Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
As it has won numerous prizes, Girl, Woman, Other is not exactly an unknown book. But it is so worthy of reading, with its multi-layered stories weaving together to create an expansive portrait of Black womanhood throughout the African diaspora.
Beginning with the first showing of the playwright Amma’s “The Last Amazon of Dahomey,” Evaristo cleverly jumps from narrator to narrator, a character from one story taking up the mantle in the next.
She moves from early 19th-century Yorkshire to modern-day London to a lesbian commune in the US to the shantytowns of Nigeria to a sparkling beach in Barbados, and seemingly everywhere in between. The connections are sometimes blood, sometimes friendships, and occasionally merely coincidental, but they all fit just so.
These twelve characters are all drawn with such incredible sensitivity and empathy, illuminating not only their struggles and pain but also moments of incredible success and joy.
It grapples with the big questions – on feminism, on race and passing, on gender identity – but in a way that rarely feels overly didactic. This is a book that you will love just dipping in and out of and letting Evaristo’s rich prose wash over you.
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
The Thursday Murder Club is a brilliant concept for a book, really, and it’s absolutely perfectly suited to anyone that adores English murder mysteries. In a luxury retirement community, four friends gather together to review cold cases and try to solve them – there’s the mysterious Elizabeth, who clearly was once a spy of some sort; the intellectual Ibrahim, a former psychologist; rabble-rousing union organiser, Ron; and the quiet Joyce, our main narrator and former nurse.
The Club is pushed into action when the co-owner of their retirement community is murdered in his home. As a former drug dealer, this is perhaps not the most unexpected of ends for him, but it is still quite the mystery as to who actually did it.
Elizabeth finagles to get them involved in the investigation (through the exploitation of their relationship with a new member of the force, Donna), and we’re away to the races.
There are many surprises along the way, but of course, the culprit is caught and justice is served, leaving the reader well-satisfied. The perfect book for when you need the tempting distraction of four senior citizens using their immense life experience to outwit the cops and the criminals, and full of laughs, although not without its serious moments as well.
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole
The first full-length thriller from Alyssa Cole, When No One Is Watching takes the basic facts of gentrification – in this case, in Brooklyn – and twists, just a tiny bit, to create a modern urban horror story. It doesn’t take a genius to compare this to Get Out, and thus is recommended for fans of the film.
Sydney Green has returned to Brooklyn and her mother’s home to find things changing … and not in a way that she likes. Neighbourhood institutions are being replaced, strange things are happening to her neighbours, and the neighbourhood chat group is getting increasingly contentious.
She’s suffering, too, from fears about her mother’s ill-health and their financial situation. Sydney decides the best thing she can do is throw herself into researching the neighbourhood for a guided history walk for the annual block party, one to remind everyone of the true history of the block.
Meanwhile, her neighbour Theo, one of the white gentrifiers (with his ex-girlfriend) is becoming increasingly uneasy about the changes, too, and volunteers to help Sydney with her tour. Together, they begin to uncover both the history that shaped their neighbourhood into what it is today, and tantalising hints that something isn’t right with it today.
This is a creepy, page-turning book, an uneasy read in the best possible way – Cole hooks you emotionally and then just keeps ratcheting up the tension until you’re on the edge of your seat.