Quick book picks for June

Summer is finally here and, more importantly, a whole load of fantastic books are coming out this month. I was spoilt for choice as a number of these are some of the best of 2017 thus far. As ever, I’ve included short descriptions and links to longer reviews in the titles.

  • All The Good Things by Clare Fisher – One of my books of the year so far, this story of a young woman in prison who is trying to remember the good things that have happened in her life alongside the bad is a powerful modern tale of the system failing somebody and a moving assertion that good things can be found anywhere.
  • Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney – A biting and clever novel about a student in Dublin who performs poetry with her best friend and ex-girlfriend, and then the two meet a married couple and get entwined in their life. Witty look at being a twentysomething in great prose.
  • Phone by Will Self – The anarchic, not-for-everyone new book by Will Self, which follows the spy life and long-running affair with a high-ranking soldier of Jonathan De’Ath, aka The Butcher. It mocks espionage, plays around with language and acronyms, and is very darkly satiric.
  • Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel – An emotional YA novel that focuses on grief, positivity, and friendship, whilst being uplifting yet not cloying.
  • A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath – The novel tells the simultaneous stories of a young girl in 80s Ireland who wants to be a boxer, a gynaecologist in 2012 dealing with work pressures and her ill mother, and a girl in Maryland running away after the death of her mother. A fantastic read that depicts finding home and knowing who you are.
  • No Good Deed by John Niven (review to come) – Another darkly comic story, this time about a successful writer who helps out an old friend who is down on his luck—and then finds out the limits of his good deeds. It shows the ups and downs of friendship whilst mocking the upper-middle-classes and their views and lifestyles.

A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath

Running away and finding home: A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath


A History of Running Away is a striking and unforgettable novel with three different narratives that weave their way to show how running away can help you find homes you never knew you had. The most substantial of these is Jasmine’s attempts in the 1980s to escape her small town Irish home for a big city, which does not go as planned. The other two are set in 2012 and follow a gynaecologist dealing with the pressures of working in an Irish hospital and worrying about her ill mother and a girl in Maryland running away after the death of her mother. These stories unfold in a gripping and honest way, showing how finding out who you are can be a difficult process.

McGrath’s writing makes for a tense read. The book’s structure, cutting between the narratives but allowing for a large amount of Jasmine’s to run through the centre of the book, draws comparisons between the acts of running away whilst allowing the characters’ other connections to come through. The novel’s backdrop is the political and social events of the worlds in which the characters live, from Irish abortion laws in the present day to racism and gender restrictions in 1980s Dublin. It is a book that doesn’t shy away from the issues that the characters face, but also doesn’t define them by those issues.

Jasmine’s narrative is the most engaging, as her story is followed through her repeated running away and attempts to work out what she wants to do and whether it is even possible to achieve those goals. Her friendship with Nigerian medical student George as he teaches her to box is a particular highlight, showing how an unlikely acquaintance can have a huge influence.

A History of Running Away is a fantastic read for anybody who enjoys well-written, character-centred books, particularly those which span time periods to show common themes and social issues, and those which focus upon a variety of women.