Three books we’ve read and loved recently

Still Life by Sarah Winman

Like Sarah Winman's beloved Tinman, her latest novel Still Life is a character-driven work that explores ideas of beauty, love, kindred spirits, humanity, family and fate. Beginning in 1944 in the "ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them", the book follows a cast of lively characters and spans the following four decades, moving from the Tuscan Hills, to the smog of the East End and the piazzas of Florence. The closest thing to traveling in these pandemic times, there is something especially gratifying about the way Winman writes Florence. Still Life reads as a love letter to the city where most of the book takes place. This is a charming, whimsical read that takes a little while to settle into but steals your heart by its end.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris 

Author Zakiya Dalila Harris was the only Black employee at her NYC Publishing house. She was excited and surprised (and then surprised at her surprise) to run into another Black woman in the office bathroom. Harris says, ‘When she didn’t acknowledge me in the bathroom mirror, I wondered: What if there can only be one of us?’

If you like your fiction original, contemporary and a little creepy - this won’t leave your hands until the last pages have been read.
Nella Rogers is a 26-year-old editorial assistant in the all-too-white world of American publishing. When Hazel, another Black woman, is hired, Nella hopes that this is the beginnings of the workplace diversity she has been pushing for. But just as Hazel starts, Nella’s career flounders, her colleagues are increasingly at odds, and a threatening note is left on her desk: LEAVE NOW.

This twisting story is full of secrets, suspense and a sprinkling of the surreal. It also adds a delicious twist on the Black-girl dictum: Never let anyone touch your hair.

With Teeth by Kristen Arnett

LOL at the Washington Post review that described With Teeth as the "perfect baby shower gift for someone you hate". It's true, Kristen Arnett's second novel does not paint motherhood in a sentimental light, but that's what makes it so lucid and disturbingly good. The blurb tells us that this is the story of two mothers, one difficult son, and the limitations of marriage, parenthood, and love. It examines queer parenthood through the framework of domesticity and reveals the psychological dynamics of a family who are working it out as they go (this last part is universally applicable). Another review observed that With Teeth "looks more closely at living in stasis, the small horrors of parenting and how we affect those we love the most when we’re hurting". The book moves forward at a stressful and rapid pace (mimicking the very thing it's writing about) which makes it hard to put down!

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