Books: Five to read in June
Got a book-shaped space on your bedside table? Well, here to offer up five fabulous suggestions is Surrey author Louise Soraya Black - who also has a new novel out this month.
Zennor in Darkness
Helen Dunmore is one of my favourite novelists, as she combines sensuous prose with a gripping story, and her debut novel Zennor in Darkness is the first book of hers that I read. After I read this, I promptly devoured her other novels and poetry. Zennor in Darkness takes place in Cornwall during the shadow of the First World War, weaving together a love story between Clare Coyne and her cousin John William, and Clare’s growing friendship with D.H. Lawrence. Helen Dunmore has a gift for depicting place and this novel left me longing for the coastal vistas of Cornwall. It would make an excellent summer read.
The Secret Garden
Frances Hodgson Burnett
This novel is as enjoyable for adults as children. In fact, although I was a voracious reader as a child, I’d never read it until this year, when I listened to it in audio with my children. It was joyous and uplifting, and the perfect antidote to pandemic blues. Mary Lennox, an orphan, goes to live with her reclusive uncle in Yorkshire, in his gloomy stately home of Misselthwaite Manor. There she discovers an abandoned secret garden and, together with a country boy called Dicken, brings life back to it, overcoming the tragedies of the past and bringing hope once again to Misselthwaite Manor. Interestingly, I’ve noticed quite a few parallels between this book and my second novel, The Water Garden.
The Wasteland and other poems
I have loved T.S. Eliot’s poems ever since I can remember; and more than any other book, I return to this one. My three favourite poems are The Waste Land – of course, Journey of the Magi and The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Lyrical, symbolic, haunting. These poems get under your skin.
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle
I’m always interested in novels set in other countries, perhaps because I have an international background and spent my formative life overseas. If travel is difficult this summer, you can still escape to Trinidad with this alluring and powerful story about Sabine, a French woman who longs for change in her marriage and the country that has become her home. The writing is stunning and the sense of place vivid and immersive. If you enjoy this book, Monique Roffey has written several other novels, all of which are excellent. Her latest, The Mermaid of Black Conch, won the 2020 Costa Book of the Year.
The Novel Cure: An A to Z of Literary Remedies
Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin
This indispensable literary handbook aims to cure and soothe life’s ailments, emotional as well as physical, by prescribing novels. The authors are bibliotherapists and believe that a novel pressed into someone’s hands at the right moment has the potential to change their life. Ella Berthoud provides one-to-one bibliotherapy sessions as well, so if you are in need of a personal prescription, you can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.ellaberthoud.com. She also streams literary discussions on YouTube, on themes ranging from new beginnings to ghosts. If you enjoy this book, try The Poetry Pharmacy by William Sieghart, a slim book of poems grouped by ailment, which I adore and often give as presents to friends.
Louise Soraya Black is an author who lives in Elmbridge, Surrey. Her first novel Pomgranate Sky was published in 2009 and won the inaugural Virginia Prize. Her second novel, The Water Garden, was published this month. The Water Garden weaves together two narratives – one which follows Sarah, in the present day, and the other, a series of stories that begin in Italy during the Second World War.