Books: I sobbed a lot reading Postcript, Cecelia Ahern's sequel to PS, I Love You
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Postscript by Cecelia Ahern is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £16.99 (ebook £8.99)
DO YOU remember when PS, I Love You – Cecilia Ahern's heart-shattering debut novel was published? It was 2004 and Ahern was just 22 (as was I). It followed young widow Holly as she grieved for her husband Gerry. She discovers that while dying from a brain tumour, he'd written a series of notes (each ending with 'PS, I love you') for Holly to discover after he'd gone. The notes took Holly on an emotional journey, and it was impossible not to be pulled along with her. So, learning that, 15 years later, Ahern has released a sequel was both exciting and slightly frightening. Would it have the same impact as the first book? What if the intervening decade-and-a-half have turned me a bit hard and cynical and I'm just not as moved by this one? (Yes, a lot of over-thinking – but this book really touched me). I start Postscript half expecting to be slightly disappointed. Holly now has a new partner and has moved on with her life. Then, after agreeing to do a podcast interview about her experience of grief, she's approached with a proposition: To help other dying people write letters for the loved ones they'll be leaving behind. Although reluctant at first, Holly is unable to resist, and the PS, I Love You Club is born. Holly finds herself drawn back into a new phase of grief. It's a hefty wedge of a book and I can report that yes, I sobbed. A lot. In timeline, Postscript picks up a few years down the line. In emotion, it picks up exactly where Ahern left off – the book, like the first, spoke straight to my heart. Perhaps it's the realness and simplicity of Ahern's writing and observations that make it so impactful. And perhaps I'm just as soppy as I was at 22 after all.
A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier is published in hardback by HarperCollins, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99)
A SINGLE Thread is a cosy slice of English life in the 1930s, with an emotional complexity that keeps it safely outside the realms of cliche. After moving to Winchester, unmarried typist Violet Speedwell joins a group of women embroidering cushions for the cathedral. Part of the 'surplus generation' of single women, Violet is still trying to carve out a life for herself in the shadow of the First World War. Tracy Chevalier offers an interesting insight into these women, though much like their lives it is sometimes hard to tell whether anything is going to happen. The novel can feel at points like a vehicle for facts about Hampshire history, embroidery, and bell-ringing. But two forbidden romances and occasional flashes of danger keep things ticking along nicely.
The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason is published in hardback by Zaffre, priced £12.99 (ebook £4.07)
THIS time-shifting thriller slips in and out of the 1970s and the present day seamlessly. Set at a haunted farm, and following sisters Loo and Bee, it is introduced during the long, hot summer of 1976. Author Mason spends her time building the character of Loo, who in the present is known as Lucy, and creating the backstory to the paranormal society that pushes the story forwards. It's a slow build. Eventually the pieces start to shift and a fuller picture comes into view. I have just as many questions as the paranormal investigators Nina and Hal do for Lucy's mum Cathy, a dementia patient who seems to have knowledge of the past that she can't tap into. Just what happened in that farmhouse 40 years ago? What secrets have been festering? Mason has created a spooky, twisty tale ideal for dark evenings.
Period by Emma Barnett is published in hardback by HQ, priced £12.99 (ebook £7.99)
WITH conversation surrounding the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and intersectional feminism taking off, journalist Emma Barnett aims to tackle what she claims is feminism's "final taboo": Periods. Barnett's first non-fiction book explores all things menstrual, covering complex and often emotionally charged topics including fertility, menopause, endometriosis, and sexuality, with humour and sensitivity. Filled with anecdotes, talking points, and a period "manifesto" tackling menstrual leave and period poverty, Period is not simply a fun read, but a way to bring menstrual activism from the page into workplaces, and homes. Barnett's research explores almost every menstrual issue; however certain topics, including queer and transgender people's period experiences, are only briefly touched upon, and may have benefited from a more robust approach. In all, though, a bloody good read.
The Liars by Jennifer Mathieu is published in paperback by Hodder Children's Books, priced £7.99 (ebook £4.99)
AFTER Jennifer Mathieu's smash hit YA novel Moxie, The Liars was always going to fall a little heavier, and it is rather sluggish. The story lurches between the summer of 1986 on Mariposa Island, where Elena is struggling with her controlling mother's rum and coke habit, her brother Joaquin growing ever distant; and their mother's gilded childhood in Cuba, disrupted by the revolution. Embedded in small town mentalities, and awash with the airless boredom of a summer stretching out ahead, there are moments of insight (the peculiarities of siblings; the miserableness of first-time love), but there is no humour or lightness to carry you through the stifling plot. Historically interesting, but too angsty to fully hold your attention.
My Hair by Hannah Lee, illustrated by Allen Fatimaharan is published in paperback by Faber & Faber, priced £6.99 (ebook £4.68)
MY HAIR is the story book debut for writer Hannah Lee and illustrator Allen Fatimaharan and tells the story of a little girl's search for the perfect party hairstyle. The story captures the excitement of preparing for a birthday down to the last detail, and the hairstyles of friends and family are explored and celebrated from dreadlocks to bantu knots. The author's love of her own black hair shines through. The book is visually splendid, but it is a shame more time wasn't spent making the words flow as well.