The joy of books – treat your mum to something new on Mother's Day
Let Mum put her feet up with a good book this Mother's Day. Hannah Stephenson leafs through her picks of the newest female-penned titles on the shelves
THERE couldn't be a better time to buy a book for a woman – and by a woman, what with Mother's Day around the corner, and the recent Baileys Women's Prize For Fiction longlist announcement.
From dazzling debuts and historical sagas, to social dramas, humorous tales and real-life stories, there's a book for every mother out there. Here are just a few of our top picks...
:: A Secret Garden by Katie Fforde (Century, £12.99): This light, romantic tale centres on two unlucky-in-love friends Lorna and Philly, who are working together on a 'secret garden' in the grounds of a large country house before it opens to the public – and discover that their beautiful workplace could be just the thing to put the spark back into their lives. The author herself has hosted open gardens like the characters in her book, bringing a sense of authenticity to the scene.
:: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (Bantam, £18.99): The latest fresh and funny novel from the bestselling female fiction author introduces Katie Brenner, who appears to have the perfect life – a London flat, glamorous job, and super-cool Instagram feed. In reality though, she rents a tiny room with no space for a wardrobe, has a hideous commute to a lowly admin job, and the life she shares on Instagram isn't really hers. When her female boss sacks her, she has to move to Somerset, where she helps her dad with his new glamping business. And then her ex-boss books a holiday there - and it soon emerges the two women have more in common than first thought.
:: About Last Night... by Catherine Alliott (Michael Joseph, £12.99): This laugh-out-loud novel charts the calamities of Molly, who is living the dream on a rural farm in Herefordshire – except it was her late husband's dream and it has turned into her nightmare, chasing errant sheep, mending broken fences and trying to keep the bailiffs at bay. Then she inherits a house in London, but there is a catch - it is occupied by a tenant, who she is determined to evict. So the fun begins.
:: Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore (£18.99, Hutchinson): This brilliantly observed saga, set against the backdrop of the French revolution, is narrated by Lizzie Fawkes, a radical but naive young woman in 1792 Bristol, brought up by a feminist writer and political activist father. She separates herself from her radical upbringing when she marries a property developer who tries to subdue her independent spirit, and finds herself torn between his charisma and self-made success and her mother's idealism. Says a lot about the differences in outlook between generations and genders.
:: City Of Friends by Joanna Trollope (Mantle, £18.99): Female friendships, tricky teenagers, fractured families, elderly relatives and workplace issues are all thrown into the mix in the acclaimed author's 20th novel. It centres on four ambitious female friends, who've shared joys and heartache since university and are now nearing their 50s and in high-flying careers. But the dynamics change when one is sacked and a series of complications, interwoven through their professional and private lives, follows, threatening the future of the friendships.
:: The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride (Faber & Faber, £16.99): Longlisted for this year's Baileys Prize, McBride's second novel (her first, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, won the award in 2014) charts the intense and tumultuous relationship between a naive 18-year-old Irish female drama student and the actor, who's 20 years her senior and still lives in a bedsit, she meets after arriving in London. Set in the 90s, she soon discovers a world of bedsits, squats, seedy pubs and sex. As the story progresses, she also learns her new beau's had a hard life and has a past he cannot deal with.
:: The Doll Funeral by Kate Hamer (Faber & Faber, £12.99): Any mums who read this author's fantastic debut, The Girl In The Red Coat, should be champing at the bit to get their hands on a copy of her second novel, another disturbing page-turner. It centres on Ruby, a teenager who is physically abused by her repulsive stepfather but must pretend the bruises on her arms and the black eyes are a result of clumsiness. When she discovers her 'parents' are not her blood relatives, she sets out to hunt for her birth parents, unfolding a chilling tale of voodoo doll rituals, secrets, lies and surreal events.
:: A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys (Doubleday, Mar 23, £12.99): With shining endorsements from the likes of Paula Hawkins (The Girl On The Train) and Kate Hamer (The Girl In The Red Coat), it's worth bagging a copy of this Daphne du Maurier-style debut, set in 1939 when Europe's on the brink of war. Young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner for Australia, leaving behind shadows of her past. But fellow passengers aren't what they seem, and something terrible is about to happen.
:: At Home At Highclere: Entertaining At The Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon (Preface, £30): Anyone who dreams of a Downton Abbey-style life may wallow in the revelations of this coffee table tome, presented as five historical weekends at Highclere Castle, ranging from the mid-19th century to present day – Disraeli's reform cabinet in 1866, a literary weekend with Henry James in 1886, a visit from the Prince of Wales in 1895, a musical Easter with Malcolm Sargent in 1935, plus a life in the weekend of Highclere today. Also features menus and recipes passed down through the years.
:: There's also a raft of new mum books – including motherhood memoirs from ex-Towie star Sam Faiers (My Baby & Me; Blink, £14.99) and hit vlogger Giovanna Fletcher (Happy Mum Happy Baby; Coronet, £16.99), and some wise words as mothers reach middle-age from Good Morning Britain's Kate Garraway (The Joy Of Big Knickers; Blink, £14.99).
And then there are stories of mums who have defied all the odds and braved new challenges -– like Four Mums In A Boat (HQ, £16.99), the story of four middle-aged Yorkshire mothers who faced seasickness, sharks and worse when they rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic, from the Canaries to the Caribbean, strengthening their friendships – and their resilience - along the way. There's also a pocket paperback from 'Supermum' and gold medal-winning runner Jo Pavey, called This Mum Runs (Yellow Jersey, £8.99), which sees her pushing a buggy on her training runs and hitting the track while her children picnic on the grass.