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Five Books chosen by Luke Wright

A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

I could include any number of Waugh’s book’s here as I return to them time and time again. A Handful of Dust is his best imho. It manages to be both hilarious and devastating, terrifying even. There was an alternative ending written for the American market due to copyright issues. The original ending had been published earlier as a short story called ‘The Man Who Liked Dickens’. Both endings are great, but I recommend reading the earlier version with the man who liked Dickens, it’s fabulously sinister.

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

I’ve just finished reading this brilliant satire on the publishing industry and diversity. I read it all in a day; I can’t remember a time when a book slipped down so easily. June Hayward is your unreliable narrator, a down-on-her-luck novelist who makes a series of terrible decisions in this romp through literary scandal, cancelling, and diversity - you’ll want to turn away but you won’t be able to.

All Amongst the Barley by Melissa Harrison

Another book I’ve read recently and adored. I can’t remember the last time I loved a protagonist as much as Edie Mather. This coming of age story, set in 1930s rural Suffolk, has echoes of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and a deep love of the countryside and nature. Harrison is such a skilled writer and I could have basked in the world she recreates forever. This is quality stuff, and Suffolk is lucky to be able to call Melissa Harrison one of her own.

Any Human Heart by William Boyd

I’ve read all of Boyd’s books. His whole life books are the best, they leave me in bits every time, and Any Human Heart is probably my favourite (although The Romantic is also stunning). Any Human Heart tells the story of Logan Mountstuart, writer, spy, lover, and in so doing the story of Britain’s 20th century. I’m a total sucker for kind of thing, whilst also being aware that it speaks from a very white and male point of view. Still it makes me weep like a child.

Summoned by Bells by John Betjeman

I could have included any Betjeman, or any Larkin for that matter, but there is something about Summoned by Bells that makes me keep returning to it. It's nostalgic for time that had already passed by the time Betjeman wrote it in the fifties - namely his childhood in Edwardian England, and evokes for me a lost world that is the engine of much of my imagination. To go full circle to the first author I chose, Evelyn Waugh once said: ‘Everything one most loves in one’s own country seems only to be the survival of an age one has not oneself seen’. Which is one way of putting it.


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