Bookshelf with Sidmouth author Sophie King

Books guaranteed to keep you up at night

RECENTLY, I must confess, I’ve felt rather disheartened by some books I’ve picked up. They’ve lacked that ‘turn-the-page’ factor that’s so necessary in a good book.

So this week, I’ve picked some books which are guaranteed to keep you up at night if you read in bed (as so many people do).

So if you share a bedroom, you might end up reading by torchlight under the covers….

THE PENNY BANGLE by Margaret James. Published by Choc Lit. �7.99.

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Who says you can’t judge a book by its cover? Margaret James is an established writer who lives in Devon. Her previous novels with Choc Lit are stunning, with their sepia-coloured shots of classical heroines. And The Penny Bangle is no exception.

Set in the 1940s, Cassie becomes a land girl in Dorset where she meets twins, both of whom are recovering from injuries at Dunkirk. She falls in love with one but then he goes missing. Can the brother take his place in Cassie’s heart? A corker.

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ALYS, ALWAYS by Harriet Lane. Published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson �12.99.

Picture the scene. Frances, a single woman in her thirties is driving along a country road when she comes across an overturned car. The woman driver dies.

Frances tries to block out the incident until she finds out who the woman’s husband is. Then France’s true colours come to light, proving that people aren’t always who they seem to be.

My spine’s tingling. Is yours?

THE FORGOTTEN WALTZ by Anne Enright. Published by Vintage �7.99.

The author is one of our most respected writers of the time. She succeeds in crawling under characters’ skins and making them face uncomfortable issues.

The heroine in Enright’s latest novel is one Gina Moynihan from Dublin who tells the story of her seven year love affair. An everyday story but one which carries different notes every time.

THE LIFEBOAT by Charlotte Rogan. Published by Virago. �12.99.

The recent publicity over The Titanic might well make you wonder what you would do in a crisis at sea.

Grace, a young bride back in 1914, unexpectedly finds herself in a crowded lifeboat and separated from her new husband. She is forced to examine her own heart while fighting for survival.

Nothing like a bit of drama in life to make you re-think your priorities.

THE BEGINNER’S GOODBYE by Anne Tyler. Chatto & Windus �12.99.

The title hooked me before I even realised it was by one of my favourite novelists.

Anne Tyler has the gift of homing in on human emotions so we don’t feel so alone any more – because she shows us that others feel the same. Aaron is a widower in his thirties who looks back at how he met and wooed his wife.

It might sound sad but trust me. If you haven’t read Anne Tyler before, you are in for a treat.

What I’m reading now:

THE CONFINEMENT by Katherine McMahon. Orion �7.99.

A young girl starts a new school in the present day. But in chapter two, the book slips back to Victorian times when a young teacher starts her first job.

I rather like ‘time slip’ novels where we go back and forth in time. It’s amazing how our emotions today can be so similar to those who lived a hundred years ago or more.

*Sophie King is the author of seven novels and fifteen non-fiction books. For details of her writing courses, email

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