Quick book picks for February

Escape the bleakness of February with some new books. Many of my choices are tackling some hard-hitting subjects in varied and interesting ways. Titles link to full reviews as usual.

  • The House of Impossible Beauties by Joseph Cassara – A raw novel about LGBT life in NYC from the 1970s to the 1990s that weaves together characters whilst placing them firmly in real LGBT history (a good pick for February being UK LGBT History Month).
  • The Hoarder by Jess Kidd – The story of a woman who works as a carer for an eccentric old man and is drawn into the mystery surrounding him in his weird house.
  • Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan – A road trip tragicomedy about friends dealing with PTSD, war, and traumatic childhood events, which often feels like a specific kind of indie film.
  • Home by Amanda Berriman – This novel about the housing crisis and sexual assault told from the point of view of a four-year-old is a tough but also sweet look at life using a distinctive voice.
  • Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh – A quirky book about food and eating, with a style that won’t suit everyone but will appeal to Tandoh’s many Twitter fans.

Home by Amanda Berriman

A child’s view of the housing crisis: Home by Amanda Berriman

Home is a moving and hard-hitting novel about a little girl and her family. Jesika is four and lives with her mum and her baby brother Toby in a flat that her mum calls a dump. She’s not allowed to touch the broken window and the scary money man is threatening to evict them. When Toby and her mum’s coughs get worse, Jesika finds herself away from home. All she wants is to be back at home, but her new friend Paige has a secret that Jesika isn’t sure if she should tell.

Told from the point of view of Jesika, the novel immerses the reader in her world and in the stark realities of the housing crisis. It doesn’t take long to get into the book’s style and understand the quirks in the way that a four year old sees the world, including the serious issues that she can’t quite grasp. Berriman uses campaigns and support for Shelter and the NSPCC to highlight real problems, including homelessness and sexual abuse, mixing this with heart and with a memorable protagonist.

With similarities to Kit de Waal’s My Name Is Leon, Emma Donoghue’s Room, and Allie Rogers’ Little Gold, this is a heartbreaking novel that uses a distinctive style and voice to show what children do and don’t understand about their situation and to present the housing crisis in a memorable and real way.