Sally Rooney’s Normal People has bounced back to the top of the bestseller lists. This is not surprising after the successful TV dramatisation which is now available on BBC iPlayer.
The novel was first published in January 2018 and hit the bestseller charts mid 2019. It won the Costa Novel Award in 2018 and became a New York Times bestseller in 2019. The novel tells the story of first love between two young people, Connell and Marianne, who changed each other’s lives. It starts as they attend the same secondary school in County Sligo and then moves to Dublin as they both study at Trinity College. It is set during the post 2008 Irish economic downturn.
The jury is out on whether you should read the book first or see the TV series first. I read the book a couple of years ago and absolutely loved the TV dramatization.
Number two in the charts is another returning title: The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller. This is a beautifully illustrated hardback book about Charlie and his four unlikely friends. Their conversations introduce the reader to a number of important life lessons. Charles Mackesy has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press.
Number three is Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing, the third 2019 title returning to the charts in lockdown. This title appeared in the Barnes Book Group charts. It was first published in 2018 in the US. Delia Owens is a retired wildlife biologist. The original print-run was about 28,000 but by the end of 2019 this absorbing tale of an isolated girl’s coming of age in the marshes of North Carolina had sold more than four and a half million copies – in 2019 Owens sold more books than any other author in the US.
The Guardian: “Surprise bestsellers are often works that chime with the times. Though set in the 1950s and 60s, Where the Crawdads Sing is, in its treatment of racial and social division and the fragile complexities of nature, obviously relevant to contemporary politics and ecology. But these themes will reach a huge audience through the writer’s old-fashioned talents for compelling character, plotting and landscape description”.
A new title that is doing well is Lockdown by bestselling crime writer Peter May. May wrote this book 15 years ago but it has only just been published. It combines a devastating pandemic with a gripping murder mystery plot, London is in lockdown under martial law, only essential workers are allowed to leave their homes, a hospital is being built by the River Thames to contain the thousands of victims of a flu-like epidemic. It had been described as ‘both prophetic and unnerving.’ – The Observer.
The novel was rejected by his publisher in 2005 as ‘extremely unrealistic and unreasonable’! May has described himself as “extremely creeped out” by how similar the current crisis is to his treatment.
A different kind of lockdown title which is available to download free is Nosy Crow’s Coronavirus: A book for children. This book was written soon after lockdown by Nosy Crow’s chief executive, Kate Wilson, with help from Professor Graham Medley and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
The book is currently being updated to reflect new face-mask rules and back to school activity. It is aimed at 5 to 9 year-olds looking for answers to the following questions:
What is the coronavirus?
How do you catch it?
What happens if you catch it?
Why are people worried about catching it?
Is there a cure?
What can I do to help?
What happens next?