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20 Books To Read For Women’s History Month

March is the annual declared month to highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It’s a broad remit, which is why there are so many options of books to read for Women’s History Month. From world leaders and household names to quiet achievers and relative unknowns, so much of our world and culture has been shaped by the contributions of women – check them out.

20 Books To Read For Women's History Month - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
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Becoming by Michelle Obama

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Michelle Obama made history as the first ever black First Lady of the United States of America (related, obviously, to her husband Barack becoming the first black President). In Becoming, she describes her life up to and including her time in the White House. Now, of course, the market for White House memoirs is well and truly saturated, but there’s something special about this autobiography. It sold 725,000 copies on the first day of release, and 1.4 million in its first week. And people didn’t stop clambering for this story, even after the initial buzz died down. If you haven’t already, this is one of the imperative books to read for Women’s History Month. Read my full review of Becoming here.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

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For a while there, the name Brock Turner featured in every headline around the world. The woman he assaulted was simply known as “Jane Doe” or “his victim” (or, worse, barely mentioned at all). Chanel Miller changed the game when she published Know My Name, her account of the crime Turner perpetrated against her, and the trauma she experienced in reporting and prosecuting it. It occurred to me as I read her memoir that this was the first time I’d ever encountered such a detailed explanation of what actually happens when a victim-survivor reports sexual violence. If you’re looking for #MeToo-era books to read for Women’s History Month, this is an excellent choice. Read my full review of Know My Name here.

Bonus recommendation: you must read She Said for an account of the investigative journalists that brought Harvey Weinstein’s crimes to light. Read my full review of She Said here.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

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Putting a man on the moon was one of the defining events of 20th century history – but, until Margot Lee Shetterly wrote Hidden Figures, very little was known (if anything at all) about the (mostly black) women who made it happen. This book explains the role that these “human computers” played in the space race and getting Apollo 11 to launch. This is a phenomenal true story that speaks to broader issues of segregation, racism, and the changing roles of women after WWII. Read my full review of Hidden Figures here.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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If you’re rolling your eyes at the idea that Little Women is one of THE books to read for Women’s History Month, stop right now! For too long, Louisa May Alcott’s best-known work has been roundly dismissed as sentimental guff, “moral stories for girls”. The fact is, it’s a masterpiece of subversion written by a true feminist before her time. Alcott was backed into a corner, writing whatever would sell to support her family (including her layabout father). She wasn’t one to go down to the patriarchy without a fight, however, and so she found ways to sneak her feminist agenda into her story about the March sisters. Get yourself a copy with a well-rounded and informative introduction to properly contextualise this classic before you write it off. Read my full review of Little Women here.

The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank

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Anne Frank was thirteen years old, cloistered in a tiny attic hiding from the Gestapo with her family, when she began keeping a diary. She detailed her day-to-day life, her thoughts and dreams for the future, with no idea that it would one day – long after her family’s location was betrayed and she was sent to a concentration camp, where she later died – be read by millions around the world. It’s now considered one of the definitive Holocaust texts, as well as a heart-wrenching and eye-opening read. With the resurgence of fascist ideologies of late, The Diary Of A Young Girl is sadly one of the timeliest books to read for Women’s History Month.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

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Jack The Ripper is one of the most famous – and infamous – unidentified serial killers in history. In the autumn of 1888, he terrorised the streets of Whitechapel, and over a century later we’re still obsessed by his crimes (see: the new book released every few years that claims to have definitively identified the man behind the moniker). His victims have been variously described as servants, charwomen, “prostitutes”, alcoholics, and beggars. Alarmingly few true crime hobbyists even know the names of these women, let alone the true stories of their lives before they met the man who killed them. Hallie Rubenhold set out to fill this awful gap in the archive in The Five. This is undoubtedly one of most important true crime books to read for Women’s History Month.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Honestly, it’s hard to believe that science fiction became such a male-dominated genre for so long, when the first ever sci-fi book was written by a woman who was bored at Lord Byron’s party. Yep, that’s right, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein – the book that began it all – when rain dampened the party’s spirits, and Byron challenged everyone to write the scariest story they could imagine. It’s all the more impressive when you delve into Shelley’s history: a teenager swept away by an older man, devastated by loss, and constantly under threat of debt and illness. She poured all of that trauma into this story of a monster made by man, who simply wants what we all want – love and respect (and revenge on our enemies). Read my full review of Frankenstein here.

