I realise that the title of this blog post is very niche but bear with me….
After watching and LOVING The Queens Gambit on Netflix recently, I had a hankering after books set in the 1950’s/60’s which include repressed, boozie, pill popping suburban housewives (think Beth’s Mum).
I put a quick tweet out asking for recommendations and those guys over there killed it! Some absolutely stellar suggestions which I immediately purchased. I have to tell you that I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a stack of books in a good while. So excited in fact that I have already read 2 of them and have started a third. I am positively eating these books up!
Not only do they all sound perfect, there are some bloody gorgeous covers in here (and some pretty bangin’ fonts too……come on we all have a favourite font right?)
So without further ado, let’s get right on with the books.
The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper – Manilla Press (4th Feb 2021)
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor. While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved?
This is the only book in the stack that hasn’t been published yet. Forgive me for that. I’d had my eye on this one anyway but my lovely Bookish pal Clare from Years Of Reading Selfishly suggested it on the Twitter thread and the lovely Francesca Pearce offered to send me a copy. This is actually the book I’ve just picked up despite saying that I’m not reading 2021 proofs until January. I just couldn’t wait! It sounds so good!
The Corrections By Jonathan Franzen – 4th Estate
After fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid Lambert is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately her husband, Alfred, is losing his sanity, and their children have long since fled for the catastrophes of their own lives. As Alfred’s condition worsens and the Lamberts are forced to face their secrets and failures, Enid sets her heart on one last family Christmas.
This one is a chunky one (with a very pleasing on the eye font…..ok, ok i’ll stop now). I like the sound of Enid…..she sounds like my kinda character! But I’m sensing there may be some heartbreak in this one too…..we shall see.
Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susan- Virago
Dolls – red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight. For Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three beautiful women become best friends when they are young and in New York, struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. Only when they reach the peak of their careers do they find there’s nowhere left to go but down – to the Valley of the Dolls.
This was another recommendation from the lovely and very knowledgeable Clare from Years Of Reading Selfishly. I’d heard of this one but I wasn’t aware of what it was about. I didn’t know ‘Dolls’ meant pills and that is precisely what I’m after. I love this minimalist but very effective cover.
Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussman – Picador
Liza Klaussmann’s Tigers in Red Weather tells the story of Nick and her cousin Helena who have grown up together, sharing long hot summers at Tiger House. With husbands and children of their own, they keep returning. But against a background of parties, cocktails, moonlight and jazz, how long can perfection last? There is always the summer that changes everything.
This is one of the books I’ve already read and to be honest I have a feeling it may make it into my books of the year list. It’s a sultry and secretive look at a relationship between two cousins Nick and Helena, their troubled marriages and their experiences with motherhood. But there was also a little surprise thread of mystery running through which was a real treat. It’s atmospheric, it’s soaked in martini and whisky and it was a real gripping read.
On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks – Vintage
America, 1959. With two young children she adores, loving parents back in London, and an admired husband, Charlie, working at the British embassy in Washington, the world seems an effervescent place of parties, jazz and family happiness to Mary van der Linden. But the Eisenhower years are ending, and 1960 brings the presidential battle between two ambitious senators: John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. But when Frank, an American newspaper reporter, enters their lives Mary embarks on a passionate affair, all the while knowing that in the end she must confront an impossible decision.
This is the second book in the pile that I’ve already read and it’s another corker. This one is a little bit different in that the roles are reversed and it’s the husband who struggles with alcohol and pill addiction. There’s a melancholy vibe with this one but the central relationship between Mary and Charlie is touching and startlingly honest. Mary is a fascinating character, she’s a strong woman who can handle most of what life throws at her whilst her husband falls apart before her eyes. Again there’s lots of tossing back the booze and clandestine rendezvousing in dark bars….I loved it.
Rabbit, Run by John Updike – Penguin
It’s 1959 and Harry ‘Rabbit’ Angstrom, one time high school sports superstar, is going nowhere. At twenty-six he is trapped in a second-rate existence – stuck with a fragile, alcoholic wife, a house full of overflowing ashtrays and discarded glasses, a young son and a futile job. With no way to fix things, he resolves to flee from his family and his home in Pennsylvania, beginning a thousand-mile journey that he hopes will free him from his mediocre life.
This book was suggested by a few people. I’ve never read any John Updike but this one sounds like it fits the bill perfectly with the ‘fragile alcoholic wife’. Have any of you read any John Updike before? I’ll report back with my thoughts on this one when I get to it.
The Hours by Michael Cunningham – Harper Perennial
In 1920s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel.A young wife and mother, broiling in a suburb of 1940s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in 1990s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friend.Moving effortlessly across the decades and between England and America, this exquisite novel intertwines the stories of three unforgettable women.
Again, this was a suggestion which cropped up a few times so I had to buy it. I don’t know much at all about Virginia Woolf so I’m intrigued by this one. I’m not usually a huge fan of ‘real people’ on book covers but this one really draws me in. I’m hoping the contents will be just as compelling.
So there we have it. As I said I’m hugely excited by this pile of books and I can’t wait to get to them all and report back for you. Have you read any of them? Do you fancy reading any of them? Let me know!
I’m taking a little blogging break in December to recharge my bookish batteries so this is my last post until New Years Eve when I’ll be back with my Best Books Of 2020 post.
See you all then and I hope you all have a safe, happy and book filled Christmas.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx