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What's booking? From heartbreaking family scenes to an historical friendship, new reads that are ideal for staying at home


Aine Toner reviews a range of new reads, ideal for staying at home

Aine Toner reviews a range of new reads, ideal for staying at home

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Aine Toner reviews a range of new reads, ideal for staying at home

Historical fiction

A Net for Small Fishes

by Lucy Jago, Bloomsbury Publishing, £16.99

Described as Thelma and Louise for the 17th century, this details the friendship of Frances (Frankie) Howard, a beautiful young woman with a powerful family and an unhappy marriage, and Anne Turner, poorer but with a talent that could make her famous. The two meet and form an unlikely but very deep friendship, one that sees them through the twists and turns of life under King James I. Frankie brings Anne ever closer into her intimate circle as both discuss - and experience - loss and love, as well as creating more than a few enemies. They want only the best for themselves but the lengths that they're willing to go to achieve them will definitely attract some suspicion. Based on a true story, this is one for historical fiction lovers.

Pacy throughout

Find You First

by Linwood Barclay, HQ, £20

Miles is a multi-millionaire and has had access to everything he has ever wanted… except the ability to cure himself of the life-limiting illness. Remembering a decision from over two decades ago, Miles decides it's time to put things in place for when he's no longer here - but that means tracking down the children he has never met. With everything in place, Miles sets out to find his offspring, but there's someone working ahead of him, doing their best to make others disappear. Correction: not disappear, it's almost like they never existed. Couple this with Miles' troubling family dynamic, a would-be documentary maker and an unusually placed mode of transport and this is a tense read that has you racing through it until the end. There are a few moments where you think, 'Is it really going to go there?' and trust us, it does.

Heartfelt and sensitive

Before I Saw You

by Emily Houghton, Bantam Press, £14.99

Alice and Alfie meet in strange circumstances and despite not being able to see the other, sleep next to each other every night. Both in hospital to recover from traumatic injuries, cheery Alfie hopes to make a new friend, someone who will help brighten up other monotonous days. However, solitary Alice prefers her own company and chooses not to let anyone in. Told from alternating points of view, Alice and Alfie must come to terms with what life will be like once they leave the hospital and to make the best of their current situation. There's a lovely sense of camaraderie on their ward and the secondary characters are engaging.

Digital read

A Sky Full of Stars

by Dani Atkins, Head of Zeus, £18.99

The life that Alex enjoyed with wife Lisa - a professional astronomer - and their son Connor is shattered when Lisa dies in a train crash. Alex has no comprehension as to how he'll bring up Connor alone. He must decide whether to donate his late wife's organs to help others and he agrees, though it breaks his heart. Through the grieving process, Alex is helped by family and decides to meet the four people who lived thanks to Lisa's donations. Each has their own story to tell - and may be able to help Alex understand that life isn't as cruel as he wants to believe. The subject matter is sensitively handled though have tissues on standby.

Who to trust?

The Downstairs Neighbour

by Helen Cooper, Hodder & Stoughton, £17.99

Steph and Paul are a married couple living in a nice flat in London. Everything is well until their teenage daughter Freya disappears, leaving her parents wondering whether everything they thought was real was just a facade. But Freya vanishing has an impact on their neighbours, the quiet, keeps to herself Emma, and driving instructor Chris, who's got reason to keep himself to himself.

As the story skips from one character's perspective to another, you have to wonder who is actually keeping the most secrets, and how well can you ever know the people who live so close.

My life in books: A. O'Connor


A. O’Connor

A. O’Connor

A. O’Connor

What's your favourite classic read?

I am going to pick a modern classic. Thomas Keneally Schindler's Ark, which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and which Stephen Spielberg adapted into his Oscar winning film Schindler's List. I love books set during the Second World War, a period which inspires my own writing and which my new novel A Telegram from Berlin is set in.

The book I wished I'd written

I wish I had written the children's book The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. It has a total of only 700 words and has sold 13 million copies worldwide. I don't know any other author who has had such a big return on so few words!

Preferred genre of reading?

I like all genres from political thrillers to historical fiction to domestic noir. I particularly like any novel that can combine all three. There's not too many of those around though as it's a hard feat to achieve.

Favourite author?

My favourite author tends to change regularly depending on what is interesting me at the time. At the moment I like Sally Rooney. I really enjoyed reading Normal People. In a way it is a very simple story and when I heard about the book first I thought it sounded like One Day with an Irish accent. But the author draws you in quickly and it a very intelligent and interesting read.

Books or ebooks?

Ebooks have revolutionised the publishing industry in a hugely beneficial way. I still do prefer an actual book however.

Best place to read?

Reading on holiday is the best place to read. But with everyone grounded due to the lockdowns over the past year I think books have helped us escape. Reading has allowed our minds to travel to places that we are presently restricted from actually going to.

Favourite bookshop?

Easons has always been a great place to find anything from the latest thrillers to the classics. And if they don't have what you are looking for in stock, they will go out of their way to get it for you.

Favourite book quote - and why?

"Be ceative, be useful, be practical, be generous and finish big." This line is from Lisa Genova's Still Alice. It is not an uplifting book, but it is very emotive and I admire how the story searches for and finds positivity and courage.

A Telegraph from Berlin, Poolbeg Press, is available now

Belfast Telegraph