This month’s picks of newly released Brit Lit features lots of great novels to throw into your suitcase for your beach holiday—including one for any elementary-school age child who might be travelling with you.
Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce (Scribner, July 3, 2018)
At a time when not many books kept my attention, Dear Mrs. Bird was a lovely read that kept me turning pages late into the night. I’m not sure if there’s a particular trend of World War II books these days in the UK, but I keep coming across them—and really liking them. In Dear Mrs. Bird, Emmy goes to work for an agony aunt at a magazine, and gets more than she bargains for there. Nina Stibbe has called it “charming and delightful” and she is (as so often) right. One of my favourite lines from the novel: “My mother always said that a lot of men think that having bosoms think you’re a nitwit. She said the cleverest thing to do is let them assume you’re an idiot, so you can crack on and prove them all wrong.”
How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran Harper (Harper, July 3, 2018)
I’ve never read any Caitlin Moran, but this might be the one that converts me! The author of How to Build a Girl is much loved in the UK and in this follow up sounds like it might be a great read: “Johanna Morrigan has it all: at 18, she lives in her own flat in London and writes for the coolest music magazine in Britain. But Johanna is miserable. Her best friend and man of her dreams John Kite has just made it big in 1994’s hot new BritPop scene. Suddenly John exists on another plane of reality: that of the Famouses. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Johanna hatches a plan: she will write a monthly column, by way of a manual to the famous, analyzing fame, its power, its dangers, and its amusing aspects. In stories, girls never win the girl—they are won. Well, Johanna will re-write the stories, and win John, through her writing.” What can possibly go wrong?
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q Rauf (Orion Children’s Books, July 10, 2018)
I’m cheating a little with this one, because it’s not actually available in U.S. bookstores—you’ll have to get online somewhere like BookDepository or Wordery. It’s a child’s perspective on refugees, told with “heart and humour”, and “highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always makes sense”. To be honest, that sounds like something we could all do with.
The Lido by Libby Page (Simon & Schuster, July 10, 2018)
This novel about a young journalist and an older lady who team up to save their local outdoor pool made a big splash (pun very much intended) in the UK when it was published earlier this year. I was lucky to interview Libby Page on my podcast and get hold of an ARC, and it kept me going and made me smile through a tricky time in my life. It’s a love letter to outdoor swimming, to a particular part of London, and to the importance of community and friendship, particularly friendship across the generations. Highly recommended.
Ghosted, by Rosie Walsh (Pamela Dorman Books, July 24, 2018)
Imagine you meet someone. You spend seven glorious days together, and you’re sure, you’re sure it’s love. You’re sure they feel it too. Then…nothing. You don’t hear from them. You feel yourself descending deeper and deeper into madness. There must be a reason why he didn’t call. And you’re right: there is. I loved this book, and loved talking to Rosie for my podcast. Ghosted is also a Book of the Month Club pick this month, so if you’re still unsure of your choice: might I recommend this one?