5 new books to read this week

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Rodham author Curtis Sittenfeld returns with her take on a classic romcom…


1. Shy by Max Porter is published in hardback by Faber & Faber, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.99). Available now

Shy is Max Porter back to his breathtaking best. Where his last book, about Francis Bacon, was impenetrably experimental, Shy is more akin to his early novellas, Grief Is A Thing With Feathers and Lanny. It tells the story of a teenager in the Nineties called Shy. He struggles with behavioural issues, bursts of violence and depression, and is at the so-called Last Chance school in the countryside.

This is anything but a straightforward story – Porter gives us a look into Shy’s troubled mind, with interjections from friends, family and even characters Shy has made up. It’s boundary-pushing and unlike a normal piece of fiction, but the reader understands what’s going on at all points, making for a powerful chorus of voices telling Shy’s story.

At just over 100 pages it’s another slight offering from Porter, but an impactful and moving one, as he gives a window into the life of a young man who doesn’t quite have control of what’s going on inside him – with the way society treats him only making things worse.9/10(Review by Prudence Wade)

2. Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld is published in hardback by Doubleday, priced £16.99 (ebook £10.99). Available now

Sometimes, when the world is the way it is right now, you just need a saccharine-sweet, good old-fashioned romance novel to pick you back up. That’s what Romantic Comedy by author of Rodham, Prep and American Wife offers. Sally Milz is a comedy writer for a well-loved Saturday Night Live-style sketch show where her dorky colleague, Danny, falls in love with actress guest host Annabel.

She is so frustrated by the phenomenon of distinctly average men becoming involved with accomplished and beautiful women, she writes a sketch poking fun at it, while underscoring how unlikely it is that the reverse would ever happen for a woman. But then she meets the next celebrity host – Noah Brewster – and indeed turns her hypothesis on its head, as she finds herself hitting it off with him and sparks fly. Someone like Noah Brewster would never date Sally Milz though, right? Well, not exactly. This is not a particularly unique premise, so don’t read this Cinderella story and expect a different outcome, but do read it if you want an escape and a spunky heroine to root for.7/10(Review by Lauren Gilmour)

3. A House For Alice by Diana Evans is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £18.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

After the success of 2019’s Ordinary People, Diane Evans’ next offering is highly anticipated – and while ambitious in scope and touching in parts, it ultimately doesn’t quite hang together. The story is told in the shadow of the 2017 Grenfell fire – on the same night the elderly patriarch of a fictional West London family dies in an unrelated fire. The grown-up children are left to pick up the pieces and deal with their mother – whose one desire is to return home to Nigeria. When Evans fully dives into certain characters – particularly the youngest daughter, Melissa – the story is engrossing and moving. But there are too many characters – one entirely new and only tenuously related family is introduced halfway through – meaning you feel cheated every time it switches to a new perspective, instead of fully realising the central characters’ stories.6/10(Review by Prudence Wade)


4. Touching Cloth: Confessions And Communions Of A Young Priest by Fergus Butler-Gallie is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

Fergus Butler-Gallie’s searingly honest account of a year in the life of a young priest confronts the trials and tribulations of the clerical calendar in all their uproarious glory, from leading by example at Lent to unlikely encounters with giant gummy bears. The author plots through a series of anecdotes that shatter preconceptions of the priesthood as a solemn and dour calling peopled largely by creaking octogenarians. Butler-Gaillie is the priest you want in your parish: he admits a soft spot for the occasional cigarette, so much so that Lent – and the example he is expected to set – looms awkwardly each year. He describes a funeral procession rendered accidentally amusing by an encounter with a pair of errant joggers, and guides us through some of the unlikely offerings for Harvest Festival (hence the giant gummy bear).

Touching Cloth is underpinned by a serious message about the church’s continued relevance and its reluctance to change, not least with regard to what he calls the “current fudge” over same-sex marriage. Above all, though, Butler-Gallie’s book shows that priests are just as human as the rest of us, as they go about their daily business of life, death, resurrection and outsized confectionary.8/10(Review by Mark Staniforth)

Children’s book of the week

5. Let’s Play Murder by Kesia Lupo is published in paperback by Bloomsbury YA, priced £7.99 (ebook £6.39). Available April 13

The main character in Let’s Play Murder, Veronica, hates virtual reality (VR), but while trying to please her sick younger brother, accidentally enters a VR game against her wishes. Veronica is initially desperate to leave the game, but she can only do so by completing the competition right to the very end. This means solving a murder mystery, working with and against other competitors – as there can only be one winner. There is a large monetary prize for solving the mystery, which is the turning point for Veronica. Throughout the book there are many turns, with some unexpected plot twists. The action gets going right from the start, making for a really good read, as you’re entertained throughout. Just when you think nothing else can happen – it does.8/10(Review by Jo Brennan)


AUDIOBOOKS (FICTION AND NON-FICTION)1. I Will Find You by Harlan Coben2. Spare by The Duke of Sussex3. Atomic Habits by James Clear4. Outlive by Peter Attia & Bill Gifford5. Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus6. Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent7. Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes8. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman9. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Julie Smith10. The Fellowship Of The Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien(Compiled by Audible)