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Henrietta Lacks is one of those names that really everyone should know – but almost no one does. Or, at least, no one did, prior to the 2010 publication of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks. Until then, she was mostly known as “HeLa”, the name given to her cancer cells which were used to used to create the first ever “immortal” human tissue grown in culture. That means the title of this book isn’t metaphorical: Henrietta’s cells are still alive, trillions of them and growing, in laboratories all around the world. The poor, black, Southern tobacco farmer from whom they were unethically sourced should be a household name, which is why this is one of the books you should read for Women’s History Month. Read my full review of The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks here.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

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If you’re looking for history-making books to read for Women’s History Month, you should try Girl, Woman, Other. In 2019, this book made Bernardine Evaristo the first-ever Black woman to win the Booker Prize (though, it unfortunately must be said, that win was marred by controversy being shared, contrary to Booker Prize rules, with Margaret Atwood for The Testaments). Even aside from its history-making aspect, though, it’s a cracking read about twelve characters (“mostly women, mostly black”) who are interconnected by various relationships and connections. Read my full review of Girl, Woman, Other here.

Bonus recommendation: With Milkman, Anna Burns became the first Northern Irish writer to win the Booker Prize in 2018. Read my full review of Milkman here.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

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What if Hillary had never married Bill? That’s the tantalising question at the heart of Rodham, Curtis Sittenfeld’s alternative history of one of America’s most recognisable and politically powerful couples. The story begins the way it did in real life, with Hillary an activist and ‘promising young woman’ attending Yale Law School. But instead of relenting to Bill’s barrage of proposals, Sittenfeld’s fictional Hillary rejects his offers of marriage and leaves him, forging a public (and private) life of her own. If you’re still flummoxed by the result of the 2016 Presidential election, this is one of the books you must read for Women’s History Month.

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

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I know the Netflix adaptation has been controversial (to say the least), but Blonde is still definitely worth reading – in fact, it’s one of my top books to read for Women’s History Month. There was definitely a lot lost in translation to the screen, namely Oates’s careful scrutiny of the causes of Marilyn Monroe’s trauma and the way we exploit and objectify women in the public eye. The book has far less sexy sensationalism, and more putting the onus on the reader to interrogate their role and perspective. This is a powerful portrait of an extraordinary and heart-breaking reality – be sure to check the trigger warnings before you dive in.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

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Okay, it’s probably a bit redundant to include I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings in a list of books to read for Women’s History Month – I mean, isn’t it obvious? Doesn’t everyone know about this book? Just in case there’s one or two hold-outs out there: this is Maya Angelou’s iconic 1969 autobiography, describing her youth and upbringing. It depicts a radical transformation, from a nervous young girl subjected to racism and abuse to a self-possessed young woman with hope and determination. Read my full review of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings here.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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If you’re looking for more true crime books to read for Women’s History Month (or, at least, books based on real crimes), Alias Grace is worth checking out. In this 1996 novel, Atwood offers her interpretation of the real life and crimes of Grace Marks. She and another servant in the same household, James McDermott, were tried and convicted of the 1843 murders of the householder Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper (slash secret lover) Nancy Montgomery. McDermott was sentenced to death and hanged, while Marks’s death sentence was commuted. Was she actually guilty, or was she wrongfully imprisoned? Atwood has her own theories… Read my full review of Alias Grace here.

Victoria by Julia Baird

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For better or worse, Queen Victoria is one of the most significant female figures in political history – which surely makes Victoria, Julia Baird’s fascinating and meticulously-researched biography of Britain’s revolutionary monarch, one of the most important books to read for Women’s History Month. Even though royal biographies are a dime a dozen, this one is something special. Baird accessed previously unpublished papers and spent years researching every minute detail to bring this vivid portrait of the politically powerful Queen to life. It’s particularly impressive the parallels she finds in Queen V’s life to women’s struggles today: balancing work and family, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, and finding an identity.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

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Pride And Prejudice is undoubtedly a classic of English literature, one of the most important novels written by a writer of any gender. But, if you’re anything like me, reading it (and contemporaneous books) leaves you wondering: what about all the hidden figures in the story, the unnamed servants and household staff who wash the sheets our heroines sleep in, clean the clothes they wear, and cook the food they eat? These domestic supports were usually women, after all, and they surely had stories that deserve just as much time in the spotlight. That’s the philosophy underlying Longbourn, Jo Baker’s re-telling of Austen’s classic romance, redirecting the reader to what happens behind the scene.

