What We're Reading - 22 January 2021

Lucy Nathan
Opinion - Books Friday, 22nd January 2021

The BookBrunch team reveals what's on their bedside tables

Jo Henry
Recommended recently by Scott Pack on Twitter, I ordered Rachel to the Rescue by Elinor Lipman, published here by small press Lightning Books, and apparently unable, because of its subject matter, to find a publisher in the US. And what a treat! Rachel takes a job as in the White House as the person who has to tape back together - for the official record - every piece of paper torn up by Donald Trump, who routinely destroyed everything that passed through his hands. Sacked from that job, and then run over by Trump's alleged lover hastening away from the White House, Rachel finds herself drawn into a frankly baffling world, and finding a new job, great flatmates and love in the process. One to read now that the chaos in the US may finally be over…

David Roche
Several books from the 2020 Gordon Burn Prize shortlist have been on my bedside pile for a while and I was delighted to read Three Women (Bloomsbury) by Lisa Taddeo, whose reading at the event of the opening chapter certainly raised some eyebrows! I'm told it is an every woman story and it's in the best tradition of this Prize as it blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction and is somewhat hard-hitting. It seems to have received Marmite type reactions and I fell on the 'loved it' side of the divide - and those that do, do. Pick it up, read the reviews and give it a go. If you are on the positive side of the line, believe me, you will not regret it.

Lucy Nathan
After watching Bridgerton on Netflix, I'm making my way very rapidly through Julia Quinn's series of the same name (Little, Brown): I'm now on number seven of eight, and wondering what on earth I'm going to do when they're over. They are the perfect antidote to this miserable January - they're frothy and fizzy and full of the same romance, sex and humour as the TV adaptation. Yes, they feel formulaic, particularly when you read this many of them in a row (oh, the male protagonist has father issues that are affecting his ability to commit? You don't say), but they are deeply enjoyable and comforting.

Nicholas Clee
Emails would appear to be unpromising vehicles for fiction. They leave so much out - but it is precisely this shortcoming that Janice Hallett turns to her advantage in the brilliantly clever and entertaining The Appeal (Viking), the Sunday Times crime book of the month. A person has been murdered, a person is in prison for it, and we are invited, along with a couple of young lawyers, to work out who, on the evidence of emails and other documents. There's something fishy about the family who rule the local am-dram society, as well as about the doctor treating their 2-year-old granddaughter/daughter; and as for the inescapably clingy nurse Issy - she's just appalling, and probably at risk of doing anything. Riveted by what I was able to infer from the characters' deceptions and self-deceptions, I raced through it.

Neill Denny
Normally I'm not a fan of fantasy, books with demons and monsters or other made-up nonsense, thinking they are too easy an escape route for bad writers, but I've had to re-examine my prejudices in the light of CK McDonnell's The Stranger Times (Bantam). Firstly, it involves journalists, always a plus point for me, secondly, it is very funny, and thirdly, the writing is very sharp. The eccentric staff of a magazine covering the paranormal start to realise the strange goings-on they cover might actually be true... McDonnell's writing is so boisterous you can forgive the occasional lapse into hyperbole. An excursion from my comfort zone I have thoroughly enjoyed.