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.

All The Good Things by Clare Fisher

All The Good Things by Clare Fisher


All The Good Things is a well-written and heartbreaking novel about a young woman, Beth, who is in prison and encouraged by her therapist to write down whatever good things she can think of. Though this list and each explanation, her story emerges: how her life lead to the incident which ended up with her in prison. It is a gripping and moving book which shows how there are different sides to the story, even your own story.

The structure of the book means that events are told episodically in roughly chronological order, but with enough references early on to work out in broad strokes what has happened to Beth. As the narrative reaches these events, it becomes clear that her story is about how bad things can keep leading to more bad things, even though good things happen on a smaller scale. The novel is not particularly sensationalist despite the subject matter, but instead gives Beth real and human problems such as the way in which trauma and mental health issues affect all aspects of her life, from relationships to getting trapped in payday loans. Her narrative draws to a climax both in the story she is telling of her past and her present in the prison, as it becomes clear that she has never really been given the help she has needed.

Fisher paints a vivid and moving picture of how a person can be let down both by people and by the system, creating both a gripping novel and a stark reminder of the human cost of cuts to services for children, vulnerable people, and prisons. It is definitely one of my top books of the year so far.