in a box, as well as being a tale of our times about the dangers of listening to siren voices.
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