Books: Five to read in May
Need a good book? Surrey-based journalist and author Victoria Scott shares her five all-time favourites.
I first read Brideshead when I was at uni, freshly heartbroken and massively sentimental after the ending of a relationship with my first serious boyfriend. He was a student (and a rower) at Oxford, so Brideshead’s opening chapter, set during Oxford’s rowing competition, Eights Week, was probably at least part of my reason for falling in love with the book. Of course, I later realised there were so many more reasons to love it – its themes of faith, love and the fate of England’s fading aristocracy are brilliantly woven into a very compelling plot.
Joanna Trollope is absolutely brilliant at writing about relationships and their many dramas, and The Choir is my favourite of hers. Set in the claustrophobic world of a British cathedral, she draws you into a plot that might at first meeting seem a little light (whether the cathedral should keep its choir, or not) but in the end, she makes you desperate for justice. I always genuinely care about her characters, and that’s a special gift.
Miss Benson’s Beetle
Rachel Joyce is such a clever writer, and Miss Benson’s Beetle, her latest, is astonishingly good. It’s a real romp through exotic lands, with two vibrant, funny women at its heart. It’s a real adventure, which, given all of the time we’ve spent in lockdown recently, I really needed. It also has a great feminist message, which I adore.
London Belongs to Me
This novel, set in London just before the Second World War, really captures the city and its people during that incredibly tumultuous time. It’s both humorous and sad, and has a Dickensian feeling about it. It’s like a time capsule; reading it feels like sitting in front of a coal fire, wrapped in a tartan blanket, as porcelain mallards fly above the mantelpiece. Love it.
My Sister’s Keeper
Jodi Picoult’s books have been an obsession of mine for years. She takes big issues (topics that, according to Picoult, keep her awake at night) and turns them into gripping dramas with characters you really believe in. I deeply admire her skill, and I race through all of her books, desperate to find out about her characters’ fates while also learning a huge amount at the same time. My debut novel, Patience, is in the same genre. It’s also about a big issue – experimental gene therapy, and how it will affect disabled people’s lives – but it’s also about a family, and their love for each other, and their fears, their heartbreaks and their failures. The novel was inspired by my amazing sister Clare, who has Rett syndrome. She can’t speak, but Patience, the book’s main character, also has Rett, and she gets the voice I imagine my sister has. If readers laugh a little, cry a little and learn a little from Patience, I’ll be delighted.
Victoria Scott is a journalist and author who lives in Shepperton, Surrey. Her debut novel ‘Patience’ will be out in hardback, audio book and e-book on 5 August this year. It’s a story about a family struggling with the decision to put their severely disabled daughter into a high-risk gene therapy trial. You can pre-order it via her website.