Quick book picks for June

Only a few books this month, mostly a very modern and relevant selection, as well as one mostly set in flashback in the nineties. They all look at some intense situations in different ways and styles, making them engrossing reads for ignoring the sun/World Cup/anything else.

  • Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton – An emphatic recommendation for anyone who likes literary thrillers like American Psycho or The Talented Mr Ripley, but wishes they were more female-led and up to date. Social Creature presents a New York millenial hell as Louise is pulled into the money- and party- filled world of Lavinia and then things start to go wrong.
  • Promising Young Women by Caroline O’Donoghue – Another one this month exposing the modern world, as the London workplace is dissected and its effects upon mental health and upholding a male-dominated culture are shown through Jane’s sudden promotion at an advertising job.
  • Run, Riot by Nikesh Shukla – This is a young adult book that tells the story of twins Taran and Hari and their fight to expose the injustice in the system that is putting them, their friends, and the tower block they call home at risk. It is like a British version of The Hate U Give, showing that YA fiction can highlight racism, gentrification, and police corruption sometimes more powerfully than novels aimed at adults.
  • A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better by Benjamin Wood – A distinctively written novel that tells the story of trauma and how it continues to affect an individual, as Daniel looks back on the violence of his father during an erratic road trip.

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better by Benjamin Wood

A Station on the Path to Somewhere Better is an unnerving and raw novel about the aftereffects of violence and trauma. One morning in 1995, Daniel and his estranged father Francis set off on a road trip that is meant to help fix their relationship. Daniel’s mother doesn’t think it will, thinking that Francis will slide into his usual unpredictable ways. The further Daniel and his father drive, the more this turns out to be a trip unlike any other, and soon his father’s desperation and violence will be fully unleashed, and Daniel will bear the scars of these few days for the rest of his life.

It is hard to know what to expect from this novel when you start, but it quickly sets up the looking back on trauma and a tense situation that the narrator has obsessed over ever since. The story is not simple: Daniel tells it as remembered, but also with lies and bias and an intertwined audiobook that was engrained into the events. This makes the style intense and often visceral, but also musing on the impact of memory and how things are viewed by different people. The novel feels distinctive and unusual, menacing and focused on the description of the everyday English landscapes forever tied to violence for Daniel.

Wood’s novel is worth reading even if the sound of it doesn’t immediately grab your attention: it is more than its summary, an unnerving read that uses unreliability to depict childhood trauma and a lingering menace to build suspense for what must inevitably come.