Recommended English Books

If you're not sure what to read, don't worry.  We can recommend a book for you.  It could be one we've read, or one that a forum member has recommended.  And don't forget, you can recommend a book too.

Skios by Michael Frayn (Faber and Faber)

by Patrick O'Connor


ONE of the dictionary definitions of farce is 'a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect.'

The playwright and novelist Michael Frayn is perhaps best known for his 1982 stage comedy Noises Off but he also a very accomplished writer and this offering, set on the fictitious Greek island of Skios, contains all the ingredients for an enjoyable farce.

Read more: Recommended Book - Skios

Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd (Bloomsbury)

by Patrick O'Connor


ONE of the few decent things on British television over the Christmas period was a 1940s spy thriller called Restless, adapted from a book written by the acclaimed novelist and screenwriter William Boyd.

It was such a cracking yarn that I sought out another Boyd offering, Ordinary Thunderstorms.

Read more: Recommended Book - Ordinary Thunderstorms

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday)

by Patrick O'Connor


THE BBC's adaptation of Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series of novels, featuring Jason Isaacs as the former police inspector turned private investigator and set in Edinburgh, is one of my favourite TV crime dramas.

But Atkinson is superbly adept at other genres, as demonstrated by her latest book, Life After Life, a magnificent, sprawling examination of the concept of déjà vu and reincarnation.

We follow the life – or lives – of Ursula Todd who is born into an affluent middle-class family in 1910 and promptly dies after having her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

The author then offers an alternative view – what would have happened if Ursula survived, what sort of life would she have had?

This 'what if' formula is continued time and time again as Ursula encounters a series of traumatic, life-threatening events. Sometimes she dies, sometimes she doesn't and so on and on it goes, taking her through two World Wars and endless, fascinating scenarios detailed in Atkinson's captivating prose.

It sounds far-fetched but Atkinson's skills as an author make the reader accept this flow of non-linear narrative without batting an eyelid.

The plot gets even more intriguing as Ursula's sense of deja vu, of having been here before, becomes more acute.

This is never more relevant than when explored through her experiences in the Second World War, via the Blitz and also an alternative lifetime in which Ursula is trapped in Germany after marrying a German.

Life After Life is one of those books you don't want to put down, drawn into a world that is both puzzling and enthralling.

The Pretender by David Belbin (Five Leaves Publications)

by Patrick O'Connor


IF you fancy your hand at creative writing, this book could be just for you.

A blurb on the jacket describes it as a 'literary thriller' and the author runs an MA course in Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University so should have plenty of first hand knowledge of the world of books.

Read more: Recommended Book- 'The Pretender'