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Highlights in the Charts

Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn

Review by Natalie Beckett

Natasha Lunn’s Top Ten Sunday Times Bestseller (initially published in July last year) came out in paperback on 3 February 2022 with a new, hot-pink cover. Lunn, who is also the Features Director at RED Magazine has been on a quest to understand the truth about love for quite some time now, and interviewing writers and experts on the topic is the way she has been finding her answers. In this book, which builds on her bi-weekly newsletter that goes by the same name, Lunn speaks to everyone from philosopher and writer Alain de Botton to sex educator Emily Nagoski, to confront three colossal questions: How do we find love? How do we sustain love? And how do we survive when we lose love?

Lunn’s eclectic range of interviewees and insightful questioning makes for a page-turning read about the emotion that we all can’t stop obsessing about – whether it’s Phillippa Perry’s analogy that, at our core, humans are “pack animals” and there is no shame in not wanting to be alone; Lunn’s discussion with Roxanne Gay on how the unrealistic and limited way love is defined by popular culture is nothing but indulgent “mythology;” her question for marriage-counsellor Esther Perel on whether the institution of marriage still has merit in the modern world; or her conversation with Dolly Alderton, where she discusses the ways motherhood is too often the root of division in female friendships.

Binding one interview to another is Lunn’s own reflections and experiences on matters of the heart. Most striking is her honesty about the challenges she herself has faced on her journey to motherhood. This running narrative, along with the question “What do you wish you’d known about love” which she asks at the end of each interview, give the book a natural structure and allow us to accompany Lunn on her journey of exploration.

While romantic love inevitably takes up a significant amount of space, Lunn is careful to go beyond this and she also delves into the depths of parental love, friendships, siblinghood and love of work or purpose. This broader analysis of love is not only refreshing but also underpins one of the key takeaways: we, as humans, are not fulfilled by one singular form of love or relationship. Lunn consistently reminds us of this and stresses the importance of striking a balance in the attention and pressure that we place on our relationships. This can mean anything from continuing to prioritise our friendships to acknowledging that the people we love will inevitably change and consciously embracing the small moments and reasons that we fell in love with someone in the first place.

While it would be impossible for this book to hold all the answers, it does a pretty good job and the delightful spattering of tips, thoughtful musings and relatable confessions are, if nothing else, good for the heart.

If We Were Villains by M.L Rio

Review by Arabella Petts

The story begins with our protagonist, Oliver, as he is being released from a ten-year prison sentence for a murder he may or may not have committed. The police detective that arrested him, now retired, returns to him asking for answers of what truly happened on that fateful night ten years ago.

We then go back in time to ten years prior, where we hear the story from Oliver’s perspective and meet a group of seven pretentious Shakespearean scholars who attend a prestigious, private school for the arts. There’s Oliver: the protagonist, a sweet and kind person; James: the popular one, and Oliver’s roommate; Alexander: the stoner; Richard: the mean one; Meredith: the sexy one and Richard’s girlfriend; Wren: the girl next door and Richard’s cousin; and, finally, Filippa: the mysterious one.

One night, their lives change when they come together with a decision that alters their fate. We see the events of that evening a decade ago and how it changed everyone’s lives in the months afterwards.

Each character is typecast in their school plays, making it hard to determine where their acting ends and their true personalities begin. The book is split into five acts, with each one highlighting a different Shakespeare play – one which sets the tone for what is about to unfold in that act. From A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Julius Caesar; King Lear to Romeo and Juliet, the book includes the themes, motifs, and dialogues from the plays in the text of the book, which draw us further into the characterisation and their typecasts.

If We Were Villains is enjoyable and still makes sense even if you haven’t read any of Shakespeare’s works, but can be experienced in a completely different way if you have. This book is a perfect homage to theatre and classic literature and (I hope) is on its way to becoming a modern classic.



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