Highlights in the Charts
The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
Review by Lauren Fardoe
Thursday Murder Club explores life, death and a revival for elder individuals deemed past their prime. Richard Osman’s debut novel does not fail to disappoint: an engaging and witty narrative centring around the adventures of four elderly residents of a retirement village. This is a classic murder mystery ‘whodunnit’ with a refreshing, comedic twist!
Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron form the Thursday Murder Club to investigate historic, closed crimes, using their combined knowledge from their individual earlier careers – ex-police, previous nurse, psychiatrist and left-wing trade unionist respectively. When murder occurs on their doorstop, they have the opportunity to put their skills to use. As the main murder case unravels, the local police band together with the Thursday Murder Club to uncover the truth.
The presence of younger characters in the novel and the subtle romantic subplots makes a great addition to the older characters, contributing to the book’s buoyant ambiance.
Osman’s use of a split-narrative technique refreshes the novel and highlights the complexity of its various sub-plots. A first-person diary narrative from eighty-year-old Joyce gives a fresh perspective on the different residents of the retirement village. The third-person narratives of the other characters reveal their intentions and present new evidence; property developer Ian Ventham is presented as slimy and mistrustful from others' view, yet from his own view appears perfectly reasonable.
A light-hearted, funny novel, I enjoyed the eccentric aspects of the book, however, at times, the sub-plots revealed a darker underlying nature, such as a fifty-year-old murder stemming from engrained misogynistic values and the perils of drug money crimes.
Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan
Review by Robyn Hewson
Acts of Desperation is a love story, but not the typical kind. It’s a depiction of love at its very worst: obsessive, painful and desperate. Hailed as a Stylist Book of 2021 and already optioned for a screen adaption, Megan Nolan’s exceptional debut has quickly risen to bestseller status.
Set in Dublin and with an Irish female protagonist, the novel has inevitably been compared to Sally Rooney, and in particular Normal People. However, with its exploration of self-harm, adultery and toxic relationships, I found the novel was more similar to Rooney’s earlier work Conversations with Friends.
The story is centred around an unnamed protagonist and her relationship with an Irish-Danish poet named Ciaran. It’s clear straight away that there’s an uneven power dynamic in their relationship, with the protagonist admitting she ‘worships’ Ciaran while he mainly acts indifferent towards her.
The descriptions of Ciaran’s cruel and, at times abusive, behaviour towards the protagonist are often uncomfortable to read, but Nolan’s portrayal of obsession and devotion is unflinchingly honest and raw.
Acts of Desperation also explores female sexual desire and the way it is policed and exploited. At one point, the protagonist lies about how many sexual partners she has had to appease Ciaran and in another scene, he becomes enraged when they bump into someone she once slept with.
Despite exploring similar themes, one key difference between Conversations with Friends and Acts of Desperation is the darkly humorous edge to Nolan’s writing. The protagonist is self-deprecating and relatable as she reveals her deepest secrets to the reader.
Nolan’s debut novel is a compelling exploration of love and toxic relationships and I will be eagerly awaiting the screen adaption.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Review by Arabella Petts
“No matter how we choose to live, we both die at the end.”
Imagine you are told you only have twenty-four hours to live. What would you do with your time left on earth?
They Both Die at the End is a coming-of-age novel about living life to the fullest. In the early hours of the morning, Mateo and Rufus receive phone calls from Death-Cast with some bad news – they’re going to die today. Faced with a terrifying day ahead, they both turn to Last Friend, an app specifically made for those wanting to make a new friend on their End Day. Although they are total strangers, the two teenagers decide to meet up for one incredible last adventure – to live a lifetime in a single day.
With a passionate queer love story and a heart-breaking narrative, it’s no surprise that this has become one of the most loved stories amongst young people today, from going viral on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, to becoming an international bestselling novel.
They Both Die at the End is a moving book with an important message that despite our problems, we can find love, friendship and have a fulfilling life, no matter how long it may be. The story gives us a new outlook on what it means to live and what it means to die, and will give many young people the motivation to take their lives into their own hands and live with no regrets.