Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty is another delight. Dara is an autistic teenager from Northern Ireland whose blogging about wildlife and the threats it faces has attracted support from Chris Packham and Robert Macfarlane. He records his fifteenth year in close and eloquent observations of the natural world in which he finds both intense joy and escape from his social difficulties, which include being badly bullied at school. A wildlife presenter and campaigner for the future? “This churning in me, it’s got to go somewhere."
Linda: The Golden Rule, Amanda Craig's new novel, kept me hooked with its twistiness, its likeable, brave central character, Hannah, and its mainly Cornish setting. Gothic overtones of Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast combine with a plot that owes something to Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train. As always, Amanda Craig is sharp on details of rural poverty and class inequality. Equally gripping was Celia Rees' impressive first adult novel, Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook - more next week, in a special Q&A with Celia to mark publication.
Linda: The Leopard, by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, had been on my wish list for ages, since I kept seeing it recommended on various people's life lists. Lockdown was the perfect time to read it - or rather listen to the audio version, read by David Horovitch (translated by Archibald.Colquhoun). Set in 1860s Sicily, it's the story of Sicilian prince Don Fabrizio, in his mid-40s and presiding over his family and wealthy estate. The rise of Garibaldi and the move towards unification threaten the luxurious way of life he's loth to change, yet he sees potential to adapt in his young soldier nephew, Tancredi. In some ways Don Fabrizio isn't an admirable character, but his reflections, self-justifications and thoughts of the future, together with sumptuous descriptions of palaces, social gatherings and the sweltering summer landscape, make for a compelling read.
What are your best reads of the year so far? Please tell us in the comments!