Title: Man at the Helm

Author: Nina Stibbe

Pages: 313 Pages

Publisher: Penguin UK / Viking

The Blurb

Man at the Helm, the debut novel from Nina Stibbe – the much-loved author of Love, Nina – is a wildly comic, brilliantly sharp-eyed novel about the horrors of being an attractive divorcée in an English village in the 1970s, and a family’s fall from grace . . .

My sister and I and our little brother were born (in that order) into a very good situation and apart from the odd new thing life was humdrum and comfortable until an evening in 1970 when my mother listened in to my father’s phone call and ended up blowing her nose on a tea towel – a thing she’d only have done in an absolute emergency.

Not long after her parents’ separation, heralded by an awkward scene involving a wet Daily Telegraph and a pan of cold eggs, nine-year-old Lizzie Vogel, her sister and little brother and their now divorcée mother are packed off to a small, slightly hostile village in the English countryside. Their mother is all alone, only thirty-one years of age, with three young children and a Labrador. It is no wonder, when you put it like that, that she becomes a menace and a drunk. And a playwright. Worried about the bad playwriting – though more about becoming wards of court and being sent to the infamous Crescent Home for Children – Lizzie and her sister decide to contact, by letter, suitable men in the area. In order to stave off the local social worker they urgently need to find a new Man at the Helm.

The Review

Man at the Helm is a charming novel told from the child narrator’s perspective. It follows Lizzie and her family who have to move to the country after her mum and dad divorce. The scorn and judgement they face from being a family with an unwed mother is indicative of the attitudes of the time.

Whilst trying to find a place in their new home town, Lizzie and her sister are determined to find her mother a new husband. The only problem being that most of the local men are married and their mother is…well…eccentric.

The emotional and financial journey they family go on is laugh-out-loud funny and I spent the majority of the novel chuckling to myself at the misunderstandings that took place.

Man at the Helm is a joyful novel. It’s not one that will tax your brain when reading. It is heartwarming and a perfect read for those wanting a book that isn’t too challenging.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe is available now.

For more information regarding Nina Stibbe (@ninastibbe) please visit her Twitter account.

For more information regarding Viking (@VikingBooks) please visit their Twitter account.

For more information regarding Penguin UK (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: Love Marriage

Author: Monica Ali

Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

The Blurb

Yasmin Ghorami has a lot to be grateful for: a loving family, a fledgling career in medicine, and a charming, handsome fiancée, fellow doctor Joe Sangster.

But as the wedding day draws closer and Yasmin’s parents get to know Joe’s firebrand feminist mother, both families must confront the unravelling of long-held secrets, lies and betrayals.

As Yasmin dismantles her own assumptions about the people she holds most dear, she’s also forced to ask herself what she really wants in a relationship and what a ‘love marriage’ actually means. 

Love Marriage is a story about who we are and how we love in today’s Britain – with all the complications and contradictions of life, desire, marriage and family. What starts as a captivating social comedy develops into a heart-breaking and gripping story of two cultures, two families and two people trying to understand one another.

The Review

I have never read a book by Monica Ali before. I know a lot of people would recommend starting with Brick Lane but I started with Love Marriage.

Love Marriage is the story of Yasmin and the Ghorami family. They are your typical family with explosive problems, unobtainable values and expectations not met. It is how the family responds to the everyday nuances of life that tell this story.

It is the family of characters and not necessarily the plot that drives the story along so at times the pacing felt rather slow for me. The last 100ish pages seemed to be when the story picks up speed but the first three quarters seemed to be a lot of exposition and minor incidents.

Overall, Love Marriage was an enjoyable read but personally I feel my books need more pace and less reflection.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali is available now.

For more information regarding Little, Brown Book Group (@LittleBrownUK) please visit www.littlebrown.co.uk.

Title: The Impossible Truths of Love

Author: Hannah Beckerman

Pages: 346 Pages

Publisher: Lake Union

The Blurb

The highly-anticipated new novel from bestselling author Hannah Beckerman, The Impossible Truths of Love slips between past and present, mother and daughter, to explore the secrets we keep to protect those we love.

