As we enter a second lockdown, it’s time to reach for the things that soothe our minds. For me, that’s a light-hearted, usually romantic, read. Unlike last lockdown, I won’t be baking banana bread bi-weekly or binge-watching The Tiger King but delving into my ever-growing stack of bedside books. Here are five relaxing reads that have allowed me to escape to another world for a while this year.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
During lockdown, I finally got round to reading The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary after hearing such good things about it and I wasn’t disappointed. When Tiffy’s toxic relationship comes to an end, she finds a new flatmate in Leon, a nurse who works night shifts. Tiffy is out the flat nine to five so, despite sharing a bed, their paths never cross. However, when they start communicating via Post-It notes, something magical blossoms. Tiffy and Leon are well-drawn, unique characters and I couldn’t help but fall in love with them. Heartwarming and charming, The Flat Share is the ideal cosy read for these long winter nights.
Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams
As an aspiring author, Laura Jane Williams is someone I admire. She’s not only a great writer but a fantastic teacher and often holds really handy courses on everything, from storytelling to getting published – look out for them on her Instagram. Her first fiction book, Our Stop, tells the story of Nadia and Daniel who get the same tube every day. One morning, Nadia notices an anonymous message in a newspaper – think The Metro’s Rush Hour Crush – asking the cute girl with coffee stains on her dress for a drink. What follows is a series of near-misses and a feel-good romance. I can’t wait to read her latest book, The Love Square, too.
Pretending by Holly Bourne
Pretending by Holly Bourne handles important, triggering topics with sensitivity and a raw honesty. When April keeps failing to make it past the fifth date, she invents an alter ego, Gretel, aka the ideal woman. April enjoys being care-free, cool Gretel and attracts the attention of Joshua, but what will he do when he realises that she isn’t who she says she is? Darkly comedic and very relatable, Pretending packs a punch – be prepared to experience a rollercoaster of emotions.
Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls
David Nicholls is one of my favourite authors and I was a little (very) starstruck when I met him at Cheltenham Literature Festival last autumn – those were the days, when we could go to real-life events! Presented with a long empty summer after exams, Charlie finds purpose and ultimately hope when he meets Fran, but the only way he can spend time with her is by joining a Shakespeare company – something completely out of his comfort zone. Funny, poignant and charming, Sweet Sorrow is everything you’d expect from a David Nicholls novel, with lots of nineties nostalgia to take us back to simpler, tech-free times.
This Lovely City by Louise Hare
I read This Lovely City for a module on my masters at the height of the first lockdown and it did just the trick of removing me from the real world. Laurie is a Jamaican immigrant living in post-war London. Working as a postman by day and a jazz musician by night, he’s fallen for the girl next door, quite literally, and all he wants is to settle down with her. However, his plans are thrown off course when he makes a terrible discovery on Clapham Common. Louise Hare’s emotional page-turner shines light on the realities of the racism and discrimination that the Windrush generation faced.
The Shelf by Helly Acton
Helly Acton is another author I love following on Instagram (not just for her very cute dog.) Her debut, The Shelf, explores the problematic nature of social media and the pressures women face when it comes to settling down. Amy thinks her boyfriend is going to whisk her away on a surprise holiday, but instead, he dumps her on live TV! As a contestant on a misogynistic reality show called ‘The Shelf’, Amy competes against a cast of vibrant female characters to be crowned ‘The Keeper’ and win a million pounds. The Shelf is just as addictive and comforting as watching reality TV but with a satirical, feminist edge.
Which books are getting you through lockdown?