Books for Christmas: The literary lover (pt.2)

• Dec 17, 2018 •

Here is our second bunch of books that we think any literary lover in your life will relish this Christmas. Read about the first lot here.

Peculiar Ground by Lucy Hughes-Hallett

It is the 17th century and a wall is being built around a great house. Wychwood is an enclosed world, its ornamental lakes and majestic avenues planned by Mr Norris, landscape-maker. A world where everyone has something to hide after decades of civil war, where dissidents shelter in the forest, lovers linger in secret gardens, and migrants, fleeing the plague, are turned away from the gate.

Three centuries later, another wall goes up overnight, dividing Berlin, while at Wychwood, over one hot, languorous weekend, erotic entanglements are shadowed by news of historic change. A little girl, Nell, observes all.

Nell grows up and Wychwood is invaded. There is a pop festival by the lake, a TV crew in the dining room and a Great Storm brewing. As the Berlin wall comes down, a fatwa signals a different ideological faultline and a refugee seeks safety in Wychwood.

From the multi-award-winning author of The Pike comes a breathtakingly ambitious, beautiful and timely novel about game keepers and witches, agitators and aristocrats, about young love and the pathos of aging, and about how those who wall others out risk finding themselves walled in.

Women by Chloe Caldwell

A young woman moves from the countryside to the city.

Inexplicably, inexorably and immediately, she falls in love with another woman for the first time in her life.
Finn is nineteen years older than her, wears men’s clothes, has a cocky smirk of a smile – and a long-term girlfriend.
With precision, wit and tenderness, Women charts the frenzy and the fall out of love.

Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugrnides

We meet Kendall, a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; and Mitchell, a lovelorn liberal arts graduate on a search for enlightenment; and Prakrti, a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her family leads to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged academic.

Jeffrey Eugenides’s bestselling novels Middlesex, The Virgin Suicides and The Marriage Plot have shown him to be an astute observer of the crises of adolescence, self-discovery and family love. These stories, from one of our greatest authors, explore equally rich and intriguing territory.

Narratively compelling and beautifully written, Fresh Complaint shows all of Eugenides’s trademark humour, compassion and complex understanding of what it is to be human.

What We’re Teaching Our Sons by Owen Booth

Meet the married Dads, the divorced Dads, the widowed Dads and the gay Dads; the gamblers, the firemen, the bankers, the nurses, the soldiers and the milkmen. They’re trying to guide their sons through the foothills of childhood into the bewildering uplands of adulthood. But it’s hard to know if they’re doing it right.

Or what their sons’ mothers think…

Wise and funny, touching and true, What We’re Teaching Our Sons is for anyone who has ever wondered how to be a grown up.

The Friendly Ones by Philip Hensher

The Friendly Ones is about two families. In it, people with very different histories can fit together, and redeem each other. One is a large and loosely connected family who have come to England from the subcontinent in fits and starts, brought to England by education, and economic possibilities. Or driven away from their native country by war, murder, crime and brutal oppression – things their new neighbours know nothing about. At the heart of their story is betrayal and public shame. The secret wound that overshadows the Spinsters, their neighbours next door, is of a different kind: Leo, the eldest son, running away from Oxford University aged eighteen. How do you put these things right, in England, now?

Spanning decades and with a big and beautifully drawn cast of characters all making their different ways towards lives that make sense, The Friendly Ones, Philip Hensher’s moving and timely new novel, shows what a nation is made of; how the legacies of our history can be mastered by the decision to know something about people who are not like us.

Looking for more gift inspo? Check out our guides for DadsSistersglobe trotters and the deep thinkers.

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