Every month as well as picking two favourites from ALL the books, Bert picks one of those two be our Book of the Month – Damian Barr’s debut novel is that book.
It starts in the last days of what is now known as the Gentleman’s war – the Boer War in South Africa. We follow Sarah van der Waat as she is taken from her home and placed in a concentration camp by the British. These camps would go on to become the blueprint for the Nazi concentration camps – and what happened in those camps had a lasting effect on South Africa that is still being felt today.
As well as Sarah’s story, we move forward through the history of South Africa as we learn just how that war shaped the country today.
Diana Athill put it best by saying ‘You come out of reading it a different person from when you went in’.
A truly brilliant read that will stay with you long after you put it down.
Queenie is a very different kind of novel to Barr’s – but it also stays with you after reading as well.
It’s funny, but feels heartbreakingly real. Queenie is a young black woman trying to navigate her way through a mini-crisis of self. Who is she? Where does she belong in this world? Does she even like herself?
In short, she’s suffering from all the things we all suffer from, but for Bert it was the insights into her views on race that really made this book. It’s not the big moments, but the small ones, ones where we, the reader, offended on her behalf but Queenie simply shrugs them off as normal.
It might help you see society in a new way – or it will feel horribly familiar. Either way, it will make Queenie feel so vivid and real – you’ll be rooting for her all the way through.
Queenie is published on 11th April, so subscribers to the Bert’s Best Books bundle will receive their books week commencing 8th April 2019.
As well as Bert’s Best Books – Queenie also features in our Proud to be Different Bun
dle it is a startling insight into the life of a young black woman – but it’s not all about her race. It’s about a young woman growing up with all the challenges of life around her.
We would normally try to avoid putting a paperback into this bundle, but as it’s our first month we couldn’t resist shouting about this brilliant book and the way it explores the youth of our protagonist Eustace.
He’s growing up different in 1970’s Weston-Super-Mare – and he has to face all the challenges of growing up alongside trying to work out what these differences are.
But there are moments of Eustace’s older life which frame the younger years which are just as touching.
Patrick Gale is one of our favourite writers here at Bert’s and we mean no disrespect to his previous novels when we say we think this is one of his best yet.
There are moments of Eustace’s childhood which most men – straight or gay – will be able to identify with – but the sections where he describes playing the cello are surprisingly moving and among the highlights of a book filled with special moments.
Queenie is published on 11th April, so subscribers to the Proud to be Different bundle will receive their books week commencing 8th April 2019.
Patrick Gale’s Take Nothing With You is another book that is featured in more than one bundle – it’s also in our General Fiction paperbacks – it really is that good!
The Lido is a story about a young journalist and an old lady trying to save Brockwell Lido from developers doesn’t sound particularly likely at first – but it’s a great piece and a really nice commentary on loneliness in all its forms.
It also explores the changing nature of community – when Rosemary was young, her community were her friends and family who lived around her.
Fast forward to the modern day and both Rosemary and Kate are isolated, not really a part of any physical community as such, but as they start to work on saving the Lido, they find out that community hasn’t disappeared, it’s just changed a bit.
Page does a brilliant job of bringing the reader into the community that she creates as well. Ultimately, it’s a lovely, uplifting read.
The General Fiction paperback bundle is on its way to subscribers now.
Those of you who like your fiction a little less serious, a little bit more quirky, will love this novel from Jess Kidd – the bestselling author of Himself. It follows Bridie Devine – the most famous female detective of the Victorian era.
She’s fresh off one case that’s gone quite badly wrong, and now determined to do better on her mysterious new case – a girl kidnapped from her father, who seems to have strange abilities.
Bridie is joined by her seven-foot servant Cora and the ghost of an Irish boxer – Ruby Doyle. Somehow, Kidd makes all of this seem very believable and very real.
The General Fiction Hardback bundle is on its way to subscribers now.
The first of Crime and Thriller hardbacks follows Abigail Boone – a woman who wakes up in a room that is barely a room. She is being held prisoner and remembers nothing of how she got there, or even who she is.
After managing to escape Boone must put her life back together, even if she can’t
Discharged from the police force, living with a husband she can’t remember loving and a son she doesn’t remember giving birth to, she decides that the only way to try and start rebuilding her memories is to resume investigating the case she was following before her capture.