Bonus recommendation: of course, the experience of reading Longbourn is enhanced if you’re familiar with the original text. Read my full review of Pride And Prejudice here.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

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It wouldn’t be a list of books to read for Women’s History Month if we didn’t have at least one or two of the foundational texts of second-wave feminism. Yes, many of them have been totally superseded, but how can we get where we’re going if we don’t know where we’re coming from? Simone de Beauvoir was an early 20th century existentialist who advanced feminist philosophy through her fiction and non-fiction. The Second Sex was her truly groundbreaking book, though, one that informed and inspired a generation on the path to gender equality. You know it must be good because it was banned by the Vatican(!).

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

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When it comes to books to read for Women’s History Month, you can’t skip the world’s best-selling woman! Agatha Christie sold over 300 million books during her lifetime, and at the time of her passing she was the best-selling novelist in history – but that was only the beginning! According to no lesser authority than the Guinness Book Of World Records, Christie is still the best-selling fiction writer of all time, with over two billion books sold in more than 100 languages. I highly recommend And Then There Were None for first-timers, a locked-room mystery with ten strangers stranded on a remote island, murdered one-by-one. Read my full review of And Then There Were None here.

The Girls by Emma Cline

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Most of us think of the ’60s as a time of free love and hippie head garlands, but they were also a time of major social upheaval. Gender roles were evolving rapidly, but men still dominated in many areas. In The Girls, Emma Cline reimagines that world and that time, with a focus on the ways in which women’s relationships with each other – as opposed to their relationships with men – informed the way they moved in the world. Drawing on the crimes of the Manson family as her inspiration, this story is like a modern-day fable with startling psychological and sociological insight.

She Speaks by Yvette Cooper (ed.)

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She Speaks is a collection of forty women’s speeches that changed the course of history. UK Labour MP Yvette Cooper curated this selection, and in her blurb she wrote: “Looking at lists of the greatest speeches of all time, you might think that powerful oratory is the preserve of men. But the truth is very different – countless brave and bold women have used their voices to inspire change, transform lives, and radically alter history.” My favourites include speeches by Sojourner Truth, Marie Colvin, Julia Gillard, Kavita Krishnan, Michelle Obama, and Jacinda Ardern. Read my full review of She Speaks here.

Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

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And finally, here’s one of the books to read for Women’s History Month at any age: Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls. This children’s book offers 100 beautifully illustrated stories about extraordinary women who changed the world. Each biography is told fairytale-style, but with fewer Prince Charmings and more The Princess Rescued Her Own Damn Self. The diverse contents list includes Amelia Earhart (aviator), Frida Kahlo (painter), Malala Yousafzai (activist), Julia Child (chef), Marie Curie (scientist), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Supreme Court Justice), and more. Parents and caregivers will get just as much out of this amazing collection as the kids!

The Silent Treatment – Abbie Greaves

Frank has done something terrible, but he hasn’t told his wife of forty years, Maggie. In fact, he hasn’t actually spoken to her for six months, even though they’ve otherwise continued their lives together as normal. Not a single word, over shared meals or in a shared bed under a shared roof. Over the course of The Silent Treatment, the reasons for Frank’s sudden silence are revealed – and it turns out Maggie has a few reasons for keeping mum, too.

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Get The Silent Treatment here.
(And I’ll give you the OPPOSITE of the silent treatment if you use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase – you’ll be supporting me with a small commission!)

It’s a compelling premise, so I was eager to dive into The Silent Treatment. The story unfolds in a dual narrative, of sorts. First, Frank narrates their love story, telling it to a comatose Maggie in her hospital bed. Then, Maggie’s voice comes to the fore, in a series of letters she wrote to Frank prior to her hospitalisation.

I suppose I can’t really say more without “spoiling” The Silent Treatment. With that in mind, I need to offer a bunch of trigger warnings, each of which represents a major plot point (which is disappointing, I hate it when books are predicated on triggering twists). So, there’s suicide, miscarriage, infertility, post-natal depression, self-harm, addiction – quite the litany, isn’t it?

But The Silent Treatment is a surprisingly wistful read, not at all as sharp as that list of trigger warnings would suggest. I imagine it would hit much harder to highly sensitive readers, but I’m a hardened ol’ cynic (unless something happens to a dog), so it didn’t “move” me the way it moved the writers who blurbed it. The closest I got to tears were the parts that made me want to call my Mum and apologise for being such a stubbonly angsty teenager.

