What We’re Reading: April

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

During one of those imposed periods of isolation that seem to be touching us all, I took the chance to sink into a couple of novels that are on the lighter side.

Monica Ali’s latest is a generous, funny, warm-hearted story about two very different London families whose lives intersect thanks to an upcoming engagement. Yasmin and Joe have been dating for a few years but their parents have never met. We are introduced to the Ghorami family a few days before this first meeting, with Yasmin terrified that her conservative parents will put their foot in it or be offended by Joe’s single, ultra-feminist mother Harriet. That first meeting, however, goes off without a hitch and soon the families become very close, exposing deeply held secrets on all sides as they do. Between Yasmin’s medical training at a busy hospital and her out-of-control brother Arif, her relationship seems like the easiest thing in her life — but things are about to get very complicated. 

This novel felt like a big hug from a kind and intelligent friend. The characters continually surprise and evade easy stereotypes, and Ali presents a portrait of modern London (and modern relationships!) that will resonate with many people. 

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

Sometimes all you want is a ludicrous murder mystery and TV writer Benjamin Stevenson’s new book is just that. Described as a cross between And Then There Were None and Knives Out, this is a clever and amusing homage to classic crime writing. Our narrator, Ernest, is a failed novelist himself and now makes a crust selling how-to-write-crime books on the internet. When his aunt arranges a family reunion in the snow, he feels compelled to go — even though, as the title suggests, his family are a pack of murderers.

Playing strictly by Ronald Knox’s Commandments of crime, Ernest gives the reader all the clues they might need to solve the slew of crimes that occur across the novel, but the plot is sufficiently twisty to keep even the keenest-eyed armchair detective guessing. With a breezy, conversational tone, Stevenson gallops through crimes past and present in a way that will greatly please fans of Midsummer Murders or Richard Osman.  

Leela —

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head, by Warsan Shire

This month I’ve been reading poetry, and Warsan Shire’s latest release Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in her Head is a standout. Depicting the experiences of Somali refugees in London, the collection explores how young girls grow up, sometimes with adults who, themselves victims of trauma and control, are unable to provide all they need. Despite this, the poems celebrate refuge in sisterhood, enduring maternal lines, and custom. I was really captured by the sense of dipping between grounded and weightless experience as the daughters navigate what it means to have autonomy over their bodies and identities. Scattered throughout the collection are poems that dive into historic events, interweaving the embodiment of key figures with the girls’ own and placing them in a larger narrative.

Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in her Head covers a lot of ground but maintains a clear sense of these women and their power. I’ll definitely return to this collection.