Books: Five to read this month
Looking for a new book to get stuck into as we head out of summer and into cosy autumn? Who better to ask than top Surrey novelist novelist CJ Daugherty.
The Night Circus
This is an elegant, wandering, multi-strand tale of a mysterious circus that travels in secrecy and arrives without warning. Nobody knows when or where it will appear, or how long it will stay. The tents are filled with magical, mysterious displays. People are obsessed with it, and for good reason. It could be dangerous or simply wonderful — even after reading the book it’s hard to know which. It’s so beautifully written, I long to wake up one morning, as dawn washes the dark from the sky, to find this circus has appeared in my town.
Emily St. John Mandel
Words cannot describe how much I love this book. I bought it after everyone I trusted in the world told me it was amazing, and they were all right. It starts in a pandemic apocalypse (sound familiar?) and then jumps forward in time to follow a group of survivors who are exploring the remains of America in a roving band of Shakespearean actors, travelling from settlement to settlement performing for people who can barely remember a time before life was like this. It’s scary, and thoughtful, and ultimately filled with hope.
I’ve read this book multiple times, and I never stop loving it. It follows a female detective as she investigates a murder victim who looks exactly like her. Using their alikeness as a weapon, she takes over the dead woman’s life – moving in with her friends into a house in the countryside outside Dublin. She begins investigating them from within but then, slowly falls in love with them. This is a dangerous decision. Because one of them is a killer.
This feminist reinterpretation of The Odyssey told from the perspective of the banished witch, Circe, is simply stunning. Circe’s story is bittersweet. She’s young and voiceless, expected to be nothing but beautiful and compliant. Because she isn’t either of those things, she’s punished by being banished to an island to live completely alone. In isolation, she finds herself. The tale is told with wonderful compassion. It’s funny and dry, and terribly poignant. I cried three times listening to the audiobook. Honestly, it’s so gorgeously written I don’t know why I bother.
The Secret History
For me, this is the book that made me want to be a writer. Set at an elite private college in the New England hills in a snowy winter, when the days are short and trouble brews, it tells the story of a murder in reverse – starting with the killing of a student called Bunny, and then going back in time to show us who killed him. It’s about six dazzling, intelligent students who commit an unthinkable crime. It’s dark, and funny, and endlessly clever. Two of my books – Night School and Revolver Road – were both influenced by it. In fact, every book I write bears some trace of The Secret History.
CJ Daugherty is a top-selling author who lives in Farnham. She is well-known for her best selling book series for teens and young adults set at an elite British boarding school based on Frensham Heights near Farnham. Her newest book Codename Firefly is published on 2 Sept. It is a teen crime novel set at a boarding school that tackles subjects including mental health and politics.
Codename Firefly by CJ Daugherty £8.99 is out now and available online here.