I may have been closed since before Christmas (argh), but I’ve managed to read some brilliant books.

Two of these were for the book group I run on the Book Corner Saltburn Facebook page. Our read in January was Should We Fall Behind by Sharon Duggal, published by Bluemoose Books in Hebden Bridge. This novel follows the daily lives of a diverse cast of characters in the same urban area. It’s full of humanity and compassion, and many small acts of kindness and bravery can be found within its pages.

Our February choice was The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott. This is an historical spy novel set in the late 1950s, and tells the story behind the publication of Doctor Zhivago, and how it was smuggled back into Russia by the Americans. There are two interwoven storylines: one in Russia, told primarily from the point of view of Olga (the author Boris Pasternak’s lover), and the other set in Washington DC, from the points of view of agents Irina and Anna, and the women in the typing pool where they work. I particularly loved the strong female characters and the two very different settings. This is a gripping novel, with an intriguing premise, and interesting characters whom the author uses to explore societal attitudes of the time.

In non-fiction, I loved Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Camille Laurens. This poignant essay places Degas’ famous sculpture in its historical and cultural context of Belle Epoque Paris. Laurens aims to uncover who the ‘little dancer’ really was, which isn’t easy, as details of the life of Marie van Goethem are obscure.

I’ve been fascinated by the world of the Paris Opera for many years, and it was interesting to read an account which makes no attempt to romanticise it. The theatrical world portrayed in the book is harsh, and life there was hard, but Laurens still tells the story beautifully, and her passion for the subject shines through. It has made me want to find out more about this fascinating world.

Finally, a piece of complete escapism. Before Christmas, I watched the Netflix series Dash and Lily, which I loved for its humour, its portrayal of festive New York, and the fact that it’s partly set in a bookshop. In January I decided to read the YA book that inspired it: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. The story is told from the alternate viewpoints of teenagers Dash and Lily, and I particularly loved Dash, who is a masterclass in how to write a grumpy, cynical character while still making him likeable. Also, the characters love books, which is a huge bonus!

All of these books can be purchased from Book Corner, either through my online shop or by contacting me directly.

Happy reading!