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Madeleine Spencer's best books for holiday reading

December 22nd 2019 / Madeleine Spencer / 0 comment

Our beauty columnist is also something of a bookworm with a penchant for well-written sagas, scandalous reads and dark tales (we're always asking her for recommendations at GTG). Here's what she's curling up with

When you’re inside at this time of year with some time on your hands, it’s really nice to hunker down with a good read. I’d like to share with you 11 books I think would be perfect in these darker days and that would also make great gifts for the right person. As a writer myself I really care about how well written a book is and this is a common theme among my choices.

I hope you enjoy snuggling up with a good read. Let us know in the comments if you’ve read any of them, what you think and what other great reads you’d recommend.

1. Emmeline Pankhurst: My Own Story: The Origins of The Suffragettes, £8.99

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“I thought this would be a bit dense, but I wanted to read it because I was interested in the life of Emmeline Pankhurst - she was so instrumental in the suffragette movement. I have to say it’s an absorbing read and quite a page-turner.”

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2. Lace by Shirley Conran, £9.99

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“At the opposite end of the spectrum and quite raunchy is this book, which the writer Rebecca Reid bought me for my birthday and which I read last year at Christmas. It’s huge, but if you want to fall into a story, it is an absolutely fantastic and glamorous international saga. It was one of the best-selling books of the 1980s.”

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3. Perfect Liars by Rebecca Reid, £5.75

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"I liked that all the characters in this thriller are the people you recognise - but they all have sinister edges. It centres on three women who were all at boarding school together and whose lives are still enmeshed - and not always in a good way - 16 years on. It’s totally absorbing and I read it one sitting of six or seven hours.”

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4. About a Boy by Nick Hornby, £8.35

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“I love watching the film, especially at this time of the year. If you like the film you’ll definitely like the novel - it’s slightly different but not too much. It’s very funny and is about a laddish serial singleton Will, 36, who goes to a single parents' support group to meet women. He hooks up with the suicidal mother of introverted and slightly oddball 12-year-old Marcus. Their relationship is funny, charming - essentially they help each other grow up and face life’s difficulties.”

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5. Madness: Tales of Fear and Unreason by Roald Dahl £8.44

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“I think short stories are fantastic on these dark days. You can pick up an anthology at 4pm and finish a story by 4.30pm, which I find really satisfying. Adult fans of Dahl's children’s books will love this, although these stories deal with the darker side of humanity."

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6. This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay, £4.50

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“In case you haven’t read this memoir of Kay’s life on the gynae ward it’s everything everyone says it – funny and moving. There is a homeless character in it called MJ, which is definitely my favourite story.”

Buy it now

7. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon, £7.19

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“Two amazing women – mother and daughter – whose stories are told superbly well in alternating chapters. Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer in the late 1700s and was a scandalous woman who got pregnant out of wedlock and forged her own path supporting herself through writing. She died giving birth to her second child Mary Godwin, who went on to become Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. You learn so much but it’s also funny and very engrossing. I have recommended this to loads of people who have loved it.”

Buy it now

8. Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy £7.99

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“If you are after a classic and want something that’s beautifully crafted and extremely moving, try this, although I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re feeling a bit blue already. Jude has this entrepreneurial spirit and wants to better himself but is trapped in the circumstances of his life. It still resonates today. There are pages I go back to time and again and I even have a tattoo of a quote from it on my wrist.”

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9. The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig £7.99

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“This is a novella so quick to read. Zweig puts his characters into interesting psychological situations. Here a young girl lives who lives in an attic and works in a post office is suddenly whisked away to Switzerland by her aunt, where she discovers that life can be full of pleasure and joy. But suddenly it’s gone. I’ll leave you to find out the consequences…”

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10. What Happens Now? by Sophia Money Coutts, £7.99

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“This is a really jaunty and uplifting. A woman gets pregnant on a one night stand (the man in question is quite foxy) and has to figure out what to do next. It’s a bit Bridget Jonesy, set in the modern day with characters you know and love. Sophia is a really confident writer and you’ll whisk through this.”

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11.The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch £8.62

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This won the Booker Prize and when I recommended this at the book club I run (which is made up of all sorts of people) everyone unanimously agreed that it was fantastic and something they would keep on their shelf for the rest of their lives. It’s about a man who retires from the London theatre and moves to the seaside. All his eccentric friends decide to join him. He bumps into the woman who was the love of his life and who he thought he’d lost. Eccentric and fun.”

Buy it now

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