Lots of readers will craving a little escapism right now, so here are five books I read last year that made me forget all about the pandemic, if only for a little while…
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
This was an absorbing whirlwind of a book, a historical novel following a young woman in the USA before World War II. After being kicked out of university she is sent to live with her aunt, owner of a theatre in New York, where she gets drawn into a world of women and friendship and love and betrayal, making utterly terrible life choices along the way of working out who she wants to be, and this sets her on a path for the rest of her life. I listened to the audiobook and could barely persuade myself to stop listening for a moment!
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
This book is perhaps a little longer than it needed to be, but I found it totally absorbing for the most part. It’s about the life of Mary Bennet, the most neglected of Austen’s Bennet sisters, following the marriages of most of her sisters in Pride and Prejudice. She’s awkward, has no natural charm, and is often criticised by her mother and ignored by her sisters. Yet her determination to figure out the world and what it expects from her makes her a very interesting protagonist, and all the little details about her life are really compelling.
The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson
More historical fiction – this time, aimed at children. Children’s books are often the most wonderfully escapist books you can find, even if they deal with some tough subjects, and this is no exception. It’s set in the lead-up to World War II, following Tally, who starts at a very unorthodox boarding school full of weird and wonderful characters. After she settles in, she persuades them that they should go on a school trip for a dance contest in the fictional country of Bergania, where she meets a prince who needs saving from firstly, a Nazi plot, and secondly, his awful family.
Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron edited by Jonathan Strahan
What’s more escapist than a little magic? This is an amazingly varied anthology of stories about witches of all different kinds – good, bad and neutral – and would be a fantastic way for you to discover some new authors.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Huang
When considering books for this list I dismissed most of the contemporary books I read last year, because even though none of them mention pandemics, many of them are full of reminders of what life used to be like before we had Covid to worry about. But this is essentially a fairytale – autistic math genius millionaire Stella hires Michael, a wannabe tailor moonlighting as an escort once a week to pay his mother’s medical bills, to teach her how to be a girlfriend. It’s a romance novel that’s easy to get lost in!
If escapism isn’t your thing, last week on my other blog I published a post featuring non-fiction Books to Help Inspire and Encourage You to Work on Your 2021 Goals, and you can still download and read my novella Unlucky in Lockdown for free!