The BookBrunch team reveals what's on their bedside tables
I've already listened to around 20 hours of the glorious Peacemakers: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan (read by Suzanne Toren and published by W.F. Howes), with another 5 hours or so to go - and what a treat it is. A brilliant account of the Paris Peace Conference, presided over in the main by the representatives of the three great powers - Lloyd George (who comes over as a pretty decent guy), Clemenceau (pragmatic, ferocious) and Woodrow Wilson with his vision of self-determination and a League of Nations, and with a cast of thousands - that effectively redraw the map of the world after the chaos of the Great War. Every country gets its own chapter, often with a coda that reveals the unintended consequences of the decisions taken, logical and understandable as they were at the time. This is an astonishing, and thoroughly accessible, work of scholarship that argues against the belief that the second world war was all the fault of the peacemakers.
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is one of my favourite books - thinking about certain lines in it still makes my face screw up like I've just bitten into a lemon, but in a good way. (Don't talk to me about Ellis looking at that field of sunflowers. It is the sweetest agony and I will never be able to form coherent sentences about it.) I've been so excited about her new novel, Still Life (4th Estate), which starts as a British soldier, Ulysses Temper, connects with an art historian, Evelyn Skinner, in Italy during World War Two. I'm currently a hundred pages into it and it is so brilliant: her writing is so vivid, bringing both 1944 Italy and post-war London to life with a cast of wonderful characters. Winman's writing has the most beautiful tenderness to it and I can't wait to sit down with this novel and see where it goes. I already have the impression that, like Tin Man, it's going to crush my heart in the most exquisite way.
It's very pleasing to see Elly Griffiths' The Postscript Murders (Quercus) on the CWA Gold Dagger shortlist. The CWA judges have recognised that novels do not have to be weighty to be excellent: the quality of Griffiths' writing is what counts. The Postscript Murders sits towards the cosier end of the crime genre, with - as in Richard Osman's The Thursday Murder Club - a group of unconventional amateurs as investigators. "Cosy" perhaps, but never anodyne, or routine, or complacent: you'll find smart, pleasing observations on every page. "'Domestic bliss followed,' says Jenny [a vicar conducting a woman called Peggy's funeral], reading from the script, which Harbinder takes to mean that Peggy had to give up work." My old colleague (aka Domenica de Rosa) deserves all her success.
We spent a couple of days on the coast last week and my wife gave me a lovely little hardback to read and help me relax while there. What an excellent choice Moominpappa at Sea (Sort of Books) by Tove Jansson was. She is a master of the simple tale that means so much, and the personalities and relationships that we all bear and encounter. This one is about fresh starts and the need to regain a sense of importance. And there was me thinking that my wife bought it for me because we were by the sea. I genuinely think everyone should read at least one Tove Jansson adult novel or Moomin book every year without fail, as therapy.