From Philadelphia's high society to the tough streets of 1950s Naples, I love getting caught up in novels and I've been reading a lot of fiction lately. Although they're all quite different, what these books have in common are strong characters that you really get invested in. If you like character-driven books, then these are for you.
When I tell you what this book is about it's going to sound incredibly dull but it's really not, I promise. The Signature of All Things is the story of a 19th century female botanist from Philadelphia, Alma Whitaker, who dedicates her life to studying mosses. Dealing with everything from scientific discovery and the existence of God to unrequited love, it's engaging, funny and so well written. I was hooked from the first page.
Recommended by a friend (thanks Ben!), this book is a series of letters from Nina Stibbe to her sister in the late 1980s when she worked as a nanny at the home of the editor of the London Review of Books. Through Nina's funny anecdotes and snippets of dialogue, the characters in this North London literary community are brought to life. I read it in one sitting and totally loved it.
Everything I Never Told You begins with the disappearance of 16-year-old Lydia Lee. It's part crime novel and part family drama, as her parents and siblings try to understand what happened to her. Central to the story are the racial tensions they face as a mixed race family living in small-town America in the 1970s. If you liked Serial, then you'll love this.
I like to read books set in the places we visit and this was my pick for Italy. My Brilliant Friend centres around the friendship and rivalry of two girls growing up in a poor, violent neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples during the 1950s. This is the first of four books about Elena and Lila's lifelong friendship and I can't wait to read the others.
As always, if you have any recommendations (especially for non-fiction) I'd love to hear them. And you can catch up on my previous book reviews here.