As I read, I found there was too much alluding to the Big Bad Secret(s) the characters were keeping, and not enough propelling me forward to the reveal. A lot of The Silent Treatment could have been avoided if Frank and Maggie had read The Five Love Languages – or just, y’know, talked to each other. As the title suggests, both of them retreat into silence instead of being open with each other and confronting their problems as a team. It doesn’t seem like a particularly happy or healthy marriage, despite how often they declare how happy they are.

Plus, in the end, the “payoff” was lacking. It didn’t clang for me – I was more left thinking “oh, that’s it?”. The Epilogue was a bit trite, too.

Perhaps it’s a case of misleading marketing; the blurb positions The Silent Treatment as a story about a relationship breakdown, but really it’s about how tough it is to (a) deal with infertility and (b) parent an addict. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I’d known that going in.

I wanted to like it, but it didn’t live up to the promise of its premise. There are a lot of fascinating reasons why someone might not speak to their spouse for six months, but sadly the reasons for that scenario in The Silent Treatment made it seem mundane. I’m sure there are other readers to whom this book would be better suited, it just wasn’t for me.

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Silent Treatment:

  • “I felt no empathy with any of the characters, far too much detail of their feelings for each and far too descriptive of their feelings for their child. All parents feel that way, it is not unusual to love your child and be devastated if they choose the wrongs path in life. Not necessary to write a book about it!” – Amazon Customer
  • “This is likely a weepy film. Sentimental codswallop to be honest. Would two people with intelligence and love for each other really make such a hash of all the most important things in their lives? I was hoping for something more nuanced and more true to life but this isn’t that book. Unless you enjoy shamelessly melodramatic weepies with very little plot to them I suggest you avoid this book and find a better use of your time.” – EV
  • “I just didn’t believe that two people who professed to love each other so very much could live through a period of six months without talking. It’s just too childish. They were of a similar age to me but had my partner refused to speak to me for any length of time, I’d have walked out, not taken a bunch of tablets that made me into a vegetable. That’s just passive-aggressive.” – MalMonroe

The Silence Project – Carole Hailey

Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo called The Silence Project “engrossing and original, political and unpredictable… [a book that] will get people talking,”. That’s a tantalising blurb, so I was thrilled when Corvus Books (via Allen & Unwin) sent me a copy for review.

The premise: on Emilia Morris’s thirteenth birthday, her mother Rachel moves into a tent at the bottom of their garden. From that day on, she never says another word. Inspired by her vow of silence, other women join her and together they build the Community. Eight years later, Rachel and thousands of her followers around the world burn themselves to death.

The Silence Project is styled as Emilia’s account of her mother’s silent protest, and the fall-out. It’s a kind of alternate history in two halves – a biography of Rachel up to the Event, and an exposé of the Community afterward.

The prose is frank, and completely believable. It reads like it is an actual account of actual events. I did notice a few small inconsistencies in the story, but as this is an advance review copy of The Silence Project, they may be ironed out by the time the final version hits the shelves. And besides, they didn’t bother me as much as the heavy-handed foreshadowing.

This is the kind of quasi-dystopian feminist fiction that will definitely appeal to fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. I don’t doubt it will be popular with book clubs as soon as it’s released, and there’s probably a film adaptation in our future.

Buy The Silence Project on Booktopia here.

10 Novels That Take Place In A Single Day

It’s mostly subconscious, but I think we kind of expect the length of a story’s timeline to reflect its format. A short story, for instance, would normally take place over a short period – minutes or hours or days. It would feel weird for a short story to stretch over a century, wouldn’t it? But there are novels that defy this expectation, novels that take place in a single day. Here’s a list of these convention-busters.

10 Novels That Take Place In A Single Day - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
You’ll have my gratitude for much longer than a day if you make a purchase through an affiliate link on this page, and send a small commission my way!

