We’re so excited that Between the Covers is back for a third series. Each week, host Sara Cox is joined on BBC Two each week with four celebrity guests. They’ll be discussing two books; a newly-published book and, for the first time, hot on the heels of the Booker Prize, a shortlisted title that didn’t win the prestigious prize, but still deserve to be celebrated.
Episode 2 – Wednesday 17 November
This week, Sara is joined by Cold Feet star John Thomson, comedians Fern Brady and Lou Sanders and Saturday Kitchen’s wine guru Olly Smith share their favourite books and review the two book club picks: Newly published book The Coward by Jarred McGinnis and Booker Prize-shortlisted The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald.
The Coward by Jarred McGinnis
Question: What’s worse than being in a wheelchair?
Answer: Being a fuck-up in a wheelchair.
After a car accident Jarred discovers he’ll never walk again. Confined to a ‘giant roller-skate’, he finds himself with neither money nor job. Worse still, he’s forced to live back home with the father he hasn’t spoken to in ten years.
Add in a shoplifting habit, an addiction to painkillers and the fact that total strangers now treat him like he’s an idiot, it’s a recipe for self-destruction. How can he stop himself careering out of control?
As he tries to piece his life together again, he looks back over his past – the tragedy that blasted his family apart, why he ran away, the damage he’s caused himself and others – and starts to wonder whether, maybe, things don’t always have to stay broken after all.
The Coward is about hurt and forgiveness. It’s about how the world treats disabled people. And it’s about how we write and rewrite the stories we tell ourselves about our lives – and try to find a happy ending.
‘Sings from its first lines . . . unbearably poignant . . . a truly uplifting emotional journey; a tender, wise, brutally funny novel’ Guardian
‘Written with insight and savage wit . . . it is uplifting because McGinnis is a realist who never tries to sweeten the bitter experience of learning to navigate life in a wheelchair. His characters are vivid and impossible to forget, and he has an underlying optimism about the various ways in which muddled lives shake down and settle into something better’ The Times
‘This beautiful book is a testament to the way people can, in spite of everything, reforge shattered emotional bonds and repair seemingly doomed relationships. You won’t find a more uplifting read in these dark times’ Irvine Welsh
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
In 1959, when there was no fish and chips in Hardborough, no launderette, no cinema except on alternate Saturday nights, the need of these things was felt, but no one had considered, certainly had not thought of Mrs Green as considering, the opening of a bookshop.
When Mrs Florence Green, a ‘small, wispy and wiry woman’ decides to open a bookshop in the small Suffolk town of Hardborough she has no idea of the force of opposition that will ensue.
In attempting to challenge a seemingly sleepy and indeterminate status quo, in her own quiet way, Florence uncovers an undercurrent of tenacious resentment against her small project. The complex webs of small-town community close in around her as those with minor influence seek to hold sway.
Penelope Fitzgerald’s fiction is at its best when illuminating the lives of outsiders, outcasts, the misunderstood, the hopeful; the flotsam and jetsam often destined to be left behind. Nowhere is her keen eye for human frailty better exemplified than in the Booker Prize shortlisted novel, The Bookshop, a subtle blend of poignancy and humour, a masterclass in modern tragicomedy.
‘A gem, a vintage narrative… a classic whose force has not merely lasted but has actually improved in the passage of years’ New York Times
‘Reading a Penelope Fitzgerald novel is like being taken for a ride in a peculiar kind of car. Everything is of top quality – the engine, the coachwork and the interior all fill you with confidence. Then, after a mile or so, someone throws the steering-wheel out of the window.’ Sebastian Faulks
‘Wise and ironic, funny and humane, Fitzgerald is a wonderful, wonderful writer.’ David Nicholls