In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
One of Capote’s most famous novels and a pioneer in the genre of true crime, In Cold Blood, tells the story of a vicious murder that shook a community to its’ foundations. In the tiny town of Holcomb, Kansas, the Clutter family are popular and well-loved pillars of the local community. So when they are all found dead in their home after being tied up and shot at close range, no one could think of who could possibly have a motive to kill them. With painstaking attention to detail, Capote sets the scene of the murder and recounts the investigation, capture, trial and eventual execution of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith for the murder of the Clutter family. These two men are at the centre of the narrative and while Capote never shies away from the horror of their crimes, he still paints a startlingly empathetic portrait of two men who are capable of unspeakable violence and yet are as human as the rest of us. In Cold Blood is a poignant reminder of the capacity for evil that lurks within all of us and how little it may take to bring it to the surface.
Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
Seven Days in June centres around the relationship between Eva Mercy and Shane Hall. Eva is a popular supernatural romance author, successfully juggling her career with single motherhood while managing a chronic illness. Shane is a literary critical darling whose gritty novels have won him plaudits and awards, but behind closed doors he has been struggling with addiction. As two successful Black authors, they move in the same circles but no one knows that twenty years ago the two of them spent one week madly, chaotically and passionately in love. However, now a newly sober Shane is back in town and keen to make amends for the wrongs of the past and as he and Eva reconnect old traumas start to resurface along with old romance. This was a funny, warm book about healing from trauma, motherhood and motherlessness and the struggles of living a creative life with plenty of romance mixed in. Perfect for anyone looking for something that will bring a smile to your face while not shying away from real issues.
Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay
After watching the excellent adaption of Kay’s first book, This is Going to Hurt, on the BBC, I just couldn’t stop myself going back for more heartbreaking and sidesplitting dispatches from the frontline of the NHS. As you may have guessed from the title, these stories from the life of a junior doctor centre around what it’s like to be working on the hospital wards over the festive period (spoiler alert: it’s bonkers). Kay’s stories abound with blood, guts, humour and, above all, heart. I appreciate I’m not being very seasonal in recommending this but it makes excellent reading any time of the year.
Behind Closed Doors: Why We Break Up Families and How to Mend them by Polly Curtis
It is a secret to no one that the care system in the U.K. leaves a lot to be desired but I must admit to being shamefully ignorant of the full extent of the mess the system was in prior to reading this book. Behind Closed Doors begins with the startling fact that in the U.K. we are currently removing more children from their families than ever before and that our rates of family separation are much higher than other similar nations. Why is it that this is happening? As you might expect, there is no easy answer but Curtis interviews a range of individuals who have contact with the care system, from parents who have had their children removed, parents who have narrowly escaped having their children removed, social workers and family court judges and lawyers. All of these individual stories paint a picture of a system struggling to do its best in the face of insurmountable societal issues, lack of funding and lack of support available for families to enable them to do their best for their children. This is a must read for anyone looking to develop their understanding of the problems that currently plague British society, as basically all of them have a role to play in why more and more families are finding themselves unable to stay together.
Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Klara and the Sun is a beautiful novel narrated by an intelligent, solar-powered ‘Artificial Friend’ named Klara. Klara has uniquely sharp observational skills and because of this, she is purchased to be the companion of a young, extremely ill teenager named Josie. Josie and her mother live isolated lives in the middle of nowhere and so Klara’s world revolves around Josie and her needs. Klara grows to love Josie, desperately wanting her to recover from her illness and proves willing to go to increasingly drastic lengths to find a way to keep her alive. Ultimately this novel is a meditation on what it means to love someone, expertly told from the perspective of someone who is deeply human while still technically being non-human. I’d give anything to know how Kazuo Ishiguro comes up with such original ideas and still manages to execute them with such stunning simplicity.