New Books: A captivating new collection of short stories takes a look behind the curtain at the secret lives of the ladies of the church…

1. The Secret Lives Of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw is published in hardcover by Pushkin ONE, priced at £14.99 (ebook £9.99).

The phrase “ladies of the church” conjures up a variety of images, depending on the reader’s own cultural understanding of the church. The Secret Lives Of Church Ladies is a modern insight into the deeper feelings and emotions of a group of black female friends, bonded by their childhood membership in a congregation. Women meet on every New Year’s Eve, where they can express their secret desires, their forbidden loves and their transgressive thoughts. Funny, affectionate, surprising, even shocking, they share things that we can think, but that we can only say to our closest confidants. The Umbrella of the Ladies Church Connection adds another dimension to this well-crafted collection of stories – the pervasive sense that someone else – God perhaps – is listening.


(Review by Victoria Barry)

2. Thrown by Sara Cox is published in hardcover by Coronet, priced at £14.99 (ebook £6.99).

Aspiring authors are often told to write about what they know. It’s hard to say how well Sara Cox, DJ and Radio 2 host, knows how to run a community center, but her life lessons and experience presenting The Great Pottery Throwdown were definitely assets. By weaving the stories of four women who decide to enroll in a local pottery class, she has created a welcoming world full of wonder and hope, confronting real-life issues that are often kept secret. It’s a pleasure to get to know the characters of Thrown – especially Becky, a single mother who learns about herself and grows stronger and more independent every day – and Sheila, who longs to start a new life in Spain, but has to get her husband to agree. A great summer read, with Cox’s voice jumping off the page.


(Review by Rachel Howdle)

3. Idol by Louise O’Neill is published in hardcover by Bantam Press, priced at £14.99 (ebook £5.99).

With conversations around consent, cancel culture, and wellness, Idol is a book firmly set in the present. Samantha Miller is a world-renowned wellness guru – but when she posts an essay about a sexual awakening she had with her teenage best friend, the ex-friend gets in touch to say she doesn’t care. don’t remember it the same way – threatening to topple everything Samantha has built. It’s a cleverly constructed story, told from Samantha’s perspective, so we’re on her side first – only to realize how insidious her actions are and the darkness that lies within. It raises some interesting questions about the modern wellness cult – skewering well-known lifestyle idols in the process – but while incredibly readable, the story winds its way down the middle. Ultimately, it comes to a satisfying conclusion – one you can’t help but read through gritted teeth as the action unfolds – but it takes a bit too long to get there. .


(Review by Prudence Wade)


4. This Is Not A Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan is published in hardcover by John Murray Press, priced at £12.99 (ebook £8.49).

Pity aside, it’s impossible not to feel enormous sympathy for Abi Morgan, whose longtime partner, actor Jacob Krichefski, collapses and is in an induced coma after complications from a drug he used. to treat multiple sclerosis. When he wakes up, months later, Krichefski is suffering from a rare psychological illness that is straining their relationship, and Morgan receives a devastating diagnosis herself – but she continues to rally her friends, family and both. couple’s children to battle a disease with overwhelming effects, not only for the patient, but for everyone around them. As a screenwriter, Morgan knows how to craft dramatic prose. She pulls no punches, portraying with unflinching honesty the anger and resentment bubbling up during some of her darkest moments. Interspersed with glimpses of the couple’s glamorous life – rubbing shoulders with stars and walking Hollywood red carpets – before MS turned their world upside down, it makes for a captivating, heartbreaking, but ultimately hopeful read that will resonate with all. those who have had to deal with the illness of a loved one.


(Review by Katie Wright)

Children’s book of the week

5. When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill is published in hardcover by Hot Key Books, priced at £14.99 (ebook £9.99).

The title of When Women Were Dragons might suggest a fantasy novel, but beneath the surface lies a vivid, fire-breathing story of women’s battle for equality. In this book, Kelly Barnhill would have us believe that women have dragons within them, helping them fight inequality and crush stereotypes. At the center of this upheaval is Alex Green, whose aunt becomes a dragon and her mother dies of cancer, all the time raising her younger sister Beatrice after they were abandoned by their father. The story of Barnhill is one of family, of love in all its forms, and of the female members of that family who stand up for what they believe is right. The reader is swept up in the ups and downs of a battle for recognition, as if riding a dragon through the skies.


(Review by Roddy Brooks)

Colin L. Johnson