As any voracious reader knows, there are so many books out there, it can be hard to choose just what to read next. So what could be better than a hand-picked recommendation from someone in the know? Every Wednesday the XOXOAD team likes to find out what some of its favorite authors are reading; today we’re thrilled to welcome author Hester Browne, whose new book, Honeymoon Hotel, is on sale September 16!
I spend a lot of time on trains, going back and forth from Herefordshire, where I live, and London. Although it’s a three-hour journey I always look forward to it, partly because the route actually goes past the house featured in Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington (haven’t spotted any dead bodies or elderly detective ladies though I always look), and partly because train journeys are my reading time – it’s my non-negotiable treat.
If you’ve been on an English train, you’ll know we have a Quiet Carriage for people who need to work, and the ultimate sin is to make any noise at all in it. I got some truly dirty looks for laughing aloud at Sophie Kinsella’s latest Shopaholic to the Stars: it’s very, very funny. Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is in Hollywood, and who needs her shopping skills more than time-pressed celebrities? Plus, Suze is back. What more do you need to know? Utterly hilarious.
A very different novel that had me spellbound between Worcester and Paddington was The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, a beautifully observed romantic-historical-thriller-drama set in the unsettled new world of 1922’s London: when genteel-but-poor Frances Wray takes in a brash young couple of lodgers in her South London villa, life changes in unthinkable ways for everyone. Sarah Waters has the ability to channel effortlessly the period she’s writing about, from the tiny details in the clothes and habits of the characters to the way they speak – she immerses you in her research so that you breathe in history, without ever feeling aware of it until you turn the final page and realize you want to stay in the book. Ideal for losing yourself on a long journey.
Being a romantic, I’m still secretly hoping to have my own Brief Encounter style meeting with the love of my life on the 10.22 from Hereford. That hasn’t, as yet, happened (although the route does go through Oxford, so you know, fingers crossed) but I probably wouldn’t have noticed him anyway when I was deep in The Country Escape by Fiona Walker, a witty, sexy, countryside romp featuring the sort of strong-thighed, flashing-eyed modern Mr. Darcys I wish I bumped into while walking the dogs. Horses, playboys, jodphurs, flings, true love. Luckily you can’t get frowned at for blushing in the Quiet Carriage. Yet. I also loved One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – more QC disturbance but this time tears streaming down my face.