14 Holiday Reads To Pick Up Now

14 Holiday Reads To Pick Up Now

Looking for something uplifting or moving to read in the sunshine? Our pick of new and notable reads – both from established authors and newcomers – offers a little something for everyone.

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The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

Before anyone else is awake, on a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the glorious freshwater pond below The Paper Palace, the gently decaying summer camp in the back woods of Cape Cod where her family has spent every summer for generations. As she passes the house, Elle glances through the screen porch at the uncleared table from the dinner the previous evening: empty wine glasses, candle wax on the tablecloth. Then she dives beneath the surface of the freezing water to the shocking memory of the sudden passionate encounter she had the night before, up against the wall behind the house, as her husband and mother chatted to the guests inside. So begins a story that unfolds over 24 hours and across 50 years, as decades of family legacies, love, lies, secrets, and one unspeakable incident in her childhood lead Elle to the precipice of a life-changing decision.

“A beautifully constructed, wonderfully intelligent and beguiling novel, rich with a multitude of pleasures.” – William Boyd, author of Any Human Heart

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Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Set in Malibu in 1983, this highly anticipated novel is Taylor Jenkins Reid’s follow-up to her acclaimed debut Daisy Jones & The Six. It's the day of Nina Riva's annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, a talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their baby sister, Kit. The children of legendary singer Mick Riva, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over. By midnight the party will be completely out of control – and by morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: a moment where they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them – and what they will leave behind. 

“The perfect, literal, beach read, with the emotional depth of the ocean.” – Holly Bourne, author of How Do You Like Me Now?

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Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave? Maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain. Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.
“Patrick Melrose meets Fleabag. Brilliant.” – Clare Chambers, author of Small Pleasures
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Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan

It's 1966 and Frankie Croy retreats to her friend's vacant palazzo in Venice. Years have passed since the initial success of Frankie's debut novel, and she has spent her career trying to live up to the expectations. Now, after a particularly scathing review of her most recent work, alongside a very public breakdown, she needs to recharge and get re-inspired. Then Gilly appears. A precocious young admirer eager to make friends, Gilly seems determined to insert herself into Frankie's life. But there's something about the young woman that makes Frankie think: how much of what Gilly tells her is the truth? As a series of lies and revelations emerge, the lives of these two women are tragically altered as the catastrophic 1966 flooding of Venice ravages the city. Suspenseful and transporting, Palace of the Drowned brings the mystery of Venice to life while delivering a twisted tale of ambition and human nature.

"Voluptuously atmospheric and surefooted at every turn, Palace of the Drowned more than delivers on the promise of Mangan's debut, and firmly establishes her as a writer of consequence."  – Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
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The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams

The Lucky Escape is the third novel from Laura Jane Williams, and having loved both Our Stop and The Love Square, we’re anticipating another great summer read. When the day finally comes for Annie to marry Alexander, the last thing she expects is to be left standing at the altar. She was so sure he was Mr Right. Now, she has no idea how she could have got it so wrong. After a chance meeting with Patrick, an old friend who reminds her of who she used to be, Annie takes a vow of her own: she’ll say yes to every opportunity that comes her way from now on. Could a spontaneous trip with Patrick be the way to mend Annie’s heart? She’s about to find out as she embarks on her honeymoon – with a man who’s not her husband.

“The Lucky Escape is Laura's best book yet. It whisked me away on a much-needed holiday – this is exactly the book we all need right now!” Beth O’Leary, author of The Flatshare 

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My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Helen Grant is a mystery to her two daughters. Growing up, Bridget and her older sister Michelle were kept at a distance by their mum's caginess and flair for the dramatic. Meanwhile, their Saturdays were spent with their father, a serial liar whose boasts and bluster were exhausting. Now Bridget is an academic in her 40s. She sees her mother once a year for a shared birthday dinner, they text occasionally about Mad Men and Elena Ferrante to feign a shared interest, and they have settled into a strained peace. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, it seems Bridget's childhood struggle will have to be replayed. And as it becomes clear that her mother's life might end sooner than she thinks, Bridget struggles to know what forgiveness entails – and whether it's possible to find meaning in a vanishing past and a relationship that never was.

Riley writes about ordinary life with a mordant clarity that recalls the writing of Alice Munro and Denis Johnson. Like many female writers of her generation, she strains at the idea that women in fiction need to be likeable.– The Times

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The High House by Jessie Greengrass

Francesca is Caro’s stepmother, and Pauly’s mother. A scientist, she can see what is going to happen. The high house was once her holiday home. Now looked after by locals Grandy and Sally, she has turned it into an ark, for when the time comes. The mill powers the generator, the orchard is carefully pruned, the greenhouse has all its glass intact. Almost a family, but not quite, they plant, store seed, and watch the weather carefully. Another stunning novel by Jessie Greengrass – author of the Women’s Prize For Fiction-shortlisted Sight – The High House explores the extraordinary and the everyday, how we get used to change that once seemed unthinkable, how we place the needs of our families against the needs of others – and who, if we had to, we would save.

