Given how plague-dominated our holiday options remain, summer staycationing is once more toute la rage. Cue the pattering of rain on canvas, or the fruitless trawl to book an interesting yet affordable room somewhere — anywhere — that is somehow better than the room you are in now. Good luck with that.
You might just want to pull out a deckchair, angle it towards the window under a large houseplant, and start your own summer book club. By all means invite others to join, but this could mean potentially wasting valuable reading time on other people’s terrible choices. Here are some of mine, free of charge:
Rather than sadly dreaming of Barcelona, start withby Rupert Thomas, three linked novellas in a dreamy yet unsettling homage to the great city, set in 2008 with a walk-on role for the Barca player Ronaldinho.
Move on to Trinidad, where another trio, this time, a sparky woman, Betty Ramdin, her teenage son Solo and their gay lodger Mr Chetan, form an unconventional coalition in Ingrid Persaud’s Love After Love. Beauty, humour, and humanity are carried in cadences musical and lilting.
Leave Trinidad for London and Paris in Meg Mason’s, an exquisite debut novel of family dysfunction in posh bohemia, where the bleakly, crippling funny narrator somehow gets a job at Vogue and keys to a Paris pied-a-terre because she is tall, willowy, and miserable. Her tender relationship with her father, a “male Sylvia Plath” with writers’ block, balances the awful one with her sculptor mother; it is laugh-out-loud in its darkness.
In Jarred McGinnis’s, the novel reads like a memoir. The protagonist, with the same name as the author, is paraplegic after a car accident aged 26. Funny, angry, and beautiful, with a recovering alcoholic dad character, Jack, getting some of the best lines, it’s about forgiveness and trust rather than disabled access.
For a non-fiction palate-cleanser, get yourself riled up with Derek Scally’s, which documents with considerable humanity and clarity the fall of Catholic Ireland. For something completely different, the memoir of performance artist Genesis P-Orridge – who died last year – offers 50 years of freakery, from a dull childhood in Hull to becoming half of the Pandrogyne Project (where he and his partner became ‘we’ through surgery) via inventing industrial music with bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, and hanging out with William Burroughs and Timothy Leary. The counter culture’s counter culturist.
Save the biggest for last – the 870-page biography of Francis Bacon:by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. From his brutal childhood in Ireland to becoming the queen of Soho (“champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends”) and selling work for millions, this will keep you there all day as rain runs down the window. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.