Spare by The Duke of Sussex is published in
hardback by Transworld. Available now
This memoir hardly needs any introduction – the furor around it has been so great, even before the book was actually released. Some of the most sensational stories have already been well covered by the media – from the Duke of Sussex accusing the Prince of Wales of physically attacking him, to Harry’s claims that William and Kate encouraged him to wear the Nazi uniform – but reading Spare is still a highly personal experience, recounting Harry’s life from early childhood to today. It does feel like he’s letting the reader into his world, one that’s shaped by the death of his mother and the constant clicks of paparazzi cameras. It’s an easy read – sentences are short, and chapters often end with bombshell moments to keep you reading on – but it’s littered with clichés, with Harry seemingly finding bigger meaning in every moment of his life. He goes into great detail about his experiences in the army – particularly in Afghanistan – in a section that won’t hugely appeal to those who have picked up the book for royal gossip. But the rest of the book is full of juicy tidbits – including how Harry lost his virginity, how he had a frostbitten penis for the Cambridge’s wedding, and his various romances. His anger and disappointment over his family’s actions radiate from every page – particularly in the third section of the book, when he falls in love with Meghan and suggests his fellow royals didn’t do enough to protect her from the media. Harry’s attempts to seem reflective and aware of his privilege don’t quite land – he cuts quite a sad figure, and one who is dogged by the trauma of his past. The headlines might have this book well-covered, but for fans of the drama, it will undoubtedly be a must-read.
The New Life by Tom Crewe is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus. Available now
Courage and conviction are at the heart of Tom Crewe’s debut novel. Set against a backdrop of the Oscar Wilde scandal, and loosely based on real events at a pivotal point in British history, Crewe weaves fact and fiction together in a narrative that is both unflinchingly bold and, at times, brutally emotional. It follows two intellectuals with secret lives, who set about the publication of a controversial book that explores one of the most taboo social subjects of the time. But as John’s uncompromising quest for the truth threatens to expose his most intimate desires, Henry, Edith, Angelica and Frank are caught in the thrall of his actions, sweeping both the characters and the reader forwards on a tidal surge of inevitability which threatens to place their very existence in jeopardy. Crewe’s language is striking in its originality; his protagonists are colourful, passionate, and their principles and certainties drawn with utter conviction as they strike boldly out in search of the New Life.
Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey is published by Fourth Estate. Available now
Really good, Actually is the debut novel from essayist and television writer Monica Heisey. Jon and Maggie have been a couple for nearly a decade, but after just 608 days of marriage, it’s over. Jon takes his stuff, Janet the cat, and the rug from underneath Maggie’s feet. Maggie is determined she is going to thrive – that is, once she has worked her way through a myriad of issues, including obsessional thoughts, a social media addiction and wallowing in her own self-righteous pity, leading her to alienate some of her oldest friends. Oh, and once she’s completed all the dating apps too. Heisey has written an amusing and dry-witted account of heartbreak, and Maggie’s journey of self-discovery and redemption is sublime. Each character is fleshed out with their own quirks and foibles. A fun Bridget Jones-esque read to start the year.
In The Blink Of An Eye by Jo Callaghan is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster UK
The trope of the detective with issues and their sidekick is a familiar one, but Jo Callaghan subverts this in her debut novel. Recently widowed single Detective Chief Superintendent Kat Frank is experienced and trusts her instincts, and she’s put in charge of a cold case project to see how the police can work effectively with AI – and in particular, an AI detective in hologram form. The two must learn to work together to find out what has happened to some missing teenagers. Lock, as the AI is known, is all about logic and the facts – unhelpfully spouting the chances of a teenager being safely restored to his already distraught mother. The pairing creates an interesting dynamic and raises questions about what it is to be human. Some of the ethical issues and benefits of AI in solving crime are interesting, but some aspects of the plot can be quite predictable. But with well-drawn characters, believable emotions and an interesting premise, you can see this becoming a TV series.
Children’s book of the week
This Book Kills by Ravena Guron is published in paperback by Usborne Publishing. Available now
Set in a prestigious boarding school, this YA mystery follows Jess, a scholarship student who suddenly finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation after a popular boy at her school dies exactly the same way as a character in one of her short stories. She is not only a suspect, but might also be next on the killer’s list. Recommended to fans of YA mystery thriller authors Holly Jackson and Karen McManus, This Book Kills doesn’t fully measure up to the fast-paced fan favourites it came after. But while this book may at times be predictable, the dark humour and immersive school backdrop grip the reader to the last page. A unique feature was the QR code towards the end of the book, where the reader can submit their own theory before being given the solution a few pages further. All in all, a pleasant read for YA mystery fans.