As Nell’s father is dying, he makes a final declaration that hints at a long-held family secret. Feelings of isolation that have plagued Nell for years resurface, and suspicions about her past are raised.

Thirty-five years earlier, Annie was devastated by a series of traumas: one shock after another that she buried deep in her heart. The decisions she made were motivated by love, but she feared even then that nobody could ever understand her actions, let alone forgive her.

As their stories unravel, a generation apart, Nell finally discovers the devastating truth about her mother’s past, and her own.

A gripping, emotionally charged novel, The Impossible Truths of Love is a moving story about identity, secrets, and what it really means to feel that you’re one of the family.

The Review

What a story!

The Impossible Truths of Love is the story of family secrets and the impact that they have when they finally begin to unravel. Nell and has always been at odds with her family, not quite fitting in. A square peg in a round hole. This never stopped her from having an amazing relationship with her father. When he dies he leaves Nell in a tailspin. Even more so when she begins to doubt her place in the family.

Nell’s story is impressively told. Beckerman leads you down many paths trying to solve the puzzle of Nell’s life. She expertly tells a character driven story and the dynamic she creates between Nell and her sisters is so realistic that you physical ache for Nell.

Hannah Beckerman is an author I trust to be able to suck me into her books. She has the power to tell such impressive stories and to really make her readers ache for the characters she has created.

One thing is for sure, The Impossible Truths of Love by Hannah Beckerman is one you will remember long after you turn the final page.

The Impossible Truths of Love by Hannah Beckerman is available October 1st 2021.

For more information regarding Hannah Beckerman (@hannahbeckerman) please visit www.hannahbeckerman.com.

Title: If Only I Could Tell You

Author: Hannah Beckerman

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Orion Publishing

The Blurb

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

The Review

Hannah Beckerman has made me ugly cry.

If Only I Could Tell You is a story how one family deals with grief. Audrey’s two daughters have spent 30 years not talking to each other and Audrey has had enough. She is desperate to bridge the gap between her children before it is too late.

Told from multi-perspective and from various different time frames you really do find yourself immersed in the world that Beckerman has woven. She is very good at pulling the rug from under your feet. Things you thought to be true aren’t. You empathise with characters that you don’t necessarily feel that you should. Most of all you feel Audrey’s sense of frustration and the ever pressing notion that time is ticking away.

Hannah Beckerman has done something that I think only a few writers do really well and that is take a really contentious topic and make you see every side of the argument until you cannot decide with whom you should side with. For me, that is a sign of a great writer and an excellent story.

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman is available now.

For more information regarding Hannah Beckerman (@hannahbeckerman) please visit www.hannahbeckerman.com.

For more information regarding Orion Publishing (@orionbooks) please visit www.orionbooks.co.uk.

Title: Look at Me

Author: Sarah Deguid

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Headline/Tinder Press

The Blurb

Lizzy’s mother died two years ago, leaving a family bereft by her absence and a house still filled with her things. Then, one day, Lizzy finds a letter from a stranger to her father, and discovers he has another child. Lizzy invites her into their world in an act of outraged defiance. Almost immediately, she realises her mistake.

The Review

Ok, so this is a confusing one for me. I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of Look at Me but it is undeniable that the writing was good. I say this because Sarah Deguid genuinely managed to creep me out. Her story telling was exceptional in the sense that the character driven tale was really engaging and you felt Lizzy’s discomfort so fervently that it could quite easily be your own discomfort. So whilst I say I didn’t like the book it was not because it wasn’t good but I was so uncomfortable that it made me not like it which in my view is the sign of good writing.

Sorry Sarah Deguid, I didn’t like your book but in the most positive way.

Look at Me by Sarah Deguid is available now.

For more information regarding Tinder Press (@TinderPress) please visit www.tinderpress.co.uk.

For more information regarding Headline (@headlinepg) please visit www.headline.co.uk.