Weekend Reads: Drama

Want to add a bit of drama into your life? Even for an hour or two? Our top book picks for March are as dramatic as they come, filled with laughter, love and emotion. What has been your go-to read during lockdown?

Here We Are, by Graham Swift

It is Brighton, 1959, and the theatre at the end of the pier is having its best summer season in years. As the summer progresses, the off-stage drama begins to overshadow their theatrical success, and events unfold which will have lasting consequences for all their futures.

My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love… wasn’t it? Suddenly she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues of our age.

The Mournable Body, by Tsitsi Dangarembga

This psychologically charged novel channels the hope and potential of a young girl and a fledgling nation. It leads us on a journey to discover where lives go after hope has departed. Here we meet Tambudzai, living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare and anxious about her prospects. At every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with fresh humiliation until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drivers her to breaking point.

Topics of Conversation, by Miranda Popkey

From the coast of the Adriatic to sun-soaked California, Topics of Conversation follows one woman as she makes her way through two decades of bad relationships, motherhood, crisis and consolation, each new episode narrated through the conversations she has with other women. Full of the uncertainty of the present and the instability of the past, sizzling with enigmatic desire, it is a seductive exploration of life as a woman in the modern world, of the stories we all tell ourselves and of the things we reveal only to strangers.

Low, by Jeet Thayil

Following the death of his wife, Dominic Ullis escapes to Bombay in search of oblivion and a dangerous new drug, Meow Meow. So begins a glorious weekend of misadventure as he tours the teeming, kaleidoscopic city from its sleek eyries of high capital to the piss-stained streets, encountering a cast with their own stories to tell, but none of whom Ullis – his faculties ever distorted – is quite sure he can trust. Heady, heartbroken and heartfelt, Low is a blazing joyride through the dark lands of grief towards obliteration and, perhaps, epiphany.

Come Again, by Robert Webb

Kate still sleeps with her husband’s T-shirt, but it doesn’t smell of Luke anymore. She misses him every day. One morning, she wakes up back at college, eighteen-years-old. She realises this is the week she will meet Luke for the first time. What if the man you lost could be found again? But then, what if he doesn’t know he’s lost? Come Again is a time-travelling romance about living in the moment, love before death, and life before the internet.

The Inland Sea, by Madeleine Watts

In the early 19th century, British explorer John Oxley traversed the ten-unknown wilderness of central Australia in search of water. Two centuries later, his great-great-great-great granddaughter spends a final year in Sydney reeling from her own self-destructive obsessions. Reckless and adrift, she prepares to leave. Written with down-to-earth lucidity and ethereal breeziness, this is an unforgettable debut about coming of age in a world that seems increasingly hostile. Watts explores feminine fear, apathy and danger, building to a tightly controlled bushfire of ecological and personal crisis.

The Forgotten Sister, by Caroline Bond

A heart-rending, profoundly moving novel about protecting the ones you love from the secrets that will hurt them most.

To lose your family is heart-breaking. To be forgotten by them is unforgivable.

Cassie and Erin are sisters. They are close – in age, looks and personality – but there is one crucial difference: Cassie is adopted.

At seventeen, Cassie sets out to find her birth mother. She is hungry for the truth, but she discovers her adoption was far more complicated than even she could have imagined. In uncovering her real identity Cassie learns her adoptive parents have kept a terrible secret from her her whole life, which now threatens to destroy everything she has ever held dear.

Death is Hard Work, by Kahled Khalifa

A tale of three ordinary people embarking on a dogged, absurd quest through the nightmare of Syria’s ongoing and catastrophic civil war – with little more than simple determination.

Death Is Hard Work is a tale of three people embarking on an absurd quest – an unforgettable journey into a contemporary heart of darkness.

At a hospital in Damascus, Syria, Abdel Latif’s final wish is to be buried in the family plot near Aleppo – just a two-hour drive away. Bolbol, his youngest son, persuades his estranged brother and sister to accompany him and their father’s body to the ancestral village. But Syria is a war zone, and the trials that confront the family on their journey will have enormous consequences for them all.

The Jade Lily, by Kirsty Manning

A sweeping story of friendship, loyalty, love and identity from the popular author of The Midsummer Garden.

In 2016, fleeing London with a broken heart, Alexandra returns to Australia to be with her grandparents, Romy and Wilhelm, when her grandfather is dying. With only weeks left together, her grandparents begin to reveal the family mysteries they have kept secret for more than half a century.

In 1939, two young girls meet in Shanghai, the ‘Paris of the East’: beautiful local Li and Viennese refugee Romy form a fierce friendship. But the deepening shadows of World War Two fall over the women as Li and Romy slip between the city’s glamorous French Concession and the desperate Shanghai Ghetto. Eventually, they are forced separate ways as Romy doubts Li’s loyalties.

After Wilhelm dies, Alexandra flies to Shanghai, determined to trace her grandparents’ past. As she peels back the layers of their hidden lives, she begins to question everything she knows about her family – and herself.

A gorgeously told tale of female friendship, the price of love, and the power of hardship and courage to shape us all.