Foreign Shores, Inspiring Memoirs & A Touch of Magic…5 Books to Help You Escape Lockdown

While some of us are busier than ever with family, home schooling and work, it’s still important to have a little bit of ‘me’ time. Having a good book to escape to is my little lockdown luxury.

Few things in life are better than the promise of a new book. Those first few pages hold a sense of nervous excitement. Will this become one of my all time favourites, or will I struggle to reach the end? 

As a professional bookworm, one thing I have found is that I now need to carve out more time to read. My top tip? Carry a book round the house with you, just like you carry round your phone. Read instead of mindlessly scrolling through Insta or Facebook. And as a lovely treat, while the kids are entertained with film at the weekend, you’ll find me in the garden enjoying my latest book with a glass of wine. 

I have five recommendations for you. Some of them are older, some new, but all available via your local independent bookshop. Enjoy!

1. The Mercies

The Mercies

Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s first novel for adults, is set on the Norwegian island of Vardø, where in 1617 a Christmas Eve storm blew up while all the men were out fishing. None survived.

For months the island’s women managed the ‘men’s’ work of fishing, reindeer herding and butchery as well as their usual domestic work. Eventually the authorities arrived, and with them increasing religious piety and witchcraft trials, many women were burned at the stake.

This true story is where the novel takes its inspiration. The novel moves between the experience of a the women on the island, to how they were viewed by outsiders, to those who came to eradicate witchcraft from their culture, in the midst of their grief.

A sorrowful book, and a harrowing read, but set in beautiful scenery and in the writing you can hear the echo of women’s subjugation through the centuries. 

2. My Name is Why

My Name is Why, Lemn Sissay

I read Lemn Sissay’s biography in the space of two days. I couldn’t put it down.

The book is a journey through the documents and paperwork which records much of his life. Letters from ‘The Authority’ and notes from his social worker, along with Sissay’s own recollections and thoughts, piece together a life you wouldn’t wish on any child, and yet this is the story of so many children in the UK. Although sad, the book is an inspiration and I urge you to read it. 

3. Once Upon A River

Once Upon a River

Diane Setterfield’s book has got to be my favourite read of 2019. There is a huge cast of characters, and one central story provides the theme around which the individual stories unfold.

A dead little girl and an injured stranger appear in a tavern, but then she starts breathing again. Was it a miracle and who does she belong to? Magic and myth at every twist and turn of the river, I loved escaping to a different world rich with atmosphere and storytelling. I’m sure you will too. 

4. Educated

Tara Westover’s memoir packs a punch. Bought up in an extremely religious Mormon home, she was kept from society and subjected to immense betrayal and cruelty. Yet she survived, and found hope and fulfilment in education, the very thing she was denied for many many years.

It’s a fascinating read, delving into and unpacking a culture very few of us are familiar with. The author is so calm as she relays the horrific things that happened to her and her family you can barely believe it. 

5. Where the Crawdads Sing

The opening chapters of Delia Owens’ book are filled with long drawn out, detailed descriptions of the marsh. It’s a beautiful backdrop to a book which spans almost the first two decades of Kya’s life, otherwise known as the Marsh Girl.

Full of broken promises and sadness, yet in the end it’s a story full of perseverance and hope. Lovely slow character development, and a few twists along the way as a murder investigation exposes the lives of the townsfolk and uncovers thinly veiled prejudice. 


  • Jade Staiano is a social media manager. She lives in Ealing, West London with her husband and three kids. Follow her book recommendations on Instagram at @Get.Ealing.Reading

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