Brilliant books to wile away wintery weekends, as chosen by the Absolutely Editors

Words Helen Brown

The Essex Serpent
Sarah Parry

Heralded one of the “most memorable historical novels of the past decade” by the Sunday Times, The Essex Serpent tells of an Essex village in the 1890’s, enlivened by the era defining debates on scientific and medical discovery. At its heart are two extraordinary people who find themselves falling for each other in ways neither could anticipate. A murder, a monster and a love story collide to form a deeply satisfying read.

Available here.


The Book of Harlan
Bernice L. McFadden

Set during World War II, two African American musicians are captured by the Nazis in Paris and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
This is a story exemplifies the triumph of the human spirit over bigotry, intolerance and cruelty, and at the center is the restorative force that is music.

Available here.

The Nix
Nathan Hill

From the suburban Midwest to New York City to the 1968 riots that rocked Chicago and beyond, The Nix explores the resilience of love and home, even in times of radical change. This is a psychodrama and tragicomedy about anger and sanctimony in America, in which Hill uses sharp humor and a fierce tenderness to paint an absorbing and deft portrayal of a mother-son relationship.

Available here.

Ian McEwan

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit centred around Trudy’s betrayal of her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home – a dilapidated London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot, the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb. A enthralling read from one of the world’s master storytellers.

Available here.

Chanel: An Intimate Life
Lisa Chaney

One of the 20th Century’s most defining figures, Coco Chanel was many things to many people. Chaney’s unflinching examination provides one of the most provocative portrait’s yet. From mistress to aristocrats, artists and spies, style rule-breaker and global fashion phenomenon, Chanel: An Intimate Life provides fresh details of one of the world’s most distinguished rags to riches tales. 

Available here. 


The Muse
Jessie Burton

On a hot July day in 1967, Odelle Bastien climbs the stone steps of the Skelton gallery in London, knowing that her life is about to change forever. Struggling to find her place in the city, she is taken under the wing of the glamorous and enigmatic Marjorie Quick. But though Quick takes Odelle into her confidence, and unlocks a potential she didn’t know she had, she remains a mystery – no more so than when a lost masterpiece with a secret history is delivered to the gallery. Seductive, exhilarating and suspenseful, The Muse is an unforgettable novel about aspiration and identity, love and obsession, authenticity and deception.

Available here. 

The Girls
Emma Cline

Cline’s debut novel enjoyed a popular stint last summer and remains buzzing at the top of many must-read compilations. The Girls is set two years after the Summer of Love and focuses on Evie, a girl in her early teens, who joins a Manson-esque commune. The novel unravels as she is caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision, made on the spot and on the cusp of adulthood, that will shape her life forever. 

Available here.  

Reasons To Stay Alive

Matt Haig 

What does it mean to feel truly alive? At the age of 24, Matt Haig could see no way to go on living. This true story sees him triumph over an illness that almost destroyed him and taught him to live again. A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and make the most of your time on earth.

Available here.


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