The Easter holidays, in my mind, are the perfect time to relax with a good book. It’s a time when you need just a plain good read, or perhaps something more spiritual. For me, an excellent book is one that I just can’t stop reading, whatever the genre or subject matter. Here, in my top five books for Easter, there are stories about illicit love, abandonment, espionage, murder and mysterious going on in a French village.
I hope you enjoy my book choices!
1. Jubilate by Michael Arditti
If you are looking for a spiritual read for one of your books for Easter, but aren’t necessarily religious, you cannot go wrong with novels by Michael Arditti. One of his works is actually titled, Easter, but my favourite book of his is, by far, Jubilate.
A woman wakes in a Lourdes hotel room beside her lover of just two days. She has brought her brain-damaged husband on a pilgrimage to seek a miracle cure; her lover is making a TV documentary to mark the shrine’s 150th anniversary year. Setting aside personal doubts, family ties and spiritual differences, they embark on a turbulent affair from which neither they nor those around them will emerge unchanged.
This novel is a backwards tale of a passionate, beautiful, but also an illicit love affair during a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Arditti’s excellent writing carries you through the story and you cannot put this book down before you find out what happened. There is an interview with Michael Arditti at the launch of Jubilate at England’s Lane Books, where I worked as a bookseller a few years ago. You can find it here.
2. After You Left by Carol Mason
I read After You Left in a couple of days and guessed the twist at the end a bit before it was revealed (get me). Still, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel about abandonment, families and friendships across generations. I was particularly taken by the descriptions of patients with dementia because my father is suffering from the same condition.
You want to know what the worst thing is? It’s not the embarrassment, or the looks on people’s faces when I tell them what happened. It isn’t the pain of him not being there—loneliness is manageable. The worst thing is not knowing why.
When Justin walks out on Alice on their honeymoon, with no explanation apart from a cryptic note, Alice is left alone and bewildered, her life in pieces.
Then she meets Evelyn, a visitor to the gallery where she works. It’s a seemingly chance encounter, but Alice gradually learns that Evelyn has motives, and a heartbreaking story, of her own. And that story has haunting parallels with Alice’s life.
As Alice delves into the mystery of why Justin left her, the questions are obvious. But the answers may lie in the most unlikely of places…
If you like to read two stories set decades apart in one book, add After You Left to your pile of Easter Books.
3. Transcription by Kate Atkinson
In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.
Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.
I have loved all of Kate Atkinson’s books since I first read Behind the Scenes at the Museum in, well, 1995 (that dates me!). I think she is one of the best writers working today.
4. An Empty Vessel by JJ Marsh
.JJ Marsh is known to most readers as the author of the brilliant Beatrice Stubbs European crime series, but in An Empty Vessel, JJ Marsh turns her writing skills to literary fiction.
Today’s the day Nancy Maidstone is going to hang.
In her time, she’s been a wartime evacuee, land-girl, slaughterhouse worker, supermarket assistant, Master Butcher and defendant accused of first degree murder. Now she’s a prisoner condemned to death. A first time for everything.
The case has made all the front pages. Speculation dominates every conversation from bar to barbershop to bakery. Why did she do it? How did she do it? Did she actually do it at all? Her physical appearance and demeanour in court has sparked the British public’s imagination, so everyone has an opinion on Nancy Maidstone.
The story of a life and a death, of a post-war world which never had it so good, of a society intent on a bright, shiny future, and of a woman with blood on her hands.
This is the story of Nancy Maidstone.
I am immensely excited about reading An Empty Vessel because I am a huge fan of this author. (And I do also know her). There will be a review on Goodreads, Amazon and here.
5. The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris
Who doesn’t want to escape back to the world of Chocolat? At last Joanne Harris has written a sequel, a book that’s immediately gone to the top of my to-read pile! It’s the perfect new release to enjoy as one of the books for Easter.
Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.
But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray.
The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…
I hope you enjoy some of these books and have a wonderful Easter filled with family, friends, love and lots and lots of chocolate!