The Jo Whiley Radio 2 Book Club - Autumn 2020

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We are delighted to share the new selection of books that will feature on BBC Radio 2 Book Club with Jo Whiley from October to December 2020. Every other Monday, from 7-9pm, a new book will be discussed, starting on Monday 5 October.

The Book Club showcases the best brand-new fiction, with an interview between Jo Whiley and the author. You can find out more about any of the chosen books by clicking the titles below.

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Monday 5 October: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night.

And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

Monday 19th October: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

When Addie La Rue makes a pact with the devil, she trades her soul for immortality. But there’s always a price – the devil takes away her place in the world, cursing her to be forgotten by everyone.

Addie flees her tiny home town in 18th-Century France, beginning a journey that takes her across the world, learning to live a life where no one remembers her and everything she owns is lost and broken. Existing only as a muse for artists throughout history, she learns to fall in love anew every single day.

Her only companion on this journey is her dark devil with hypnotic green eyes, who visits her each year on the anniversary of their deal. Alone in the world, Addie has no choice but to confront him, to understand him, maybe to beat him.

Until one day, in a second-hand bookshop in Manhattan, Addie meets someone who remembers her. Suddenly thrust back into a real, normal life, Addie realises she can’t escape her fate forever.

Monday 2 November: A More Perfect Union by Tammye Huf

When Henry O’Toole escapes the Irish famine and sails to America, he doesn’t expect the anti-Irish prejudices that await him. Determined never to starve again, he changes his name to Henry Taylor to secure a job and safeguard his future. Traveling south to Virginia, he meets Sarah, a slave woman torn from her family and sold to another plantation. There she must navigate the power system of the white masters, as well as the hierarchy of her fellow slaves.

Even though Henry’s white skin represents the oppression Sarah suffers under, and even though having Sarah at his side would force Henry to abandon his hopes of prosperity, their attraction is undeniable and they fall in love. But in 1849 on a Virginian plantation, inter-racial marriage is not only illegal but considered to be an ungodly abomination. No matter how much they want to be together, Sarah is trapped on Jubilee Plantation, owned by another man.

This is a love story of epic proportions – a forbidden relationship that has been forged in secrecy, and faces betrayal and jeopardy at every turn.

Monday 16 November: Three Women and A Boat by Anne Youngson

Meet Eve, who has departed from her thirty-year career to become a Free Spirit; Sally, who has waved goodbye to her indifferent husband and two grown-up children; and Anastasia: defiantly independent narrowboat-dweller, suddenly vulnerable as she awaits a life-saving operation.

Inexperienced and ill-equipped, Sally and Eve embark upon a journey through the canals of England, guided by the remote and unsympathetic Anastasia. As they glide gently – and not so gently – through the countryside, the eccentricities and challenges of canal-boat life draw them inexorably together, and a tender and unforgettable story unfolds.

Disarmingly truthful and narrated with a rare, surprising wit, Three Women and A Boat is a journey over the glorious waterways of England and into the unfathomable depths of the human heart.

Monday 30 November: You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

A novel of self-discovery following a Palestinian-American girl as she navigates queerness, love addiction and a series of tumultuous relationships.

Told in vignettes that flash between the US and the Middle East, this powerful debut novel traces the protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to creative and confused adulthood.

In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. Soon, her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people which results in her seeking unconventional help to face her past traumas and current demons.

Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings – for love, and a place to call home.

Monday 14 December: Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

New York, 1946. Lillian Pentecost is the most successful private detective in the city, but her health is failing. She hires an assistant to help with the investigative legwork. Willowjean Parker is a circus runaway. Quick-witted and street-smart, she’s a jack-of-all-trades with a unique skill-set. She can pick locks blindfolded, wrestle men twice her size, and throw knives with deadly precision – all of which come in handy working for Ms P.

When wealthy young widow Abigail Collins is murdered and the police are making no progress, Pentecost and Parker are hired by the family to track down the culprit. On Halloween night, there was a costume party at the Collins’ mansion, where a fortune teller performed a séance which greatly disturbed Abigail. Several hours later her body was discovered bludgeoned to death in her late husband’s office. Problem is, the door to the office was locked from the inside. There was no-one else in the room, and the murder weapon was beside the victim; the fortune teller’s crystal ball.

It looks like an impossible crime, but Pentecost and Parker know there is no such thing…

How the books are chosen

The Reading Agency works with librarians from across the UK to help Radio 2 choose the books featured on the Book Club. Hundreds of books are submitted by publishers and read by a fantastic panel before we meet to choose a shortlist. Meet some of our brilliant librarians.


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Get involved

Have you read any of the Book Club titles? You can leave reviews of the books on our website or comment on Twitter using #R2BookClub

Planning to buy some of the titles for your group? Buy books from Hive and support The Reading Agency and local bookshops at no extra cost to you.

Not yet a member of Reading Groups for Everyone? Sign up now.

Want more offers for your reading group? Visit our Noticeboard for the latest opportunities.

Looking for reading ideas? Visit our Book Reviews page for the latest themed reading lists.

Want to make sure you get the latest news? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

You can join the Radio 2 Book Club Facebook group, and also follow Jo Whiley on Twitter.

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