On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming
In 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach and five days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home. The girl became an artist and had a daughter, art critic and writer Laura Cumming. On Chapel Sands is a book of mystery and memoir – and two narratives run through it: the mother’s childhood tale and Cumming’s own pursuit of the truth. Humble objects light up the story: letters, tickets, recipe books and even the particular slant of a copperplate hand give vital clues. And pictures of all kinds, from paintings to photographs, open up like doors to the truth. Above all, Cumming discovers how to look more closely at the family album – with its curious gaps and missing persons – finding crucial answers captured in plain sight at the click of a shutter.
“A moving, many-sided human story of great depth and tenderness, and a revelation of how art enriches life.” – Sunday Times
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don't remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread. Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope. But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the drama department. Poignant, funny, enchanting and devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life. It’s a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.
“Such a beautiful book. Captures perfectly a moment in time we've all experienced.” – Graham Norton
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Three Women is a riveting true story about the sex lives of three real American women, based on nearly a decade of reporting by journalist Lisa Taddeo. The result is a deep non-fiction portrait of desire and one of the most anticipated books of the year. We begin in suburban Indiana with Lina, a homemaker and mother of two, whose decade-long marriage has lost its passion. In North Dakota we meet Maggie, a 17-year-old high school student who finds a confidant in her handsome, married English teacher. Finally, in an enclave of the Northeast, we meet Sloane – a gorgeous, successful restaurant owner – who is happily married to a man who likes to watch her have sex with other men and women. Told with astonishing frankness and immediacy, this is a ground-breaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America, exposing the fragility, complexity and inequality of female desire with depth and emotional power.
“Extraordinary. A non-fiction literary masterpiece. I can’t remember the last time a book affected me as profoundly as Three Women.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, author of City of Girls and Eat, Pray, Love
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
What We're Told Not to Talk About (But We're Going to Anyway) by Nimko Ali
What do you do when you're living on the streets and on your period? What does it feel like to have a poo after you've given birth? How do we learn to love our bodies again after they've been abused? And, how do you know if you've ever really orgasmed? We all have questions about our bodies but often women's voices are silenced for being impolite or improper. What We're Told Not To Talk About (But We're Going To Anyway) is an important, taboo-breaking book that gives voice to the experiences of women from all walks of life, whose stories might not ordinarily be heard. Alongside Nimko Ali's story of living with FGM, rebuilding her relationship with her own body and being a woman her own way, these are the true stories of real women who are sharing the experiences they've always been told should be secret and shameful.
“A beautiful book with such a wide range of uplifting but often heart-breaking stories. Made us cry and think in equal measure.” – Pandora Sykes, co-host of The High Low
The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan
Hormonal by Eleanor Morgan
Hormonal explores everything from contraception to PMS, in relation to anxiety, depression and taboos about hysteria and the 'hormonal' woman. It is a compelling portrait of the modern landscape of women and health, showing us how to navigate stigma and misinformation. Combining her own experiences with extensive research and expert contributions, Eleanor Morgan explores the relationship between the female body, the female mind and the ways in which women's bodies are being medicalised. As Morgan argues, although we've become better at talking about mental health, we still shy away from discussing periods, miscarriage, endometriosis and menopause. By exploring women's bodies in conjunction with our minds, Morgan urges for new thinking about our health.
“Hormonal feels like an essential guide in helping us truly understand our cores.” – Vogue
Mother Ship by Francesca Segal
After her identical twin girls are born ten weeks prematurely, Francesca Segal finds herself sitting vigil in the ‘mother ship’ of neonatal intensive care, all romantic expectations of new parenthood obliterated. Her gripping diary of those months combines the tenderness of a love poem with the compulsive pace of a thriller. As each day brings a fresh challenge for her and her babies, Francesca makes a temporary life among a band of mothers who are vivid, fearless and inspiring, taking care not only of their children but of one another. This is an intimate and electrifying memoir. It is a hymn to the sustaining power of women’s friendships, and a loving celebration of the two small girls – and their mother – who defy the odds.
“Heart-wrenching, heart-warming and heartfelt – Mother Ship is a beautifully crafted, warts-and-all love letter to our wonderful NHS.” – Adam Kay, author of This is Going to Hurt
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the narrator is in his late 20s, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born – a history which has its epicentre rooted in Vietnam – and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class and masculinity. Asking questions central to the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous will be described – rightly – as luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary. But the word I keep circling back to is raw: that’s how powerful the emotions here are, and how you’ll feel after reading it – scoured down to bone.” – Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere
Rules For Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
Forty-year-old May is at a crossroads. Although her career as a gardener is flourishing, the rest of her life has narrowed to a parched routine. Her father is elderly, her brother estranged and she keeps her neighbours at arm's length. The missing element, she realises, might be friendship. As May sets off on a journey to visit four neglected friends one by one, she holds herself (and them) to humorously high standards, while at home she begins to confront the pain of her past and imagine for herself a different kind of future. May's quest becomes an exploration of the power, and perhaps limits, of modern friendship.
“This spirit-warming saga, an antidote to the uncivil, is a novel to be read again and again, whenever one needs a reminder to seize the day.” – O Magazine
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