Volumes on Vacation: The best summer fiction to put in your suitcase

Volumes on Vacation: The best summer fiction to put in your suitcase
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The perfect spot on the sand goes best with the perfect plot in the hand. Marjorie Brennan selects the best summer fiction to put in your suitcase.

When All Is Said

By Anne Griffin

This debut novel landed with little advance hype but has become a huge word-of-mouth hit. The central character is 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan who sits in a hotel bar reflecting on his life, drinking a toast to five people who have figured significantly in his journey. Griffin handles life’s big questions with sensitivity and aplomb but her prose packs a powerful punch, heralding an exciting new voice on the literary scene.

Reasons to be Cheerful

Nina Stibbe

This title recently won the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, cementing Stibbe’s status as one of the finest comic writers at work now. She hit the ground running with her debut Love, Nina, a selection of letters to her sister while working as a nanny, and has mined her dysfunctional upbringing to hilarious effect in her previous books Man At The Helm and Paradise Lodge.

This book is set in the 1980s and follows the adventures of 18-year-old dental nurse Lizzy as she tests the waters of adulthood.

When All is Said by Anne Griffin
When All is Said by Anne Griffin

The Heavens

By Sandra Newman

Kate and Ben meet at a party in New York and fall in love at first sight. So far, so conventional but it isn’t long before this novel transcends such tropes to reach heights of brilliance.

Newman skilfully concocts a dizzying blend of contemporary utopianism, historical romance and time travelling fantasy while posing profound metaphysical philosophical questions. Echoes of Outlander and The Time Traveller’s Wife and deserves to be as successful.

City of Girls

By Elizabeth Gilbert

New York also has a starring role in this coming-of-age epic, in which the author of the insanely successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love, delves into historical fiction. Gilbert’s gift for beautiful but accessible prose is showcased to impressive effect in this 1940s-set novel about a group of young showgirls who are navigating the waters of sexual freedom and discovery in the glamorous world of theatre.

Her Kind

By Niamh Boyce

In this historical novel Boyce reimagines the events which led to the Kilkenny Witch Trial of 1324, reclaiming the voices of the women who were silenced. Inspired by a true story, Petronelle and her daughter find refuge in the household of a childhood friend but she soon discovers they are far from safe. An absorbing and atmospheric story skilfully realised.

Seven Letters

By Sinead Moriarty

Dublin-based writer Moriarty has sold over 700,000 books, building up a loyal fanbase of readers with her deftly-written novels featuring relatable characters and topical issues. Her latest book is no different, centring on the heart-wrenching story of Sarah, whose family is left in turmoil when her pregnancy takes a turn for the worst.

Shadowplay by Joseph O'Connor.
Shadowplay by Joseph O'Connor.

Nine Perfect Strangers

By Liane Moriarty

Sinéad’s Australian namesake has become a phenomenon with her seriously addictive books. Moriarty’s chosen setting may be Australian suburbia but her themes are universal, woven into a winning formula of sharply observed characters, suspenseful plots and realistic dialogue.

At the centre of her latest book are nine people who travel to a remote wellness resort looking for change, which is certainly what they get, and more. Before it was even finished, the book was snapped up by Nicole Kidman, who also starred in the HBO adaptation of Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.

The Lost Man

By Jane Harper

British native Harper is another Australia-based author making waves around the world, but her milieu is the more harsh and unforgiving landscape of her adopted country. Her previous books The Dry and Force of Nature were superbly plotted, with convincing plot twists but The Lost Man ratchets up the tension even higher.

It is a gripping dissection of the secrets and lies holding one family together in a parched, sun-baked setting where death can strike on a routine drive if a traveller doesn’t have adequate provisions.

The Border

By Don Winslow

The literary equivalent of bingeing on a boxset of Narcos, this is the last, and incredibly timely, instalment in Winslow’s compelling trilogy about a US agent embroiled in a battle with Mexican drug cartels and those purportedly on his own side.

Meticulously researched and brutally realised, it chronicles the barbarity and contempt for human life that underpins the apparently interminable war on drugs.

London Rules

By Mick Herron

The latest in Herron’s acclaimed series of books about spies in London, these books have been compared to the work of John Le Carré, though Herron’s satirical approach is very different to Le Carre’s chilly pragmatism and his (anti) hero Jackson Lamb is certainly no George Smiley.

Herron’s focus is on the operatives who have been relegated to the backwater of Slough House but who always seem to be central to the latest espionage crisis facing the British secret service. Here they have to deal with ongoing terrorist outrages against the background of Brexit, with their blundering approach entertainingly detailed by Herron’s pacy plotting.

Night boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
Night boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry

The Scholar

By Dervla McTiernan

This Cork-born former solicitor (above) also made her home Down Under, where she wrote her first novel The Ruin, an accomplished thriller set in the West.

McTiernan has created a memorable protagonist in Detective Cormac O’Reilly who, in this follow-up, contends with a case that will challenge him both professionally and personally. There’s an added layer of topical intrigue — the presence of a multinational corporation in the background, and the long shadow it casts over Irish life.

Shadowplay

By Joseph O’Connor

The triangular relationship between author Bram Stoker and actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry form the basis of this new novel from O’Connor. Set in 1878, Irving and Terry are the A-list celebrities of the age, while Stoker is an obscure Dubliner, a theatre manager struggling with life in London. Yet Stoker’s imagination is seething with a new story, a novel that will draw on his experiences with Irving and Terry as he creates an immortal story and character: Dracula.

Night Boat to Tangier

By Kevin Barry

One of the greatest talents in Irish literature, Barry’s eagerly awaited new novel centres on two ageing Cork criminals as they kill time in a dubious Spanish ferryport. It’s Barry’s third novel after City of Bohane and Beatlebone, and given that no other writer creates atmosphere or dispenses killer lines quite like him, you have an idea of what to expect — the trademark combination of offbeat characterisation and surreal humour in this meditation on life and ageing.

Past Tense

By Lee Child

You can’t beat Child for sheer pulse-racing entertainment and in terms of heroes, who wouldn’t want the super-human equaliser Jack Reacher on their side in a scrap? In his

latest, Child ventures into Stephen King territory with Reacher’s search for his family ties running in tandem with the adventures of a couple who end up staying in a sinister motel. Another winner from the 100 million-selling king of crime fiction.

Leonard and Hungry

By Paul Rónán Hession

If you’re looking to shift gears downwards, this debut novel from Dubliner Hession is a refreshing but gentle read that has stuck a chord and been selected as a Radio 2 Book Club read in Britain. The titular characters don’t live particularly exciting lives but they show how ordinariness can itself be remarkable in a society that champions relentless ambition and constant striving.

A comforting and uplifting read that shows how small kindnesses can make a big difference.

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