By Rebecca Fletcher
What a bookish September we’ve had to open a new series of Are You Sitting Comfortably. I’ve found myself pouring over blurbs on the back of books thanks to our lovely guest Louise Willder and her witty exploration of the dark arts of persuasion and blurb writing in Blurb Your Enthusiasm. It’s a writer’s gem if you’re looking for tips and tricks of how to really hone your words to make the reader what to dive into a story.
Talking of diving into stories, here are this month’s suggested reads. I’ve gone down a rabbit hole of dark academia aesthetic but there’s also a gorgeous uplifting debut novel on the list too from Sara Nisha Adams which resonates with its message that books can really bring us together. A love letter to books – some of my deepest favourites lie within this little list. I only hope I’ve managed to employ Louise’s brilliant blurbing techniques enough to entice you into adopting these reads as your own! Happy Reading.
It’s thirty years since Donna Tartt’s The Secret History was published and, for me, it still fizzles with intrigue in a memorable tale of a group of deadly clever and eccentric social misfits at a New England college who become part of an academic elite headed up by charismatic Classics professor, Julian. Obsession, betrayal and corruption, all sense of morality begins to blur as they become entangled by secrets that unravel with devastating inevitability. If it’s dark academia aesthetic you’re craving to keep you company as the nights begin drawing in, then you can’t go wrong – it’s got serious Dead Poets Society vibes. Donna Tartt’s sharp and haunting prose will have you hooked from the first line. “The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation.”
From underground academic societies to a labyrinth of forgotten titles, The Shadow of the Wind by Carols Ruis Zafon is an atmospheric beauty which became an international bestselling thriller. Within the heart of old Barcelona lies hidden a ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’. One morning in 1945, a 10-year-old boy, Daniel, accompanies his father to this strange library and chooses one book from the shelves to adopt as his own – The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. In choosing this book, Daniel begins a dangerous adventure where his own life and the tragedy of another’s become inextricably linked. What if the magic of a single book had the power to shape your entire destiny?
Coded manuscripts, secret symbols and an entire Franciscan abbey under suspicion, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose is medieval murder mystery at its best. Arriving to look into claims of heresy, Brother William ends up turning his detective skills into another direction as extraordinary things begin happening under cover of darkness and lives of the monks are at stake. Who is behind these bizarre deaths and more importantly what secrets is the murderer trying to protect? Manuscripts, metaphysics and monks – this is a masterclass in historical whodunnits.
A.S Byatt’s Booker Prize winning novel, Possession, is part love story, part detective novel. I fell in love with this tale of a pair of ambitious academics who follow a trail of poems, letters and journals of two Victorian poets, Randolph Ash and Christabel LaMotte. They uncover more than they bargained for as they try to unravel these historic relationships but who will get to the truth first? I adored the multiple voices and stories within stories. Definitely one you’ll become invested in very quickly. Another very worthy contender of AS Byatt’s is The Children’s Book – perhaps my favourite of all her novels – with its family secrets and story book world of Olive Wellwood and her children, spanning the Edwardian era and into WWI. Passions burn, lies abound and hearts become broken as the lives of both the children and adults unfold in this spellbinding novel.
What happens in a world when some words are considered more of note than others? Australian author Pip Williams’ The Dictionary of Lost Words tells the story of curious Esme, the daughter of a lexicographer gathering words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. From her hiding place beneath the sorting table, Esme discovers a slip containing the word ‘bondmaid’ which has fluttered to the floor and remained unclaimed by the team in the Scriptorium. When Esme realises that often words and meanings relating to the lives and experiences of women are discarded in favour of more important words, she begins collecting them for herself. A story of love and lost narratives set at the height of the Suffrage movement.
The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams is a joyful and uplifting story which begins when reluctant librarian Aleisha finds a scrappy reading list between the pages of a library book. Widower Mukesh Patel arrives at the library seeking a way to connect with his bookish granddaughter. As Aleisha introduces Mukesh to the magic of storytelling within these nine books on the reading list, they discover that their unlikely book club has the power to transport and connect as well as serve as a reminder that it’s never too late to start a new chapter.
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