The disappearance of a young woman, now missing for five years.
Anna is suffering from a chronic lack of sleep – and when she does get sleep, she’s besieged by night terrors and horrible flashbacks to events she wishes she could forget.
Moving to the Isle of Rum in Scotland to avoid her past, she takes a job working in a hotel, where she is joined by seven guests – each of whom has their own secret. One of them appears to be out for murder, targeting Anna.
We were hooked from the blurb of this book straight away and we weren’t at all disappointed by it
The Crime and Thriller Hardback bundle will be dispatched in the week commencing 1st April.
From the bestselling author of Thirteen – this is one of those books you just have to read. It’s received a huge amount of critical acclaim including from C L Taylor – the author of one of our Hardback titles
So what’s it’s about? We don’t want to give too much away – so we’ll just give you the blurb on this one:
BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:
1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.
Our final book of April is this thriller from a debut author.
The titular Olivia is the daughter of Abi Knight who wakes one night to a phone call from the local hospital with terrible news. Olivia has fallen from a bridge and is now in a critical condition on life support.
We follow the story in two time frames, from Olivia’s point of view in the run up to the accident, and from Abi’s as she tries to find out just what happened on the bridge that fateful night.
A read that you will struggle to put down, early on you will think you know where this is going, but trust us, you don’t.
The Crime and Thriller Paperback bundle will be dispatched in the week commencing 1st April.
The oldest book in Bert’s Top Nine is the first in the long running Roy Grace series – the fifteenth instalment Dead at First Sight is due out in May 2019.
The Roy Grace books can be read as standalone novels, but the magic of this series is in its continuing characters – Glenn Branson, Bella Moy, Norman Potting and Cleo Morey are amongst those who feature within Roy Grace’s world and continue to grow and develop throughout the books.
These characters along with the underlying mystery of Grace’s missing-presumed-dead wife Sandy help add a sense of jeopardy to the popular crime series, while James’ tireless research brings a gritty realism that other police procedurals lack.
After reading Dead Simple you’ll very quickly want to devour the entire series
The hero of one of Gale’s finest novels – Harry Cane (not the footballer) – is a well-off bachelor, living at the beginning of the twentieth century. His life is ticking along nice, although he has no job to speak of, nor does he have any particular commitments either.
When he helps his brother court his future wife, he meets a woman of his own whom he quickly marries and has a child. Scandal soon threatens to hit however, when his affair with another man is discovered. In order to keep it quiet and protect his wife and daughter from the news, Harry signs over his entire wealth and boards a boat to start a new life in Canada.
This sounds like a novel in itself, but this is merely a prelude to the main thrust of the novel – Cane’s attempts to start a new life in the rural, undiscovered, uninhabited plains of Canada.
All of this unique tale is told in Gale’s beautiful prose that a 200-word summary could never do justice to.
The phrase ‘shortlisted for the Man Booker prize’ will usually have one of two effects on a reader. Either they’ll rush out and buy it, or they’ll avoid it like the plague. This is the book you should cast aside your preconceptions for.
It’s a hefty tome – at 700+ pages, it’s no one session read, but the time invested in this story is immensely rewarding. It follows the tale of four men – Jude & JB & Willem & Malcolm.
The chances are if you’re not aware of the novel, then you’ve at least seen these four names on merchandise in a book shop – or emblazoned across Anton Porowski’s chest in episodes of Netflix’s Queer Eye. They are the four lead characters of what is fast becoming a modern classic.
Yanagihara’s epic tells of the relationships between these four men, particularly their relationships with the enigmatic Jude St Francis. It tells of all kinds of male relationships from platonic to paternal, sexual to fraternal.
This is Bert’s favourite book of all time – and it has created a special bond, a fellowship of knowing looks, between anyone who has read it. Highly recommended, just make sure you have some tissues on hand for the emotional climax
This spooky offering from Dutch writer Heuvelt sees a town in North America besieged by the ghost of the Black Rock Witch.
For the residents of Black Spring, her presence is tolerated, expected. Both her eyes and mouth are sewn together protecting them from the curse, the myth that the whole town will be destroyed should the stitches ever be removed.
While they live a normal life within the town, none of its population can be allowed to leave. With Black Spring in quarantine, a group of teenagers are starting to grow restless. They set in motion a chain of events that will change their lives forever.