“A master observer of inter-human atmosphere.” – Max Porter, author of Grief Is A Thing With Feathers

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Before My ​Actual Heart Breaks by Tish Delaney

When she was young, Mary Rattigan wanted to fly. She was going to take off like an angel from heaven and leave the madness of troubled Northern Ireland behind. Nothing but the ‘Land of Happy Ever After’ would do for her. But as a Catholic girl with a witch of a mother and a silent father, things did not go as she and her best friend Lizzie Magee had planned. Now, five children, 25 years, an end to the bombs and bullets, enough whiskey to sink a ship and endless wakes and sandwich teas later, Mary's alone. She's learned plenty of hard lessons and missed a hundred steps towards the life she'd always hoped for. Will she finally find the courage to ask for the love she deserves? Or is it too late?
“A really lovely book. I loved reading it.” – Mariella Frostrup, author of Dear Mariella
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Summerwater by Sarah Moss

From the acclaimed author of Ghost Wall, Summerwater is a devastating story told over 24 hours in the Scottish Highlands, and a searing exploration of our capacity for both kinship and cruelty in these divided times. On the longest day of the summer, 12 people are cooped up with their families in a faded cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents. A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy enters the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped up in their own cares, but increasingly alert to the new community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night falls.

“Sharp, searching, thoroughly imagined, it is utterly of the moment, placing its anxious human dots against a vast indifferent landscape; with its wit and verve and beautiful organisation it throws much contemporary writing into the shade.” – Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall

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Scenes of a Graphic Nature by Caroline O'Donoghue

After a tough few years spent floundering in the British film industry, experimenting with amateur pornography and watching her father's health rapidly decline, Charlie and her best friend Laura journey to her ancestral home of Clipim, an island off the west coast of Ireland. She knows this could be the last chance to connect with her dad's history before she loses him. But when the girls arrive, Charlie begins to question both her difficult relationship with Laura and her father's childhood stories. Before long, she's involved in a conspiracy that's been 60 years in the making – and it's up to her to reveal the truth.
“One of the most intelligent, well observed depictions of lust, loss, envy, betrayal, friendship and love that I've ever read.” – Daisy Buchanan, podcast host of Your Booked
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Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers

It’s 1957 in the south-east suburbs of London. Jean Swinney is a features writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and – on the brink of 40 – living a limited existence with her argumentative mother. When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more she investigates, the more her life becomes strangely intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen herself, her husband Howard and her charming daughter Margaret. But they are the subject of the story Jean is researching for the newspaper, a story that increasingly seems to be causing dark ripples across all their lives. Jean cannot bring herself to give up the chance of finally tasting happiness, but there will be a price to pay.
“This is one of the most tender, beautiful books I have ever read. Please, please order it now. I honestly don't want you to be without it. It is exquisite.” – Lucy Mangan, author of Bookworm
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A Theatre For Dreamers by Polly Samson

It’s 1960 and the world is dancing on the edge of revolution. Nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen. Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as paradise unravels. Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost.
“Sublime and immersive. If you wish you could disappear to a Greek island right now, I highly recommend.” – Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You
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Monogamy by Sue Miller

Annie is not the first love of Graham's life, but she is, he thinks, his last and greatest. Very recently, he has faltered – but he means to put it right. Here they are in marriage, in late middle age, in comfort. Mismatched, and yet so well matched: the bookseller with his appetite and conviviality; and the photographer with her delicacy, astuteness and reserve. The children are offstage, grown up and living far way; Graham's first wife, Frieda, is peaceably in their lives, but not between them. Then the unthinkable happens and Annie stumbles: did she know all there was to know about the man who loved her? And if no marriage is without its small indiscretions, how big does a betrayal have to be to break it?
“One of the most emotionally truthful novels I have ever read.” – Daisy Buchanan, author of Insatiable
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I Couldn’t Love You More by Esther Freud

Rosaleen is still a teenager in the early 60s, when she meets the famous sculptor, Felix Lichtman. Felix is dangerous, bohemian and everything she dreamed of in the cold nights at her Catholic boarding school. And at first their life together is glitteringly romantic – drinking in Soho, journeying to Marseilles – but it's not long before Rosaleen finds herself unexpectedly alone. Desperate, she seeks help from the only source she knows, the local priest, and is directed across the sea to Ireland on a journey that will seal her fate. Kate lives in 90s London, stumbling through her unhappy marriage. Close to breaking point, she sets off on a journey of her own, not knowing what she hopes to find. Aoife sits at her husband's bedside as he lies dying and tells him the story of their marriage. But there is a crucial part of the story missing and time is running out. Aoife needs to know: what became of Rosaleen? Spanning three generations of women, I Couldn't Love You More is an unforgettable novel about love, motherhood, secrets and betrayal.
“As close to a perfect novel as anything I've read in a long time.” – Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
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