books of the month

Books of the month: From Frankie Boyle’s Meantime to Jessica Andrews’ Milk Teeth

Martin Chilton reviews six of the July’s biggest releases for our monthly column

There are eight pages listed under “misogyny” in the index of Mary Honeyball’s biography Edith Summerskill: The Life and Times of a Pioneering Feminist Labour MP (Bloomsbury). Dr Edith, as she was known, served in Clement Attlee’s post-war government and helped build the welfare state. She was a pioneering campaigner for women’s rights, yet often faced derision from chauvinist MPs. In 1939, more than 7,000 Britons were killed on the roads, 1,000 of them children – yet Summerskill was laughed at by the Tory front bench when, in 1940, she suggested that those found guilty of drink-driving should face “severe penalties”.

Summerskill also campaigned to improve conditions for prisoners – a subject that comes into two revealing books out this month: Dr Shahed Yousaf’s Stitched Up (reviewed in full below) and Dr Ben Cave’s What We Fear Most: Reflections on a Life in Forensic Psychiatry (Seven Dials). Cave, who says working at Campsmoor jail was more challenging than anywhere else in his career, admits that “the amount of severe mental illness in prisons never ceases to amaze me”.

Among the most impressive historical fiction out this July is Frances Quinn’s That Bonesetter Woman (Simon & Schuster), based on a real story about two sisters in Georgian London, one who is desperate to be a female bonesetter and the other who is a determined social climber. One of the standout novels of the month is Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow (Vintage). Set in the world of gaming, it is a wildly imaginative and touching tale of friendship and the volatile nature of creative collaboration. Other July highlights are Camilla Grudova’s Children of Paradise (Atlantic Books), about a cleaner in an old Edinburgh cinema; Sadie Jones’s Amy & Lan (Chatto & Windus) a moving story of two children growing up on a communal farm in the west country and Rebecca Wait’s I’m Sorry You Feel That Way (Riverrun), an enjoyably bittersweet novel about a dysfunctional modern family.

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