18th May, 2021

Bookcase: New titles reviewed include The Madness Of Grief by Rev Richard Coles and My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

Redditch Editorial 19th Apr, 2021

THIS week’s Bookcase includes reviews of The Madness Of Grief by Reverend Richard Coles and My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley.

Dive into a new collection of short stories, or find out what life is like with a grizzly bear for a dad…


1. My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley is published in hardback by Granta, priced £12.99 (ebook £12.99). Available now

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley.  Picture: Granta/PA.

Unsettlingly funny and sharply observant, My Phantoms follows academic Bridget as she reckons with a complicated relationship with her mother, Helen.

With notes of Sally Rooney’s style in its tightly-written dialogue, the book is a subtle dance between two people who struggle to understand each other.

The novel builds rich, nuanced characters, although they’re not propped up by quite as much plot as some readers may be used to. It can feel hard to get into at first, but you’ll be gripped once immersed in the characters’ worlds. My Phantoms is a dark, honest look at difficult family dynamics, where no character escapes without their flaws being examined, leading to a slow-burning unease with several tender moments.


(Review by Emily Chudy)

2. The End Of The World Is A Cul De Sac by Louise Kennedy is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49). Available now

Chef-turned-writer Louise Kennedy’s short story collection details the relationships of women in modern Ireland, mixing folklore and fairytales with the grim realities of life after the Irish economy’s downturn.

The End of the World Is A Cul De Sac by Louise Kennedy. Picture: Bloomsbury Publishing/PA.

Her focus is on people in crisis and hiding secrets – a wife left on a ghost housing estate after a mysterious death; a woman on the run from her baby-fixated partner; a landscape gardener who builds his life around an oblivious ex following a shared tragedy.

With pin-sharp characterisation, particularly of older women, Kennedy uses flashes of humour to draw you into her often unsettling world.

While she takes time finding her feet in the opening stories, some of which fail to ignite, the later tales show promise.


(Review by Laura Paterson)


3. The Madness Of Grief: A Memoir Of Love And Loss by Reverend Richard Coles is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99). Available now

High profile clergyman, TV’s most famous vicar, ex-Strictly star and man of a myriad panel shows, Reverend Richard Coles brings us this heartfelt, moving account of his grieving process following the death of his beloved partner David, from alcohol addiction.

The Madness Of Grief: A Memoir Of Love And Loss by Reverend Richard Coles. Picture: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/PA.

He relates with disturbing honesty David’s body closing down as alcohol damage takes its toll during those final days, the blur of bereavement he feels as he wades through the ‘sadmin’ of the funeral and other arrangements, while attempting to keep a lid on his own mental health as he struggles to adapt to life without his partner.

We also get a glimpse of his life with David, and his pain and frustration with each alcohol-ridden episode.

Moving and candid, this book will resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one, or has had to cope with someone they love who they just cannot help.


(Review by Hannah Stephenson)

Children’s book of the week

4. My Dad Is A Grizzly Bear by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Dapo Adeola is published in paperback by Macmillan Children’s Books, priced £6.99 (ebook £2.99). Available April 29

Little kids love to make up stories – they pretend to be characters, taking on the role of different animals with their parents – and that’s why My Dad Is A Grizzly Bear is a winner.

My Dad Is A Grizzly Bear by Swapna Haddow, illustrated by Dapo Adeola. Picture : Macmillan Children’s Books/PA.

It is easy for small ones and carers to imagine themselves as the father and daughter in the book: dad as the grizzly bear and daughter as the narrator. With some lovely words and beautiful illustrations, the book carries the reader away on adventures, camping under the stars and looking for bears in the forest.

Meanwhile, dads everywhere will sympathise with the father and his scratchy beard.


(Review by Roddy Brooks)



1. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

2. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

3. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

4. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

5. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex

6. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

7. A Court Of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas

8. The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz

9. Near The Bone by Christina Henry

10. The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley


1. The Madness Of Grief by Reverend Richard Coles

2. Together by Luke Adam Hawker

3. The Accidental Footballer by Pat Nevin

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

5. Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli

6. Spring Cannot Be Cancelled by Martin Gayford & David Hockney

7. One: Pot, Pan, Planet by Anna Jones

8. The Failures Of State by Jonathan Calvert & George Arbuthnott

9. The Secret Diary Of A British Muslim Aged 13 3/4 by Tez Ilyas

10. Captain Tom’s Life Lessons by Captain Tom Moore

(Compiled by Waterstones)

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