The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015, Transworld)
This is probably one of the most talked about new releases, accompanied by the typical comparisons to Gone Girl. The Girl on the Train follows Rachel, a woman who gets the same train every day and who has created a perfect fictional life for a couple, ‘Jason and Jess’ she sees every day. One day, however, she sees something out of the norm and when Jess then goes missing she feels she needs to tell someone. However, Rachel is an alcoholic with her own attachment to the area which puts her reliability into question. The novel is told from Rachel’s perspective, in addition to Meg (the ‘real’ Jess) and Anna, the woman Rachel’s husband married after their divorce. The plot is gripping and all three female characters-but in particular Rachel and Meg are excellently drawn. I will say it goes a little bit too outside the bound of reality in the final few pages, and I did see the solution a mile off, but still a very fun read.
None of the Above by Rick Edwards (2015, Simon & Schuster)
So, if you live in the UK, you may be aware that there’s an election happening. Whilst the deadline for registration has now passed, None of the Above is still well worth a read between now and the 7th May as it very neatly and even-handedly breaks down the policies of the main five UK-wide parties (so the SNP and Plaid Cymru are excluded). It’s especially designed for 18-25 year-olds as in the last election less than half voted, and Edwards is not patronising but his passion for empowering young people is clear.
Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie (2009, Bloomsbury)
Burnt Shadows on the surface should be my ideal novel, as it’s a multi-generational look at some of the biggest events of the past century. But I just didn’t really connect to a lot of the story., there were definitely times when I felt that I should be feeling more than I was. A couple of characters did stand out for me; Hiroko who survives the bombing of Nagasaki and Raza, whose life is tinged with the most unjust tragedy.
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009, Fourth Estate)
One of the most hyped releases in recent years, Wolf Hall and its sequel Bring Up the Bodies have won tons of awards and have been adapted into an acclaimed play and television series. It follows the reformation of the Church in England, as Henry VIII seeks a divorce from Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn, particularly focusing on the role of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel’s writing about human feelings is really brilliant, and I enjoyed her particular takes on the historical figures. However, it did feel like a bit of a slog to get through, especially when you know exactly how the book ends. Mantel has a habit of being so descriptive it gets annoying, as did constant reminders that Cromwell wasn’t like the other lords because he was from ~Putney~. I’m glad I read it, but the other books in the trilogy aren’t exactly high up my list to read.