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Three books we’ve read recently and what we thought about them

Three books we’ve read recently and what we thought about them

Mrs S by K Patrick
Granta literary magazine release a list once every ten years humbly called: ‘Best Young British Novelists’. While we’re bombarded with bullet-points promising best-of and top-ten and must-reads on a daily basis, this Granta list of 20 novelists every ten years holds some weight when you consider the retrospective calibre of their choices: Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Martin Amis, Pat Parker, Salman Rushdie (1983),  Jeanette Winterson (1993), Zadie Smith and Sarah Waters (2003), the list goes on - quite literally.

K Patrick, a poet and fiction writer based on the Isle of Lewis, has been named a 2023 Granta Best Young British Novelist. Remarkably, this recognition comes with only their debut out this year.

Mrs S follows the Australian narrator who starts work as Matron at an English girls boarding school. She struggles to fit in with the routines and rhythms of the school and develops a close, complicated relationship with the headmaster’s wife.
The writing is direct and spikey, sometimes closely erotic, ‘Without waiting for me she removes her white shirt. Each button a piece of my own spine, undone.’ And at other times cold and removed. The overall feeling is one of discomfort and being out of place- a feeling that lingers longer than the promised sensuality and desire for Mrs S. — Cassie Stroud

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin
One of my most anticipated releases for 2023, Jen Beagin's latest novel is a madcap tragicomedy that deals with trauma, bees and orgasms in equal measure. 

Greta, our 45-year-old protagonist, has just moved to a trendy town in upstate New York to start life afresh as a transcriber for a dodgy sex coach. Here she develops an obsession with Flavia, a married gynaecologist with orgasm issues. The two embark on an affair as sexy as it is spiritual. 

While occasionally feeling a little goose-chasey, I was completely won over by the workings of Beagin's mind and what it did, in turn, to my own. Here is an author who can write a joyful book about trauma and a reassuring book about infidelity. If you enjoy Ottessa Moshfegh but just wish she'd crack more jokes and include more sex, then this book is for you. — Laura Brading

Blue August by Deborah Levy

The hypnotic new novel from the twice Booker-shortlisted author of Hot Milk and Swimming Home. August Blue follows a piano virtuoso named Elsa who briefly encounters what she thinks of as her double while visiting a flea market in Athens.
What follows is a search across Europe both for the woman and Elsa's search for self amidst a global crisis (yes, it's a COVID novel but don't let that put you off). Exploring themes of agency, love and art, Levy has written a mesmerising portrait of melancholy and metamorphosis.
If this is your first Levy, know that reading her has been described as making room for "the uncanny and the unexplained, for the sudden intrusion into a person's consciousness of unwelcome memories or dark imaginings". You will not be offered solid ground or easy answers. What you are given though, is a rare kind of eyes-wide-open curiosity that produces novels as rich and as complicated as real life. Blue August is no exception.  — Laura Brading

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