During these uncertain times of panic over the Corona Pandemic, there is no better way to lift your spirits than to bury your head in a good book. Alice at NB Magazine has picked five uplifting fictional wonders – old and new – which will be sure to put a smile on your face!
1. Oh My God What A Complete Aisling! By Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
The idea for OMGWACA came from a Facebook Page laughed by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, where they created the character of Aisling; a thoroughly Irish stereotype of a sensible, practical young woman from the countryside. They decided to take their idea from social media, the pages of a novel – and it is excellent.
We join Aisling – who, at twenty-eight, is proud to say she has never once dyed her hair – in her sleepy hometown of Ballygobbard. On the surface of things, all is well. She has a long-term boyfriend, John, who she stays with two nights a week. She’s got a stable job working as an administrator at PensionsPlus in Dublin, a nutty friend Majella who supplies a laugh a minute and a WeightWatchers membership (she’s been on a diet for as long as she can remember, despite always staying at a size 14). Her life has a certain order. But, when a weeklong holiday in sunny Tenerife with long-term boyfriend John doesn’t end with the expected proposal, Aisling decides things have got to change. She leaves behind Ballygobbard and heads into the Big Smoke – aka Dublin, for us non-Irish readers – and moves into a swish apartment in Portobello with Sadhbh from ER, and the mysterious Elaine.
McLysaght and Breen’s novel is the perfect tonic for a long day stuck indoors, and I guarantee that will laugh out loud whilst reading it. In fact, I have never laughed out loud so much whilst reading a book.
2. I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
Chris is a failing filmmaker, married to the philosopher Sylvere Lotringer. In the first part of the novel, Scenes from a marriage, she and her husband go for dinner with British the art critic: Dick. Chris feels quite a connection to Dick, so much so, that she proceeds to spend the following months of her life writing obsessive, funny-but-uncomfortable-to-read letters, about love, and her latest idea for an art project. In the second half of the novel this desire moves beyond the medium of letters to something more physical.
First published in 1997, this unique fusion of fiction and memoir was attacked by critics – now, it has evolved into a feminist classic. The most striking thing about this book for me is the brutal, shocking honesty of Kraus’ writing as she articulates her completely consuming obsession with Dick. This book certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; rather than being uplifting, I think I would call it entertaining, brilliant, and – as a woman – very liberating!
I might also add that for many commuters, reading a novel with ‘I LOVE DICK’ printed in massive, bold pink and green lettering across the cover is less than ideal. So, if you fall in the category of people who care what people think of you on public transport, arguably, whilst you are currently stuck inside alone, there has never been a better time to read I Love Dick.
3. Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reed
Written in the form of a documentary-transcript, this quirky novel is so entertaining that it can be read in one sitting.
Daisy Jones & The Six topped the charts during the rock ‘n’ roll era of the late seventies. But why on earth did they split up after their final concert in Chicago on the 12th July 1979?
Readers learn about cool-girl Daisy as she grows up in Los Angeles in the late sixties (her life is a lot more thrilling than our lives in quarantine, to say the very least). Daisy isn’t just beautiful – she’s got a cracking voice, too. And when Daisy crosses paths with The Six – headed by the brooding Billy Dunne – it is a moment which comes to define their lives, and music, forever.
Quite honestly, when I read the blurb of this book I wasn’t fully convinced. But my friend from a writing club insisted it was good, and kindly leant me a copy – she was right, it is great. Glorious escapism with seventies vibes by the bucketful!
4. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
I have always been a little bit sceptical of the genre which used to be called ‘Chicklit’, and now goes by the slightly posher-sounding name of ‘Women’s Fiction’. Or rather, I was sceptical about this genre until I discovered the genius that is Marian Keyes. In the past six months I have proceeded to read seven of her books (and counting).
I’ve chosen This Charming Man to recommend, because it is my favourite (just) though I must add that anything I’ve read by Keyes has been excellent, and that the Walsh family series – including Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angels, Anybody Out There? And The Mystery of Mercy Close – are particularly brilliant.
Anyway- back to This Charming Man! The book opens with the news that Paddy de Courcy – handsome, clever, rising star in politics – is getting married, to the beautiful Alicia. His girlfriend Lola is surprised to hear this news, to say the very least. She is not to speak to the press under any circumstances.
Then we listen to journalist Grace; a strong-minded, clever writer who is keen to dish the dirt on Paddy. And as we learn more about Grace’s alcoholic sister Marnie, we realise why she hates Paddy so much.
This novel is split between the unique voices of Grace, Marnie and Lola, across Dublin, London, and County Clare. It is funny but has serious and important themes too. Easy, irresistible reading!
5. The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary
Yes, we might all be stuck inside going slowly insane but at least we have our own space to be stuck in! For Tiffy, who works in the London publishing industry, she needs somewhere cheap to live, and fast. When she finds an ad from Leon – a nurse working night shifts – it seems like the perfect fit. The situation emerges where they share a bed, but in shifts. Despite living under one roof, they never actually meet and communicate via post-it notes.
This is an uplifting, charming novel about finding love in very unexpected places. It has a serious side too; there’s an obsessive ex-boyfriend, and a brother in prison to worry about. But there are also funny scenes involving cruise ships and mindful knitting. The characters are well drawn and believable, and Tiffy aside, I personally fell in love with Leon whilst reading this.
If you want to a bit of romance but are sick of the same old run-of-the-mill plotlines, then this book is for you. The only sad thing is, Leon is a fictional construct. We could all do with a Leon in our lives.
What are your Stay at Home Books?
So, as Corona continues to keep us all inside, why not use this time to read? Do you like our suggestions? Do you have any suggestions of your own? Let us know your #StayatHomeReads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter…
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