Ulysses by James Joyce

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Let’s begin with one of the definitive modernist novels that take place in a single day. Ulysses begins at at 8AM on 16 June 1904, and follows the protagonist Leopold Bloom (and some of his friends) across the course of the day in Dublin. It’s not exactly linear, skipping back and forth a few times, but what else would you expect for such a long and famously complicated novel? Some parts are really fragmented and disjointed, and not all of Joyce’s language experiments make for fun reading – but I promise you, it’s not the nightmare reading experience you’re expecting. It wasn’t for me when I finally got around to it, anyway! Read my full review of Ulysses here.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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Of course, we can’t talk about Ulysses without talking about another one of the definitive modernist novels that takes place in a single day: Mrs Dalloway. Virginia Woolf wasn’t a fan of Joyce’s work, so she decided to write her own version, and show him how it should be done. Her story follows two main characters, the upper-crusty party thrower Mrs Dalloway and the shell-shocked veteran Septimus Smith. It starts with Mrs D deciding she will buy the flowers herself, and ends with her hearing about Septimus’s suicide at the party that evening. Like a lot of Woolf’s work (and life), it’s not an easy or uplifting read, but it’s considered one of the classic feminist texts for a reason. Read my full review of Mrs Dalloway here.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

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I’m noticing a theme: a lot of novels that take place in a single day are real bummers. A Single Man is another great example. The titular man George is “single” because he was secretly, unofficially widowed when his ‘life companion’ Jim passed away. George is despondent, bereaved, mourning a lover he couldn’t publicly declare (remember, back in the day, even being “out” wasn’t being out). And yet, Isherwood writes in such a cool and dispassionate way that George’s bitterness and misanthropy comes across as hilarious and matter-of-fact. This heart-wrenching novel reads beautifully and quickly, with a surprisingly contemporary sensibility. Read my full review of A Single Man here.

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

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The timeline of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is a little murky, but it still counts as one of the novels that take place in a single day (in my opinion, and it’s my list, so there). The confusion comes about for a few reasons. First, a LOT happens in this novel – it’s an action-packed day for bounty hunter Rick Deckard, to say the least. Second, later editions of the novel have shifted dates around. Originally, the book was set in 1992, but later editions have updated that year to 2021, and there’s a movie set in 2049, and… Publishers and script-writers have tried really hard to make it feel like the story is set in the “future” which (obviously) shifts. Whichever edition you get your hands on, though, it’s still worth a read!

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

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They Both Die At The End takes place over the course of a single day – and it’s a day we would all dread if we were living in the world of this story. At midnight on September 5, Mateo and Rufus both get horrible news. It’s the day they’re going to die. (It’s hardly a shock – I mean, look at that title!) They both decide to use an app that matches up people who receive that notification on the same day – that’s how they find each other, and how this short-lived friendship begins. They join forces for one final adventure, and attempt to live a lifelong friendship in a single day. It’s an inventive premise, and heart-breaking as all heck.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

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The Dinner isn’t just one of the novels that takes place in a single day – it’s one of the (very few) novels that takes place in a single meal. On a summer’s night in The Netherlands, two couples meet at a restaurant for dinner. Nothing particularly compelling about that, is there? Wait until you hear the reason they’ve come together: their fifteen-year-old sons are implicated in a horrific crime, and the resulting police investigation has torn apart their refined suburban lives. Over the course of this novel, the facades of polite company are stripped away and both couples are forced to confront what they must do to protect their children.

If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor

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If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things is one of the most – sorry in advance – remarkable novels that take place in a single day. It’s a true slice of life, examining the lives of residents on a quiet street in suburban England. There’s the single father with scars on his hands, the hungover youths back from a night of partying, the man caught in the grip of unrequited love… all of them have hopes, fears, desires, and demons that McGregor brings into focus in turn. They’re brought together by a single event, one that shatters the tranquility of their street and upends their ordinary everyday troubles.

Party Going by Henry Green

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I think we all know by now that if you take a handful of privileged, beautiful people and put them in a confined space, you’re going to get some good drama. It’s a formula that’s worked for reality TV for years, and before that, Henry Green used it as the premise for one of his novels that takes place in a single day, Party Going. Max, Amabel, Angela, Julia, Evelyn, and Claire all gather at a train station en route to a house party in France. They find that all the trains are delayed due to severe fog, so they take rooms in the adjacent railway hotel (rather than linger on the platform with the unwashed masses). That’s about all of the action, really; the rest of the story plays out in their relationships and gossiping, and Green tells different versions of it simultaneously. Read my full review of Party Going here.

New Boy by Tracy Chevalier

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I love a good literary adaptation, and New Boy is a brilliant one from the Hogarth Press series (not to mention it’s one of the most interesting novels that takes place in a single day). Tracy Chevalier takes the harrowing story of Shakespeare’s Othello and places it in the most terrifying setting you can imagine: a child’s playground. Osei Kokote is the new kid at school (again), and he knows he needs to find an ally quickly. Enter Dee, the popular girl with a golden shine. But the other kids aren’t happy about the new budding friendship, and a powerful drama about racism, bullying, and betrayal begins.

