Books of the month: From Stephen King’s Billy Summers to Susie Boyt’s Loved and Missed

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

Do you grin or grimace at the thought that almost every celebrity now seems to believe they have a novel in them? This month’s crop of fiction includes actor David Thewlis’s second novel, Shooting Martha (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), which began life as a screenplay and evolved into a darkly comic tale about a film director and his dysfunctional marriage. Miles Jupp’s History (Headline) is the tale of a private school teacher called Clive Hapgood. Jupp is a likeably droll comedian and television panellist, and his witty novel has some telling things to say about British hypocrisy and the culture at independent schools, where students “generally leave with an innate capacity to be dishonest”. Finally, Fretted and Moaning (Rocket 88 Books) contains 52 short stories set in the world of music by Andy Summers, former guitarist of The Police.

Since we’re talking about books by the famous, I’d hazard that the thought of a historical novel by Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, in which the protagonist is called Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, would be enough to send most people into a cold sweat (although obviously not her former hubby, Prince Andrew, given his “peculiar medical condition” of being unable to perspire). Her Heart for a Compass (Mills & Boon) is being promoted as “the debut of the year” and although I’m sure that the Duchess’s “co-writer” Marguerite Kaye, described as “an accomplished Mills & Boon historical author”, has done a tip-top job of fashioning a Victorian melodrama, I’d really rather read 400 Ikea wardrobe instruction manuals than 400 pages of Fergie’s “romantic” musings.

The problem of fame is a theme in John Boyne’s The Echo Chamber (Doubleday), which satirises the blighted world of social media in the tale of a celebrity couple and their three messed-up children. Among other fiction I enjoyed this month is Virginia Feito’s sharp debut novel Mrs March (4th Estate), which explores the question of identity. Her book has already been optioned by award-winning actor Elisabeth Moss. I would also recommend Andrew Greig’s highly entertaining historical novel Rose Nicolson (Riverrun), which is set in a turbulent 16th-century Scotland, and Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees (Viking), a haunting tale set in Cyprus.

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