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Three books we’ve read and loved recently 📚

Three books we’ve read and loved recently 📚

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell
If you’re in need of a springtime escape, why not immerse yourself in the glamour and intrigue of Renaissance Italy with this wonderful new novel from Maggie O’Farrell. We know many of you loved her 2020 Women’s Prize-winner, Hamnet, and her latest heroine has just as much verve and spirit as the enigmatic and independent Agnes.

Lucrezia de’Medici is sixteen when she moves from the gilded, secluded world of her father’s court to a remote country villa with her new husband. Almost as soon as they arrive, Lucrezia suspects that he intends to kill her. In fact, the novel opens with a historical note about the suspicious death of the real Lucrezia less than a year after her marriage. Will fact and fiction converge?

This is a rich, mysterious and tense novel that will fill your cup with luxurious weddings, palazzo, paintings, beasts, sinister husbands and a young woman striving not only for freedom - but for her life.

Train Lord 
by Oliver Mol

In 2015, two years after winning Scribe's Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, Oliver Mol published his first book Lion Attack! Rolling Stone loved it and referred to him as "king of a new jungle". Yen Magazine (remember Yen!?) saw him as a "homegrown dude version of Lena Dunham". His bio at the time said that he was excited and terrified by life. All signs pointed to literary stardom. Except that life did become terrifying for Mol. In the aftermath of his book publishing, Mol developed a migraine that lasted 10 months and that prevented him from reading and writing. The author described the state as "catatonic panic".

His latest book Train Lord documents this period of his life. The title refers to Mol's job as a train guard - a gig he assumed wouldn't require him to engage with screens nor the depths of his own scrutiny. But the job proved to be an entirely surprising, confronting and imaginatively stimulating experience. As The Guardian review noted, "the railway, Mol learned, was a place of reckoning as well as refuge. He found both."

Stylish, (surprisingly) funny and exquisitely intimate, Train Lord is a book about the power and persistence of storytelling and its promise of transcendence.

In one of the short stories from this debut collection, a character remarks that it's “in the most surreal situations that a person feels the most present, the closest to reality." In many ways, this is the exegesis of Bliss Montage - a delightfully strange, fantastical and subversive collection of stories from the author of Severance.  

From a woman who lives in a house with all of her ex-boyfriends, to a toxic friendship built around a drug that makes you invisible, to an ancient ritual that might heal you of anything if you bury yourself alive, these and other scenarios reveal that the outlandish and the everyday are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly similar. For fans of George Saunders (at least his more eccentric stuff) and readers who generally enjoy having their minds bent. 

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