Nine Knockout Reads

I need say no more.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Dead Lions by Mick Herron

The Overstory by Richard Powers

Sealskin by Su Bristow

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald

Summer Reads

Some people get more chance to read in the summer holidays so here are a few suggestions for you. Most were recommended by other people – in reviews, on Twitter, from short-lists and by word of mouth. They are books that captivated me and I want to spread the word about them. Happy reading!

Ordinary People by Diana Evans

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

The Wall by John Lanchester

Sal by Mick Kitson

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

This Mortal Boy by Fiona Kidman

Scrublands by Chris Hammer

Good Books – A Baker’s Dozen

Here are some more of my recent reads (well – not so recent as it’s been three months since I last posted any). Whether you’re going away on holiday or not these books will take you everywhere from the battlefields of Ancient Greece to the stark landscape of the Irish Famine, from the stifling heat of Mississippi to the devastating legacy of the Iraq War, from the American Frontier to a dystopian near-future. Brilliant stories all.

The Wych Elm by Tana French

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Grace by Paul Lynch

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

An Unremarkable Body by Elisa Lodato

West by Carys Davies

84K by Claire North

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Pieces of Me by Natalie Hart

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

No Fairytale

Fear of Falling is out in paperback on May 9th. Thanks to all those who have been in touch to say how it chimed with their own experience of adoption. Here’s The Afterword from the book, which explains why I was drawn to write it.

Adoption is often thought of as a fairy story, a happy-ever-after for those concerned. But at the heart of every adoption is loss, the loss of family and identity and legacy for the child, the loss of a child for the birth-parents, the loss of the possibility of having a biological child for most adoptive parents who come to adoption because of infertility. I was one of half a million babies adopted in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in the UK. The majority of us were adopted because our mothers were unmarried at a time when both Church and state punished such women for transgressing, deeming them morally depraved and unfit to be mothers. There was social stigma and shame attached to being pregnant and unwed, and huge pressure on women to give up their babies. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful reunion with my birth-mother and to form strong relationships with her and my seven birth-siblings. My adoptive parents met my birth-mother, brothers and sisters and that was a hugely positive experience. Reunion alongside counselling helped me heal emotionally, and my birth-mother said the same. An important part of that whole process was to acknowledge the grief, insecurity, guilt, even the anger that came with being adopted.
Thankfully, times have changed. Nowadays women have more control over their lives and more choices about contraception, reproduction and sexuality. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Few babies are relinquished for adoption. In this century people who adopt are more likely to be creating a family with a child who has been taken into care, a child who has had a damaging start to life. Friends and acquaintances of mine have adopted and some have encountered serious difficulties with the behaviour of their children, especially as they reach adolescence. Barely any of those families, or the ones I’ve read and heard about, have been able to get access to the sort of support they needed when they needed it. A survey carried out by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme and Adoption UK in 2017 found that more than a quarter of adoptive families were struggling, facing challenges so serious that the adoption was at risk of disruption. It’s not an issue that is widely aired ‒ it’s almost taboo. What is heartening is that nine out of ten respondents were still glad they had adopted. And adoption does work for the majority. But the most vulnerable children in our communities need unstinting assistance, and their families deserve backing to the hilt with resources putting in place for those who require it. Our adoptive parents may give us all the love in the world but sometimes love is not enough.

Nose in a Good Book

Here are some more good reads. Among them a slice of country noir, a chilling dystopia set among the Ojibwe people, a hilarious and heart-breaking state-of-the-nation story, an inventive thriller styled as a podcast and a novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Enjoy!

The Truth Will Out by AD Garratt

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

Snap by Belinda Bauer

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Claire De Witt and The City of The Dead by Sara Gran

Crook’s Hollow by Robert Parker

Best Radio Drama – WGGB Awards

I’m absolutely delighted to have won the WGGB Best Radio Drama Award 2019 along with Martin Jameson, Richard Monks, Vivienne Harvey and Alex Ganley for Stone Series 7. Massive thanks to series creator Danny Brocklehurst and to the wonderful BBC Radio Drama North team, producer/directors Nadia Molinari and Gary Brown and sound designer Steve Brooke.

It was a fantastic evening honouring the talents of writers in all fields and remembering those guild members who died in the past year. Presentation and acceptance speeches were in turn passionate, emotional, hilarious and deadly serious. Subjects included the value of stories, the peaks and troughs of a writing life, the importance of laughter, the fight for equality and diversity within the industry and beyond, the power of words to build bridges and to give voice to those we seldom hear, and the urgent need to save the planet.

This year marked 60 years since the foundation of the Writers’ Guild which does stellar work in securing and protecting writers’ rights. You can find out more – and join up if you are writer on the website.

And you can see all the winners here.

Looking For A Good Book?

Happy New Year! It’s been a while since I posted my recommended reads so here’s a delicious dozen of them for you to check out.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Intrusions by Stav Sherez

The Shepherd’s Hut by Tim Winton

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Eagan

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Dark Pines by Will Dean

Fear of Falling

Fear of Falling is published this month and I’m posting the Afterword from it here as it describes where the impetus to write the book came from.

Adoption is often thought of as a fairy story, a happy-ever-after for those concerned. But at the heart of every adoption is loss, the loss of family and identity and legacy for the child, the loss of a child for the birth-parents, the loss of the possibility of having a biological child for most adoptive parents who come to adoption because of infertility.
I was one of half a million babies adopted in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s in the UK. The majority of us were adopted because our mothers were unmarried at a time when both Church and state punished such women for transgressing, deeming them morally depraved and unfit to be mothers. There was social stigma and shame attached to being pregnant and unwed, and huge pressure on women to give up their babies. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a successful reunion with my birth-mother and to form strong relationships with her and my seven birth-siblings. My adoptive parents met my birth-mother, brothers and sisters and that was a hugely positive experience. Reunion alongside counselling helped me heal emotionally, and my birth-mother said the same. An important part of that whole process was to acknowledge the grief, insecurity, guilt, even the anger that came with being adopted.
Thankfully, times have changed. Nowadays women have more control over their lives and more choices about contraception, reproduction and sexuality. Families come in all shapes and sizes. Few babies are relinquished for adoption. In this century people who adopt are more likely to be creating a family with a child who has been taken into care, a child who has had a damaging start to life. Friends and acquaintances of mine have adopted and some have encountered serious difficulties with the behaviour of their children, especially as they reach adolescence. Barely any of those families, or the ones I’ve read and heard about, have been able to get access to the sort of support they needed when they needed it. A survey carried out by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme and Adoption UK in 2017 found that more than a quarter of adoptive families were struggling, facing challenges so serious that the adoption was at risk of disruption. It’s not an issue that is widely aired ‒ it’s almost taboo. What is heartening is that nine out of ten respondents were still glad they had adopted. And adoption does work for the majority. But the most vulnerable children in our communities need unstinting assistance, and their families deserve backing to the hilt with resources putting in place for those who require it. Our adoptive parents may give us all the love in the world but sometimes love is not enough.

Spreading The Book Love

There’s a real mix of genres here. Crime thrillers, a western, general fiction, two very different ‘crossings’. Sprawling tales that span continents and those that home in on a more intimate canvas. What they all share are memorable characters and the power of great story-telling.

Girl Zero by A. A. Dhand

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Nine New Novels I’ve Read

I’ve enjoyed all of these and recommend them whole-heartedly.

The Lie of the Land by Amanda Craig

Righteous by Joe Ide

The Last of Us by Rob Ewing

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

A Double Life by Flynn Berry

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst

The Liar’s Room by Simon Lelic

Desperation Road by Michael Farris Smith