The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, USA, 2006

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan, USA, 2006

This book, subtitled The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, should be compulsory reading for everyone. Not just Americans but everyone. The environmental disaster that coined the expression ‘dust bowl’ was not an accident of climate, it was caused by people, in the same way that similar environmental tragedies are …

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The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, USA, 1944

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, USA, 1944

Beautifully created and written, this short one-act play can be appreciated on many different levels. The mother, Amanda Wingfield, is still trapped in the days of her youth when she was a sought-after southern belle; she wants the best for her children, but ‘best’ is a word qualified by her own needs and her own …

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The Confession by John Grisham, USA, 2010

The Confession by John Grisham, USA, 2010

Like most (or perhaps all) of Grisham’s novels the plot is firmly centred on the many-layered legal complexities of justice and injustice. Donté, a black teenager living in Texas, is accused of a crime he did not do, and spends nine years on death row, waiting to be executed. When the story opens he is …

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The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin, USA, 2010

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin, USA, 2010

This is an easy-to-read page turner, which unlike many other easy-to-read page turners does have sufficient weight behind it to make the read worthwhile. I saw the film some years back, and although I like both Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as actors, and although the cinematography is spectacular, I feel that the book is …

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Hembiträdet, Marie Hermanson, Sweden, 2004

Hembiträdet, Marie Hermanson, Sweden, 2004

As far as I know, Hembiträdet (The Maid) has not yet been translated into English, even though Hermanson’s book Himmelsdalen (The Devil’s Sanctuary) has been translated and is the basis of a recent television series called Sanctuary. In Hembiträdet, we meet Yvonne, an efficient businesswoman, who is in a loveless marriage. Her husband, who is …

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488 Rules for Life: The Thankless Art of Being Correct, Kitty Flanagan, Australia, 2019

488 Rules for Life: The Thankless Art of Being Correct, Kitty Flanagan, Australia, 2019

This delightful book can be read cover to cover in one go, or else it can be spaced out between other books: either way it is worth reading. The 488 rules are either just plain common-sense or else slightly tongue-in-cheek, and the presentation (or is it just the fact that they have even been mentioned?) …

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The Searcher, Tana French, Ireland, 2020

The Searcher, Tana French, Ireland, 2020

Cal Hooper, a retired detective from Chicago, buys a run-down cottage in an isolated village in the west of Ireland. Divorced and not entirely at peace with himself he is hoping that the change of country and life-style will help him get his life back on track. While painting and renovating his cottage he soon …

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Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell, UK, 2020

Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell, UK, 2020

(Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020) Using a mixture of fact, surmise and fiction, O’Farrell has created a beautiful story ostensibly centred around William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, but actually focused on Hamnet’s mother, Anne (or Agnes) Hathaway. Agnes is a country girl – a free spirit – with a close connection to nature; …

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The Weekend, Bernhard Schlink, Germany, 2008

The Weekend, Bernhard Schlink, Germany, 2008

Jörg has just been released from prison after twenty-four years. Involved with the Baader-Meinhof movement (a far-left group, which was part of the Red Army Faction) in the 1970s, Jörg was later convicted of murder and terrorist activities after an unknown person gave the authorities information as to his whereabouts. During his time in prison …

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain, USA, 2012

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain, USA, 2012

I had never heard of this book before I borrowed it from a friend, and I had no idea what to expect, though I later discovered that it had been a best seller when it was first published in 2012. Leaning somewhat towards the perspective that introverts are a tad better than extroverts (Cain admits …

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