OK, so classic duvet, PJ and book season is about to be ushered out, but the next best thing is almost upon us – Spring is almost here (in 19 days if you're a Northern Hemisphere subscriber!) and the Summer will follow. So, whether you’re looking for a recommendation to take outdoors with a cup of tea in your PJs as the daffodils open at your feet or you’re looking for poolside-worthy reads, we’ve got you covered with three more reads from the Hesper Fox library that are most certainly good enough to drag you away from box set bingeing.
Nine Perfect Strangers, Liane Moriarty
From the author of Big Little Lies, adapted to an addictive HBO series comes Nine Perfect Strangers, about a group of Australians who converge on a “boutique health and wellness resort” called Tranquillum House. They’re all looking to change their lives in some way but what they’re promised is not just rejuvenation but reinvention at the hands of Masha, a beautiful, mysterious, complex 6 foot tall mix of guru and army captain. The spa goers include a middle-aged romance novelist who’s hit a crossroads, a famous ex-athlete, a couple and their daughter, grieving the suicide of their son and twin brother and a couple who have won the lottery. To divulge any more about the story would spoil a major plot twist but this author’s mastery of slow build tension, deeply developed characters and insightful (often dryly funny) dialogue make this book a joy. To observe their interactions, both with each other and with a bizarre, highly stressful scenario makes for a page-turning, razor-sharp thriller. For books to devour on a sun lounger, this has to be in my top 10. It’s not a challenging read but it’s a really, really good one.
The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k, Sarah Knight
A totally irreverent and downright practical book for anyone who struggles to say ‘no’ and is feeling a bit overwhelmed by modern life. Ahem, that is most people I know. This is what I would call in-your-face self-help but it’s almost too frank and cool to be self-help. It’ll help you to recognise the corrosive nature of peppering your emails with “just”, of going places you really don’t want to, of apologising when you’ve done nothing wrong. But what it’s really about is embracing the power of no and the NotSorry method which is the central tenet of Knight’s philosophy. But crucially, she stresses being polite and honest whilst elevating your own wishes and wants closer to the top the priority list. I LOVED this book and Knight is right, when you give less f**ks and stop doing so many things that annoy just because you think you should, “your spirit will be lighter, your calendar will be clearer, and your time and energy will be spent on only the things and people you enjoy.” Read it and reap the benefits.
My name is Lucy Barton, Elizabeth Strout
I re-read this 2016 book because I saw Laura Linney in a profoundly moving 90 minute solo production last year in London. It was adapted from Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s first-person narrative of a writer, hospitalised for nine weeks in a New York hospital, with the focus on the five days the eponymous storyteller spends with her long-estranged mother who visits her in hospital. The two women talk of acquaintances from Lucy’s old life and we glimpse into her inescapable past – a childhood of poverty, deprivation and cruelty. It is a haunting story of loneliness, made all the more heartbreaking when we observe that even with the passage of time and escape (Lucy left her hard, rural beginnings and now lives as a successful, married author and a mother of two children in New York), we feel her utter surprise that good things have come from her life. But even more keenly, we feel her desperation for love from and reconciliation with her brittle mother. A testament to Elizabeth Strout’s talent is her ability to develop such a haunting, deep and keenly observant in under 200 pages. Keep the tissues close. You will think about the book for days when you finish reading it.