Vividly recreates the Stratford-on-Avon of Shakespeare’s time. His wife Agnes is a wise, independent woman and the death of their 11-year-old twin son in a pandemic is devastating. Deeply moving; illuminating about the period and, indirectly, the plays. $38.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
A highly relevant read for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. One identical twin sister has a very dark child; the other ‘disappears’ and spends her life ‘passing’ as white. A fascinating, insightful exploration of race and identity. $35.
Smart-arsed and as funny as it is moving, this dystopian novel has a world-ending pandemic at its core and there’s only one inhibited woman left. But unlike predictable apocalyptic reads, she gets drunk and high and sets off to navigate burning cities and hungry rats while avoiding a nervous breakdown with her adopted retriever; there’s no one left to judge her, so she can be who she likes. It’s surprisingly uplifting given you might be thinking it’s too soon. $35.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
How a novel can be so devastating yet hilarious is a masterful achievement on author Meg Mason’s part. Remember the wit, pain, and love of Fleabag? It’s found here, too. Unfolding amidst a separation between Martha and Patrick is a story of mental illness and the mechanics of a fascinating family, each challenged by their own hopes, dreams and failures. It really is incredible. $35.
I’m taking a permanent vacation from neurotic auto-fiction about unlikeable women in their late 20s and have never felt better. My new obsession is Mirror Visitor series, a Pullman/Wynne-Jones-esque quartet about a woman who can walk through mirrors, in a universe of floating islands called ‘Arks’. Marvellous. $26.
Nobody is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Patricia Lockwood manages to escape this category by being neither unlikeable nor in her 20s. If she is neurotic, she disguises it with savant levels of despotically flamboyant prose, which feels like being kicked in the neck by John Ashberry, only funnier. Patricia Lockwood can do what she likes to me. I’m her dog. $43.