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CONTEMPORARY

Nothing I Wouldn’t Do by Sara-Ella Ozbek (S&S £8.99, 384 pp)

Nothing I Wouldn’t Do

by Sara-Ella Ozbek (S&S £8.99, 384 pp)

I gave the author’s 2020 debut, The High Moments, a rave review and this second novel is equally gripping.

Protagonist Jax is almost 30 and finding relationships, work and dealing with her family difficult. The only aspect of her life she thinks is working is with her close-knit group of female friends. Jax will do anything for them, so when Clara’s fiancé calls off their wedding, she tracks him down to Paris and begs him to explain.

None of us really knows what’s going on in anyone else’s relationship and interference on this scale, however well meant, is bound to end in tears. It’s brilliantly insightful on people-pleasers who lose themselves in giving and the immense strength that is to be found in vulnerability. I raced through it, rooting for Jax the whole way.

All The Fun Of The Fair by Caroline Hulse (Orion £16.99, 416 pp)

All The Fun Of The Fair by Caroline Hulse (Orion £16.99, 416 pp)

All The Fun Of The Fair

by Caroline Hulse (Orion £16.99, 416 pp)

It’s 1996 and our narrator, nearly 12-year-old Fiona, is desperate to go to the local fair. Everyone talks it up as the highlight of their year but her parents have never allowed her to attend and she doesn’t understand why.

She does know that before she was born her elder sister, Danielle, died at the fair but the event is shrouded in mystery. Danielle’s bedroom remains a shrine and her memory has acquired a patina of perfection.

In comparison, Fiona can’t help but view herself as flawed and she’s often in trouble at school. This coming-of-age story incorporates friendships, family secrets and grief. It’s brilliant on how difficult it can be to fit in with your peers and at home. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking, it’s compelling and beautifully written.

The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill (4th Estate £14.99, 272 pp)

The Listeners by Jordan Tannahill (4th Estate £14.99, 272 pp)

The Listeners

by Jordan Tannahill (4th Estate £14.99, 272 pp)

It’s on an otherwise innocuous night that Claire first hears a low, barely perceptible hum. Lying in bed with her husband, she can’t get the reverberating tone out of her head.

But no one else can hear it and Claire wonders if she’s suffering from tinnitus. Eventually she discovers that a student of hers can also hear it and the two of them form an unlikely alliance.

As the story progresses Claire and a growing band of fellow listeners get driven to despair. They lose sleep, break up relationships and make endless bad decisions on a pathway to insanity.

Some become obsessed with discovering what the sound is, some believe they know and a subset want to use the sound to harness power. It’s fantastic on conspiracy theories, cults, faith and mania and stuffed full of engaging characters.

To buy any book reviewed here, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193

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