In the tradition of horror maestro Stephen King, Hex is more than just a spooky, gory story. It explores the mass hysteria and paranoia that can fall upon any small community and it does so in a way that will leave you questioning can you always believe what you’ve always believed?
All of this builds to a heart-pumping, page-turning climax that will leave you reading well into the witching hour.
Soon to be made into a Netflix series this is a brilliantly simple yet unique concept. A person’s DNA can reveal the identity of their one true love – but only if they are also on the database.
The One follows five different characters, exploring different questions that would be raised by such a discovery:
Is it ethical to sell this data? What if your one is not the person you’re married to? What if the one lives thousands of miles away? What if the one for you is a serial killer? What if there is no one?
Cycling through our five main characters one chapter at a time, it’s easy to see how this addictive book could be made into an anthology series. Each of the chapters is short, constantly pushing you on to just one more.
The stories are largely unconnected, but they do brush up against each other sometimes – creating some truly gasp-out-loud moments. A fun read, that will leave you eagerly anticipating the TV series.
Another book that will leave you wanting more – in a good way!
Tom Hazard suffers from a rare genetic condition, he ages at a tenth of the rate as everyone else, which means that while he appears to be a sprightly forty-one years old, he’s been alive for over four centuries.
A brilliant concept that gives huge scope for more tales set within the same world, especially as Hazard starts to look for others like him.
But forget that huge scope for now, How to Stop Time concentrates on one man’s life. While he may experience life at a slower rate he suffers many of the same emotional problems as the rest of us – he just has to do it over and over again.
Constantly reinventing his life, Hazard avoids making any long term connections, but someone is about to enter his life that will the test this resolve.
Soon to be made into a feature film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, this is another of those read-it-firsts that will soon be everywhere.
This beautiful novel – almost a novella at just over 200 pages long – is one that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Ellis and Michael are best friends growing up, a twosome that cannot be separated, that is until Annie enters the scene. What happens next is not necessarily what you expect.
The two men do not fight over the woman in their life, instead the three of them become bonded with Ellis at the centre of the triumvirate. Annie, his wife, and Michael his best friend.
With such a short page-length, Winman does not waste a single word in this moving tale of love and grief. By page forty – a point at which longer novels are still only getting to grips with the characters – Tin Man will have you feeling so intensely for its characters, Ellis specifically, that you will find tears pricking the corners of your eyes.
While a novel to be savoured, you will find yourself immersed in its poetry, weeping as it breaks your heart and then heals it all over again. It’s a story you won’t forget in a long time.
Anyone that tells you they saw the massive success of this memoir coming is a liar or a witch. Sitting atop the Non Fiction charts for forty+ consecutive weeks if you haven’t yet read This Is Going To Hurt then you’re the only one.
Kay is now a comedian and writer, but in a past life he was a junior doctor specialising in obstetrics – this is an account of that time of his life, with the names changed to those from the Harry Potter series to protect the innocent.
(If nothing else, spotting the Potter names is a fun game in itself)
Initially this is what might be known as the perfect toilet book. Short diary entries which don’t need a lot of time invested in them, it can be picked up and flicked through at the reader’s leisure. But it builds to a powerful crescendo as you discover the reason why Kay decided to leave the profession.
Like all good books, this is being developed as a TV series, but this truly is one where you should read the source material first, because the first time you don’t want the first time you come across a de-gloving incident to be through a visual medium. Trust us.
Cannon’s debut The Trouble with Goats and Sheep was one of the biggest hits of recent years, but with Three Things About Elsie she brings us a novel that does the almost-impossible and surpasses its predecessor.
Florence lives in a care home, nearing the end of her live. In fact, she’s lying on the floor of her flat in Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly when we meet her. She’s suffering from dementia, but there are some things that are clear as day to her.
As she lies there, waiting to be rescued she reminisces about life with her best friend Elsie, both in the youth they spent together and in their time at the care home.
There are three things to know about Elsie. 1) She’s Flo’s best friend; 2) She always knows what to say to make Flo feel better; 3) And… and… what is the third thing?
As Florence tries to remember what brought her to that moment, we are treated to the tragic, heartbreaking reality of what it means to be elderly, of the effects of dementia – but also the power of friendship.
Which of these is your favourite? Share your thoughts in the comment below.
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