MUST READS

MUST READS

JUST LIKE YOU By Nick Hornby (Penguin £8.99, 320 pp)

JUST LIKE YOU

By Nick Hornby (Penguin £8.99, 320 pp)

If there is such a thing as a typical North London mother, Lucy is the perfect example.

A 42-year-old English teacher, she is navigating a toxic divorce and dipping a toe into the choppy waters of post-marital dating when she asks a young assistant from her local butcher’s, Joseph, to babysit her sons.

Since Joseph is also a part-time DJ and a whizz at Xbox, the boys take to him at once. And so, after a couple of unsatisfactory dates with a pompous novelist, does Lucy.

Set in 2016 against the strident backdrop of the Brexit vote, Nick Hornby’s warmhearted comedy chronicles the love story between a middle-aged white woman and a young black man, suggesting that difference needn’t always be divisive: sometimes it can bring us together.

SHUGGIE BAIN

By Douglas Stuart (Picador £8.99, 448 pp)

This Booker Prize-winning debut tells the story of Shuggie Bain, a child growing up in a dysfunctional family in 1980s Glasgow.

The harshness of the environment leaves its mark on everyone who lives there: Shuggie’s mother, Agnes, once a sparky girl, is now a ruined alcoholic, crushed by her husband’s violence and infidelity.

Shuggie’s elder siblings, Catherine and Leek, escape the family home, leaving Shuggie to care for his mother in her harrowing, inexorable decline.

Poverty-stricken Glasgow is a bleak place, especially for Shuggie, bullied for his sensitivity and difference: ‘Wid you get a load o’ that. Liberace is moving in,’ screams a neighbour as the Bain family moves to an outlying pit village in a doomed attempt to make a new start.

Humane and beautifully written, Shuggie Bain is a tender elegy for damaged lives.

A YEAR AT THE CHATEAU By Dick and Angel Strawbridge (Seven Dials £8.99, 304 pp)

A YEAR AT THE CHATEAU 

By Dick and Angel Strawbridge (Seven Dials £8.99, 304 pp)

Fans of the hit Channel 4 series Escape To The Chateau will be familiar with Dick and Angel Strawbridge, the eccentric couple who swapped their East London flat for a 45-room chateau in the Pays de la Loire region.

This is an entertaining account of their first year in the 19th-century building, battling with bat-infested turrets, a single functioning toilet (which flushed into the moat) and sub-zero temperatures.

Eventually, the pair transformed it into a stunning wedding venue, where they themselves got married in 2015, and now live with their young children, Dorothy and Arthur. 

As Dick and Angel say, this is a love story — ‘not just between us, but also with the Chateau.’

If only finding a country bolthole were as easy in the UK — where, in many places, high demand means you now need your house to be under offer just to schedule a viewing. 

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