The 5 best books out February
Muddy's pro bookworm Kerry Potter has got five Feb fancies for your delectation. Read all about 'em
Book of the month
My Wild And Sleepless Nights by Clover Stroud
As a rule, I don’t read books or blogs about motherhood. I find them boring. I’m deep in the midst of the heavy-lifting parenting years myself, with two primary school age children to care for alongside a full-time job. I don’t need to read about it, I’m living it. And when I do steal a rare moment to hunker down with a book, I long to dive into experiences and worlds that are markedly different from my own.
Every rule, of course, has its exception. Clover Stroud’s new memoir on motherhood mesmerised me. Full disclosure: she’s a friend and a colleague. But even if she wasn’t, I would be raving about this one. If you read Stroud’s book about the loss of her own mother and its impact on her life, The Wild Other, you’ll know her evocative, raw writing style. This time she muses on being a mother of five (yes, FIVE), capturing with pinpoint accuracy the agonies and ecstasies, often both within the same hour, of parenting. The mundane becomes poetic in her hands. On sitting watching the dreaded weekly swimming lessons, she writes: “I try to think of the pleasure Evangeline will get diving into the sea or swimming across a river. Another part of me feels as though my brain is draining out of my heel through the verruca-covered drains. As a mother I am living a life that is not, for much of the time, mine.”
The book covers a gloriously messy, uproarious year in the life of her family, beginning as Stroud is about to give birth to her fifth child just as her eldest, 15-year-old Jimmy, is being expelled from school for smoking weed. She unpicks the discrepancies between what kind of parents we naively declare we’re going to be and how things actually pan out. She examines the impact of children on her marriage, writing with eye-popping honesty about sex and motherhood (two things that rarely appear in the same sentence). And she captures the sense of derangement that comes with never, ever having enough sleep. But, in spite of it all, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She isn’t the only one.
Also out this month
So much fantastic fiction, not enough time. Here’s three of the best. Irreverent Irish novelist Marian Keyes is always a banker and her new family drama, Grown Ups, is just as compelling as you’d expect. The Caseys are a wealthy, glamorous extended family who have got it all. That is until one of their number, Cara, suffers concussion and starts spilling secrets at a family get-together. And you thought your Christmas lunch was tense
Then there’s Stacey Halls’ new one, The Foundling. The ex- journalist showed her historical fiction creds with her dazzling debut novel, The Familiars, set against the backdrop of the 17th century Pendle witch trials. This follow-up plonks us in mid 18th century Georgian London, where Bess Bright arrives at a foundling hospital to reclaim her illegitimate daughter… only to find she’s not there.
Elsewhere, be careful you don’t burn your fingers when you grab a copy of Saving Missy by Beth Morrey – debuts don’t come any hotter. This charming tale of a lonely, elderly lady whose life is transformed on meeting strangers in the local park saw 10 different publishers to scrapping over it at auction, such is the appetite to find a new ‘up lit’ mega-hit in the vein of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (Reese Witherspoon’s movie adaptation of that is in the works). And how cheering that Morrey, a former creative director in the TV industry, got her big bookish break at 42. It’s never too late to change careers.
Finally, One of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square by Michael Cashman is an epic, moving, rousing read to get stuck into on a dark evening. Cashman famously played Colin in EastEnders in the ’80s; an era when a soap opera introducing an openly gay character generated furiously homophobic headlines. It’s quite the odyssey – from a challenging childhood in Limehouse (he’s a genuine eastender) through to sitting in the House Of Lords, with delicious cameos from Elton John, Elizabeth Taylor and David Hockney along the way. It’s only February but there’s a strong possibility that this is the celebrity autobiography of the year.