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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY by Matt Haig (Canongate £16.99, 304 pp)


by Matt Haig (Canongate £16.99, 304 pp)

Depressed Nora is stuck in Bedford, she’s lost her job and, to put the tin hat on it, her cat has died.

Just as she prepares to end it all, she finds herself in a library packed with volumes, each containing a life she once considered leading.

In one, she’s the Olympic swimmer her father wanted; in another, she’s a glaciologist who encounters a polar bear on Arctic pack ice.

In yet another, she stays part of a band and becomes a rock star (I particularly liked that one). It’s a brilliant premise and great fun to have so many stories within one book.

If at times it reads slightly like a fictionalised self-help guide, what of it? Right now we need all the help and positivity we can get.


HERE AND NOW by Santa Montefiore (S&S £16.99, 400 pp)

HERE AND NOW by Santa Montefiore (S&S £16.99, 400 pp)

by Santa Montefiore (S&S £16.99, 400 pp)

Montefiore’s usual beat is aristocratic family dramas in glamorous locations. This story is slightly less posh than usual, and grittier.

Sixtysomething shopkeeper Marigold is succumbing to dementia. Her slow, horrible realisation of the fact is deftly and movingly handled.

Around her, family life goes on for her saintly woodworker husband, grumbling old mother and good-girl, bad-girl daughters, Daisy and Suze.

Good Daisy, on the rebound from a failed affair, is a talented pet portraitist.

The local squire and his wife commission her, meaning that when the squire drops dead and his dishy heir returns from Toronto, Daisy is in pole position.

A thoughtful novel in which tragedy and romance intersect amid rolling countryside and ideal villagedom.


I GIVE IT TO YOU by Valerie Martin (Serpent’s Tail £14.99, 304 pp)

I GIVE IT TO YOU by Valerie Martin (Serpent’s Tail £14.99, 304 pp)

by Valerie Martin (Serpent’s Tail £14.99, 304 pp)

Possibly not the best title for our Covid-conscious times, but an absorbing read nonetheless.

American writer Jan is spending the summer in Tuscany. From the terrace of her guest apartment in a grand villa, she watches the mysterious owners come and go. Gradually, she makes friends with cryptic Luca and glamorous Beatrice and learns of their difficult past.

Their magnificent home has a grubby history, bound up with Mussolini and his fascists. Its future, meanwhile, is threatened by a plotting peasant. Madness, greed and betrayal are additional themes.

The story slips between past and present and is an interesting reversal of all the usual mellow Italian tropes.

We may be Under The Tuscan Sun, but we’re definitely in the shadows here.