The Book of Wonders by Julien Sandrel

The Book of Wonders: The perfect feel-good novel for summer 2019! is a definitive up-lit read that tells the story of Thelma, a career-obsessed mother and her twelve-year-old son Louis. Thelma’s world is turned upside down when she is out with Louis one day in their hometown of Paris. Louis gets run over and ends up in hospital in a coma. As a consequence of this tragic accident, Thelma decides to quit her dissatisfying job and spends all day at Louis’s hospital bedside.

Thelma discovers Louis’s Book of Wonders, his notebook, where he has recorded his hopes and dreams for the future. As Louis is unable to carry out these dreams and wishes himself, Thelma decides to carry them out for him then record them and play them back to Louis in hospital so he can experience them second-hand. Of course, the results of her endeavours are both hilarious and nerve-wracking (depending on the kind of task that it is).

The Book of Wonders is at times heart-breaking (you’ll need tissues) and at other times joyful. The plot is simple but highly effective and the characters are very well drawn. It is no surprise that it has done hugely well in France. Comparisons have already been made with Eleanor Oliphant and the subject matter and excellent characterisation by Sandrel will I’m sure, ensure that it does just as well in the UK and across the world.

The most powerful message that you take away from this book is that life is too important to spend time working in a job which you despise and where no one really appreciates you. Time should instead be spend with friends and family that you love and respect and who love and respect you in turn, as life is short. The ending of the book itself is unexpected and a lovely touch (I won’t spoil it by giving it away). The Book of Wonders is a definite must read that will touch your heart and restore your faith in humanity.

Skin by Liam Brown

Skin is the third dystopian novel I’ve read recently so I feel like I’m on a dystopian roll at the moment but realise that the increase in dystopian fiction is due to the state of the world we’re living in which looks increasingly uncertain and bleak. In times of heightened uncertainty, a desire for control takes over and control is one of the key themes in Skin. Skin is the fourth book Liam Brown has published and it is an assured and confident read.

Skin is set in a future UK. A global virus has wiped out many populations and martial law prevails. It turns out that the virus is caused by touch as people have become allergic to other people’s skin dander. The only remedy for survival is to live in completely incubated sterilized rooms separate from family members. To ensure the population continues, women donate eggs to a fertility service that are artificially fertilised by donor sperm. People are not really allowed to venture outside as it is considered too dangerous, but if they do so, they must wear a full hazmat suit and spend time afterwards in a quarantine room at the entrance of their home.

We observe Angela, a middle aged mother of teenagers, the fitness crazed Amber and the surly computer obsessed Charlie. She works from home in marketing and her husband, Charlie works for a firm that creates virtual reality experiences for rich clients. They communicate once a day through a computer screen.

The prospect of having an opportunity to venture outside by joining the neighbourhood watch team is too great a chance for Angela to miss and she relishes the opportunity to do so. On one of her patrols she notices how much nature has taken over the ruined landscape of the city. She meets the rebel, Jazz or Jason Freeman, an alternative young man who lives in an abandoned school and wears no hazmat suit. Is he perhaps the answer the world has been looking for? A person immune to the deadly virus? I can’t really say anymore without giving the game away but I will say that this is a thrilling read that is beautifully written. It certainly brings up a lot of questions and is relevant to today’s society in that we are becoming an increasingly digitised world but levels of loneliness and social isolation are increasing too in kind. It seems the more connected we become to our screens the more disconnected we become from one another. This is a huge message that pervades through this book though there are others too that you’ll have to discover when you read it for yourself!