MADE BY MEMBERS • February 2022
Stuck for a holiday read? Or simply want to experience some armchair travel? In honour of World Book Day (3 March) and International Women’s Day (8 March), author and High Life editor Helen Whitaker picks the female-authored trip-fic that will take you far, far away…
Theatre for Dreamers by Polly Samson (Bloomsbury)
In 1960, 17-year-old Erica flees from her drab London life to the sun and bougainvillea-drenched island of Hydra, where she’s absorbed into a bohemian world of writers, artists… and a Canadian musician called Leonard Cohen. Atmospheric and oh-so-cool, if you haven’t already planned your summer holiday, Hydra is about to become the frontrunner.
The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton (Quercus)
Told as an oral history of a cult duo who hit the big time in 1970s New York before breaking up amid controversy, you’ll wish there was a real soundtrack to accompany this book’s imaginary band. In 2015, a music editor is piecing together punk queen Opal and folksy Nev’s backstory, but she has more than a professional interest in what really happened on the night of their final performance.
The Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante (Europa)
Beginning with My Brilliant Friend, Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels span six decades and tell the story of childhood friends Lenu and Lila, who grow up in inner-city Naples before their paths diverge. So sharp is Ferrante’s observation (plus a HBO TV adaptation hasn’t hurt demand) that tours of the Neapolitan locations the story is based on are available.
Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Phoenix)
After letting go of her unsuccessful music career for marriage, Mizuki is a dissatisfied housewife who starts an affair with restaurateur Kiyoshi. Together they roam Tokyo’s exciting secret spots and Mizuki falls back in love with her city – as well as with Kiyoshi. This is a dryly funny look at Japanese working culture, the expectations placed on women and modern love.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (Penguin)
It took 20 years for Roy to follow up her Booker Prize-winning The God of Small Things, but this vast novel that spans India and a huge cast of characters is worth the wait. Beginning with Anjum, who lives in a graveyard, the stories unfold, exploring the nature of identity in all of its complex, messy, inspiring and brutal glory.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (Faber)
Friendship and chosen families in the Caribbean, plus secrets and the realities of love, parenting and the ‘American Dream’, define the story of widowed Betty, her son Solo and her lodger Mr Chetan. This lyrical book follows each character in turn and places you firmly in Betty’s Trinidadian community as she cooks and gossips, follows Solo to New York and explores Mr Chetan’s happiness and loneliness as a gay man in Trinidad.
Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud (Penguin)
Freud’s semi-autobiographical novel, based on the 18 months she spent as a child in Morocco, is written from the point of view of a five-year-old, as her bohemian single mother tries to make ends meet. They travel from Tangier to Marrakech and the descriptions pop all the more for being seen through the eyes of a child.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel (Picador)
Mandel is most famous for her now chillingly prescient pandemic novel Station Eleven (currently showing as a TV adaptation on Amazon Prime), but this novel, set between pre-financial crisis New York and a remote hotel on Vancouver Island, is just as haunting. With the peril of a Ponzi scheme at its core, it explores the ripple effects of our decisions while slipping between New York high society and British Columbian wilderness.