In the buzzing award-winning book-shop, The MainStreet Trading Company in St Boswell’s, I caught up with the inspirational founder Roz de la Hey. The burning question that I knew she could answer was “which books were her top tips to enjoy this autumn?”
Although, not an easy question to answer, these are her top 7 (it was going to be 5 but that was too tricky!)
The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson
Yes! You have heard of the author – it is the news-readers first book and according to Roz an outstanding first novel. It is based on an historical event, the kidnapping of 400 Icelandic inhabitants who are taken to Algiers and the story of what befalls them. It is full of the spice, heat and rich colours of Algiers in the 17th century contrasting with the cold rugged origins of the inhabitants.
The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
Set in the 1950’s in Maine U.S.A. Through the lens of a pre-feminist American society and its expectations, it is the story of a difficult marriage and the effects on the characters of a terrible and terrifying fire. It explores themes of intense friendship, rage and humour and is a great read although the cover picture doesn’t perhaps give a flavour of the book!
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Sally Rooney is a new talent who is worth looking up, with an easy to read style but with a talent for subtly capturing characters in a fascinating, touching and believable way. The conversations take place between 4 friends. They slowly reveal more themselves and about the bonds between each of them and the outside world. The themes of love and friendship and an insight into being a girl in post financial crash Dublin, make it a good read!
This is going to hurt by Adam Kay
Now this is one that I have already read and loved! Adam Kay revisits his diaries from his days as a junior doctor in training on gynaecology wards. It is laugh out loud funny but with some shocking and thought provoking moments. It was recommended by a GP friend to my daughter while she was applying to study medicine as a good insight into the life she hopes to lead but it is relevant to us all. I would recommend to all adults.
Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean
Geraldine McCaughrean takes a true event from the year 1727 and imagines how the characters in her story coped. Apparently abandoned on a remote island where the men annually harvest seabirds, it is a story of survival against the elements, boys becoming men with a touch of Lord of the Flies and is a gripping read with every chapter ending on a cliff hanger. It is aimed at the teenage market but also makes a good read for adults with a sense of adventure.
I am I am I am - Maggie O’Farrell
Each of the 17 chapters reads like a short story and details the author’s close shaves with death. As Roz puts it “it has all of Maggie’s literary genius in bite-size pieces”. It is a step away from her usual fiction into reality, which is no less terrifying, all relayed with a wonderful eye for detail. The point of the book however is to remind us that life is for the living because nobody knows what’s around the corner.
Educated by Tara Westover
Roz declared “this might be my book of the year!” – Well, now I’ve got to read it! It is the memoir of the author who grew up in a Mormon community where educating girls and any medical intervention were despised, and follows her as she leaves her heritage to live in the outside world. She educates herself and makes it to Harvard and Cambridge while learning to cope with 21st Century America. To begin with she is even shocked by other students who leave their top shirt button open! She has a lyrical style which is utterly absorbing.
Roz could have suggested many other books, so perhaps we should revisit later in the autumn. As she was leaving she mentioned “oh and of course there is the biography of Princess Margaret – Ma’am Darling by Craig Brown which is great too!”
The MainStreet Trading Company – Bookshop, Café, Deli and Home is at
Main Street, St Boswells Scottish Borders TD6 0AT (closed Mondays)