Bookshelf: Four great reads this week

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell. Tinder Press, £18.99 (eBook £9.49). Review by Ella Walker

This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell

Northern Irish author Maggie O’Farrell has revealed a knack for capturing the bald truths of marriage in all their spiky, broken, loving fragments. This Must Be The Place is just as well executed, the story of alcoholic Daniel and his sprawling, fractured family, punctuated heavily by the pull of his enigmatic and reclusive former-movie star wife, Claudette. O’Farrell see-saws between the past and present, tugging on the strands that make up the weave of his whiskey-soaked predicament. It is deeply affecting, most especially when exploring the meaning of fatherhood and grief. But it’s also glamorous, subtle, knowing, and stuffed to bursting with feeling.

When I Was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson Century, £12.99 (ebook £7.99). Review by Rachel Howdle

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Dorothy Koomson’s 11th novel is a tale of two best friends who share the same views and even the same names: Veronica ‘Roni’ Harper and Veronika ‘Nika’ Harper. But a seismic event tears them from each other – ripping the soul from Nika, and leading to Roni’s religious salvation. Slowly Koomson drip feeds you events and shows with great heart how they can lead to a crossroads. How you face it differs from person to person. Nika adopts a new life as Grace, running away to live as her true self, but teenage Roni runs to the church and begins to live as Sister Grace. Can the former friends find each other and put their ghosts to rest?

Lingua Franca by William Thacker. Legend Press, £8.99 (ebook £3.79). Review by Natalie Bowen

Miles Platting is the disengaged founder of naming rights company Lingua Franca, which matches corporate sponsors with cash-strapped towns. After his staff head to Barrow-In-Furness to rename it Birdseye he wakes alone in a mysterious hospital where no one is permitted to speak and the nurses only want him to write his story. Lingua Franca is based in Stella Artois, formerly Milton Keynes but the novel’s paper-thin characters and jumbled narration struggle to maintain attention. It’s a bundle of interesting concepts: the importance of names and language; class and culture clashes. Unfortunately, it’s just not that interesting.

Dietland by Sarai Walker. Atlantic Books, £8.99 (ebook £3.79). Review by Bridie Pritchard

The lead character in Dietland, Plum, is unusual in a novel - she’s fat. She’s unhappy, living a very small life that barely takes her anywhere other than her local cafe. She occasionally visits the HQ of the magazine she ghost writes an agony aunt column for. Plum thinks when she is thin all her dreams will come to fruition. But an activist group called Jennifer rail against a publisher for selling magazines with pictures of naked women’s bodies and, soon, rapists are being thrown out of a plane. The different take is shocking. The women aren’t meek, seeking approval or a plaything for the boys. This isn’t chick lit – it’s an antidote.