Antics of my war hero aunts


POPULAR 

THE EXCITEMENTS 

by C J Wray (Orion £18.99, 352pp)

(Orion £18.99, 352pp)

(Orion £18.99, 352pp)

This is the story of Archie and his hilarious aunts, Penny and Josephine. Nonagenarian war heroines, they’re plastered with medals and are off to Paris to accept yet another, escorted by their devoted nephew. The trip revives some difficult old memories while revealing rather naughty post-war activities.

Adorable characters, tragedy, romance, meticulously researched history and breathtaking bravery combine in a fast-paced plot which moves between the 1940s and the present.

I loved the way it dares to be funny about the war; a subject far too serious to take too seriously. As for the brilliant Penny and Josephine, if any wittier, cleverer, warmer characters emerge in novels during the whole of this year, I’ll eat my army cap.

THE VULNERABLES

(Virago £16.99, 256pp)

(Virago £16.99, 256pp)

by Sigrid Nunez (Virago £16.99, 256pp)

As global lockdown fades into the past, Covid Lit has emerged to consider its effects. This wry, thought-provoking novel is one such. Its title encompasses those at risk emotionally as well as medically. 

The unnamed and single heroine, luckier than most, ends up accidentally spending lockdown in a luxurious New York City apartment with a sexy young man and a large African parrot.

Day-by-day accounts of their conversations and activities combine with reflections on writing and anecdotes about famous writers. 

While the latter especially are interesting/entertaining, the Covid bits might not ring bells with those whose experience was more mundane.

WELLNESS 

by Nathan Hill (Picador £20, 624pp)

(Picador £20, 624pp)

(Picador £20, 624pp)

The incredible scope of this dazzlingly detailed state-of-the-nation satire almost defies description.

Pushy academics, awful childhoods, phoney art, competitive parenting, warehouse apartments, social media and predatory swingers are among the many deftly skewered targets.

At the centre are poor boy Jack and rich girl Elizabeth, both escapees from dysfunctional backgrounds who meet and marry in Chicago.

As the dream world of their courtship gives way to work, marriage struggles and raising a tricky son, every aspect of young professional coupledom is laid bare. Broken promises, explicit and implicit, are the subtext. Brilliant doesn’t begin to describe it, but I’ll say it anyway.



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