Bookcase: Reviews include The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller and The Comfort Book by Matt Haig - The Stratford Observer
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13th Aug, 2022

Bookcase: Reviews include The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller and The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Stratford Editorial 19th Jul, 2021

THIS week’s bookcase includes reviews of The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller and The Comfort Book by Matt Haig.

Pick your poison from this week’s books – whether you fancy a warm hug of a read, or a high-octane thriller…


1. The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller is published in hardback by Viking, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

The Paper Palace is a constant backdrop in Elle’s life.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller. Picture: Viking/PA.

A run-down holiday home resting on the shore of one of Cape Cod’s unspoilt ponds, it is where she spent her summers growing up: where she had her first kiss, found her first love and where she now takes her own children in the summer months.

But there is something darker lurking in the waters of Elle’s past, something that tore her life apart.

Over 24 hours we watch Elle’s life unfold, as she prepares for a decision that could change her world forever – to take back what she lost, or to keep living the beautiful lie she spent so long constructing.

A family drama, a forbidden love story, a childhood tragedy, The Paper Palace is a stunning literary debut that will eat you up and leave you reeling – you won’t want it to end.


(Review by Scarlett Sangster)

2. Hostage by Clare Mackintosh is published in hardback by Sphere, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99). Available now

A voice in Mina’s head says a lot can happen in 20 hours, as she prepares to join the crew for the first non-stop flight from London to Sydney.

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh. Picture: Sphere/PA.

She was right. What follows is a turbulent series of shocking events and a journey that keeps the reader guessing until the final chapter.

Mina discovers a note after the plane takes off, threatening the life of her five-year-old daughter, who is soon to be at the centre of a violent, unfolding drama at home with her policeman father and the family’s nanny.

Chapters swing between different passengers on the flight, who have wildly different plans for visiting the Sydney Opera House.

We have big expectations for the North Wales-based author’s next book, considering the supersonic storyline of Hostage.


(Review by Alan Jones)

3. Gunk Baby by Jamie Marina Lau is published in hardback by W&N, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

It’s hard to distill the plot of Gunk Baby, because there really isn’t much of one.

Gunk Baby by Jamie Marina Lau. Picture: W&N/PA.

It’s told largely from the perspective of Leen, a 24-year-old Chinese Australian woman setting up her own business in the middle of a suburban mall, focusing on Eastern healing – particularly ear cleaning.

She falls in with some curious characters who have an anti-capitalist agenda, and starts dubious missions against those they deem ‘bad’.

There’s a colourful cast of characters, all told from Leen’s detached perspective – including her friends who start a urine business to trick drug tests, and the militant, cultish Jean Paul.

Jamie Marina Lau’s style is captivating – you’re drawn into the stagnant world of this Australian suburbia, and everything seems bizarre and off in a way that makes you feel constantly uncomfortable – but some readers might want more action, and less repetition.


(Review by Prudence Wade)


4. The Comfort Book: A Hug In Book Form by Matt Haig is published in hardback by Canongate, priced £16.99 (ebook £13.59). Available now

Without having read Matt Haig’s previous works, one might expect his new title The Comfort Book, to be more of a methodical, sequenced explainer of how to give oneself comfort.

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig. Picture: Canongate/PA.

Instead, the reader is met with what Haig calls ‘little islands of hope’; a collection of different stories – some spanning two pages, others simply one sentence – all written to instil a sense of ease and solace in the reader.

Due to the format, the first 50 pages can feel slightly disjointed; but once you are fully engrossed, every page of Haig’s smooth prose will inspire you to think.

Whether it is about fitting in, facing one’s demons or happiness itself, each short anecdote, quote or simple sentence does just what the book aims to do: give comfort.


(Review by Sophie Hogan)



1. The Nameless Ones by John Connolly

2. Meet Me In Another Life by Catriona Silvey

3. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

4. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5. The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

6. Sunset by Jessie Cave

7. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

8. The Distant Shores by Santa Montefiore

9. Uzumaki by Junji Ito

10. Animal by Lisa Taddeo


1. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

2. Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert & Catherine Green

3. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

4. Sista Sister by Candice Brathwaite

5. We Need To Talk About Money by Otegha Uwagba

6. Keep The Receipts: Three Women, Real Talk, No Filter

7. The Power Of Geography by Tim Marshall

8. Joe’s Family Food by Joe Wicks

9. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

10. The Right Sort Of Girl by Anita Rani

(Compiled by Waterstones)

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