A treat for those with a penchant for camp gothic drama, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell is the cult classic that spawned the legendary 1962 film. It chronicles the descent into madness of faded childhood vaudeville star, Baby Jane Hudson. Holed up in a crumbling mansion with her infinitely more famous actress sister, Blanche, the dysfunctional siblings’ tale is one of envy, unaddressed daddy issues, and monstrous villainy. Cinephiles will love how Farrell conjures the scenes that inspired the movie, and Bette Davis and Joan Crawford inevitably become the sisters in the reader’s mind’s eye.
A distinctly European novel, the award-winning Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov combines philosophy and satire with a fascinating premise. Enigmatic therapist, Gaustine, opens a pioneering dementia clinic in Zurich, wherein each floor recreates a different decade, allowing patients to find peace and comfort in their own temporal sanctuary. As the business gains in reputation, even healthy clients begin flocking to this clinic of the past, desirous of escaping their dysfunctional present. In Gospodinov’s emblematic take on 20th century Europe, Gaustine’s experiment morphs into something dangerous as he notes ‘…when you have no future, you vote for the past.’
Cursed Bread by Sophie Mackintosh is a wonderfully enigmatic and mesmerising read, by an author whose presence sings from the Granta Best Young British Novelists 2023 list. An acknowledged purveyor of disquieting fiction, here Mackintosh introduces us to Elodie, a frustrated baker’s wife in post-war provincial France. Spending her days mired in gossip and domesticity, the bored young woman is ripe for seduction. It comes in the form of a dashing young ambassador and his wife, the beautiful and damaged Violet, their arrival heralding a sultry, sexy summer, and a rash of darkly peculiar goings on.
Bookstoker Young Readers
The New York Review of Books Classics series is a marvellous creation, an eclectic mix of fabulously-jacketed titles, invariably accompanied by compelling intros. A recent serendipitous dip into the collection blessed us with A Way of Life Like Any Other by Darcy O’Brien, the story of a young boy in 1950’s Hollywood, his movie star parents and their sordid and absurd descent into has-been territory. Irresistibly described as ‘completely bananas’, we find out what happens after the glitter fades, in a bizarre coming-of-age novel that combines hilarity with a dash of vinegar.
Bookstoker Young Readers
A novel about a saint and a historical cathedral might not make you race to the bookshop, but Cuddy by Benjamin Myers turned out to be a lot more riveting that you’d imagine. Meyers novel is a playful medley of forms – poetry, play, diary and prose. In five different parts, he tells the story of Saint Cuthbert, Durham Cathedral and people whose lives were in one way or another touched by it. A moving love letter to Durham and superb storytelling from an author to watch.
The hottest play in London at the moment! If you can’t get hold of a ticket. The book will do just fine! Here’s our review. Enjoy.
When I was given a copy of this much-lauded, lengthy book at the beginning of the summer my heart sank slightly. I’d read so much hype about this challenging blockbuster novel that I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to read it. A close friend put me off further by declaring that she had given up half way through as she found it too gruelling and unrelenting. However, relaxing on holiday in sleepy Somerset, I braced myself and began what turned out to be an exhausting and harrowing yet profoundly moving novel.
It’s 3 am, one haunted night in 1995, and Shy is escaping from a home for ‘psychologically disturbed’ juveniles. With a tape in his Walkman and a spliff in his pocket, he’s creeping into the ‘atrociously bare and quiet’ world beyond, bound for the garden pond with a rucksack full of rocks on his back. A lyrical and immersive read, in Shy by Max Porter, we share a few hours with a lost boy as he navigates a strange liminal space between memories, ghosts, and an unimaginable future.