5 new books to read in lockdown

This week’s bookcase includes reviews of The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex and The Soul Of A Woman by Isabel Allende.

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From psychological thrillers to handbooks for young activists, these are the biggest books of the week…

Fiction

1. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex is published in hardback by Picador, priced £14.99 (ebook £8.49). Available now

What happened to three lighthouse keepers who vanished in 1972? This is the question a writer tries to answer 20 years on, speaking to the women left behind in an attempt to piece together how the tragedy unfolded. Surrounded by mystery, The Lamplighters is Emma Stonex’s first novel published under her own name (she’s written several more under a pseudonym). It’s a gripping and suspenseful read exploring love, loss and loneliness. While the characters are fictional, it’s inspired by real events and the unusual narrative structure gives an insight into the realities of life in an isolated lighthouse, through the psychological struggles of the three men. The multi-narrator style allows for surprising twists and turns to keep on coming, making it a true page-turner that builds up to a stunning conclusion.9/10(Review by Sophie Morris)

2. Milk Fed by Melissa Broder is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Circus, priced £16.99 (ebook £11.89). Available now

Melissa Broder’s 2018 debut novel, The Pisces, was all about a woman having sex with a manipulative merman. It was one to pass round your mates and archly say, ‘Wait until you get to this bit…’ Milk Fed has similar guts, force and raciness. Its nameless female narrator has a not-so showbizzy LA job, an empty apartment and an eating disorder. Then she meets a woman at a frozen yoghurt joint who is intent on reviving her appetites. Alongside a fair wedge of heartache and religious ennui, Broder expertly scrutinises the emotional tug-of-war of toxic, co-dependent mother-daughter relationships, and viscerally captures our narrator’s clawing need for love and approval; to feel satisfied and full. The descriptions of her calorie-restricted diet are a tough read, but Broder doesn’t sugar-coat anything – except the yoghurt. Engrossing, troubling and pretty graphic at times, it’s also quite moving. Above all, Milk Fed will make your mind and stomach twist with questions.7/10(Review by Ella Walker)

3. The Eighth Girl by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung is published in hardback by Pushkin Vertigo, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.99). Available now

The Eighth Girl has already been optioned for development by Netflix – with Hollywood star Jason Bateman attached to it – suggesting it would be one of those thrillers that leaves you breathless. But while Maxine Mei-Fung Chung’s debut is an eye-opening exploration of mental health (the author is a qualified psychotherapist), and there is one gasp-worthy twist weaved into the plot, it could have been much more suspenseful. What Chung has achieved, however, is an original and interesting main character: a young woman named Alexa Wu, who has been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. She has a ‘flock’ of multiple personalities that alternate in controlling her life – sometimes with terrifying consequences. It’s the sessions Alexa has with her therapist, Daniel – where he delves into her childhood trauma, and we understand more about each of her personalities – that the descriptive, detailed writing is most impactful.7/10(Review by Georgia Humphreys)

Non-fiction

4. The Soul Of A Woman by Isabel Allende is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Circus, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49). Available now

Isabel Allende’s latest work is a charming and chatty account of her life in feminism, from a childhood in Chile raised by her single mother, to her years as a journalist, three marriages and becoming a mother herself. The 78-year-old explores tough topics in what is essentially a beginner’s guide to feminism, and is realistic about the fact there’s still a long way to go. But for every horrifying statistic about domestic violence, rape or abortion, there’s an inspiring story about women working to make the world a better place. As much as it’s a call to arms for young people to join the fight for equality, this defiant and hopeful book is an ode to the joys of growing old, the magic of romance at any age (Allende met her third husband in her 70s), and the power of female solidarity.8/10(Review by Katie Wright)

Children’s book of the week

5. How To Change Everything by Naomi Klein and Rebecca Stefoff is published in hardback by Penguin, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99). Available now

Journalist, author and activist Naomi Klein joins forces with author Rebecca Stefoff to create a young person’s guide to changing the world. Klein and Stefoff take us through the current situation in three stages: Where We Are, How We Got Here and What Happens Next. At the heart of the book are the young activists: Greta Thunberg’s school strikes, Alice Brown Otter’s fight against the Dakota Access pipeline, Autumn Peltier’s clean water campaign and Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti’s tree planting. It’s an inspiring tale of campaigns lost and won, young activists who have stood up to huge corporations, and the importance of social and economic justice in our efforts to find climate solutions. The book ends with a look at how the Covid-19 pandemic has proved rapid change is possible, and a toolkit of ideas to get young activists started.8/10(Review by Sue Barraclough)

BOOK CHARTS FOR THE WEEK ENDING MARCH 20

HARDBACK (FICTION)1. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro2. What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch3. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell4. The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward5. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman6. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart7. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex8. Double Blind by Edward St Aubyn9. A Court Of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas10. Win by Harlan Coben(Compiled by Waterstones)

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)1. Together by Luke Adam Hawker2. Many Different Kinds Of Love by Michael Rosen3. Failures Of State by Jonathan Calvert & George Arbuthnott4. Value(s) by Mark Carney5. The Nightingale by Sam Lee6. One: Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones7. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy8. Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli9. Stone Island by Stone Island & Angelo Flaccavento10. Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera(Compiled by Waterstones)

AUDIOBOOKS (FICTION AND NON-FICTION)1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig2. Every Move You Make by Deborah Bee3. One Good Deed by David Baldacci4. Still Life by Val McDermid5. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman6. The Body by Bill Bryson7. A Promised Land by Barack Obama8. Beyond Order by Jordan B Peterson9. War Doctor by David Nott10. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey(Compiled by Audible)

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