Like Mother by Cassandra Austin

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Is it possible to be too tired to remember where you put your infant daughter down to sleep? If the stories I hear of new parenthood are true, abso-freakin’-lootly. That’s the disturbing premise of Like Mother, a domestic noir novel set in small-town Australia in 1969. Over the course of a single day in the life of sleep-deprived Louise, it interrogates the role of women in the world and in the home, and how far the apple really falls from the tree. This book made me so impatient, I just wanted to shake it and scream “what is happening?!”, right up until the final chapter. Read my full review of Like Mother here.

The Nothing Man – Catherine Ryan Howard

I think this might be the year I finally catch up on all the books that slipped by me during the pandemic lockdown(s). A few weeks ago, it was The Secrets Of Strangers, and now it’s The Nothing Man. Corvus Books (and Allen & Unwin) sent me this one towards the end of 2020 – better late than never, right?

The Nothing Man - Catherine Ryan Howard - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Get The Nothing Man here.
(There’s nothing like showing support for a reviewer by using their affiliate links to make a purchase!)

This one didn’t really catch my eye until I read – and loved! – 56 Days. That book made Catherine Ryan Howard an automatic-buy author for me, and luckily I already had The Nothing Man on the to-read shelf.

It turns out it’s got a cracker of a premise. The Nothing Man is the moniker given to the man who assaulted and murdered a series of people in the early 2000s, in their Cork homes. They called him that because the Gardaí had “nothing” on him. This isn’t a whodunnit, though. You know from the very first chapter that Jim is The Nothing Man.

Nowadays, Jim is working as a security guard in a supermarket. When the story begins, he’s just learned that a book has come out about his (as yet unsolved) crimes – he spots a woman purchasing a copy from a display at his work. It’s a memoir by the sole survivor of The Nothing Man’s last attack. At just twelve years old, Eve Black suffered the loss of her entire family at his hands, and now she’s writing a book about her experience, in the hopes of gathering new information to crack the case.

So, we’ve got a book-within-a-book situation in The Nothing Man. It’s a really clever way of having the two perspectives play out: Eve’s search for her family’s killer, and Jim’s present-day life as an undetected “former” serial killer. The chapters alternate between extracts from Eve’s book, and Jim’s reactions as he reads them. He quickly realises how close she is to stumbling onto the truth of his identity, and he feels backed into a corner. He’s going to have to find a way to thwart her before his facade is broken down.

The Nothing Man is a very creepy, very detailed crime novel. You should know before you pick it up (trigger warning time!) that it contains graphic descriptions of violent sexual crime, and twisted psychological games – and one particularly horrible instance of cruelty towards a dog 🙁

That said, it’s so well-written and propulsive, it’s difficult to put down – even when it turns your stomach. Howard masterfully balanced Jim and Eve’s perspectives, giving the “victim” just as strong a voice and an active role in what unfolds (something all-too-often missing from crime thrillers, with passive dead girls left voiceless in the narrative).

Plus, The Nothing Man culminates in a satisfying ending that seems, granted, a little unrealistic – but not overwrought or overdone.

This is the perfect fiction book for fans of I’ll Be Gone In The Dark. Howard even cites that specific book as inspiration in the Acknowledgements for The Nothing Man. If you’re looking for a book to give a true crime aficionado – or if you’re one yourself, looking to try something different – this is the one to go with. Catherine Ryan Howard remains a must-read author for me!

My favourite Amazon reviews of The Nothing Man:

  • “I was truly scared to read more, but was too anxious to stop!” – Teresa C
  • “I am Irish and I tend to steer clear of books set in Ireland like the plague because they are more often than not leprechaun inducing hokum. I bought this book because it kept popping up in my recommendations – I confess I had never heard of the Author and didn’t realise that the book was set in Ireland. When I finally got around to reading it, the penny soon dropped and I will admit my heart sank. What was ahead? Donkeys carrying turf around a bog? Twenty chapters of people roaring drunk in pubs? Would everyone be dressed in flatcaps and Aran jumpers?
    What followed was one of the most original thrillers I have ever read and frankly could have been set anywhere in the world. What a refreshing change!” – Nicci
  • “I tend to read in bed before going to sleep. Not a good idea with this book” – ET1959
  • “The author writes very fluently, drawing you in to the story and making you feel engaged with the characters. I didn’t empathise strongly with the mass murdering psychopath to be fair but that’s probably a good thing.” – NeilS
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