This week: friends who used to meet every midsummer

This week there’s a thriller about a dream home that becomes a nightmare. There’s a story of three estranged friends who used to meet every midsummer, until life got in the way.

Laura de Barra is back with a new book about choosing and caring for our clothes. There’s a novel prompted by one of Ted Bundy’s most murderous rampages in Florida. Finally, there’s a book of diary entries that’s a real treasure.

The Dream Home, TM Logan, Zaffre, €15.99

Adam and Jess have finally found their forever home for them and their three children – 91 Regency Place is a fixer-upper, priced at the very top of their budget. Adam is dismantling a fitted wardrobe when he discovers a hidden door in the panelling behind it. (A Narnia story for grownups?) Behind the door is a hidden room and in the hidden room is some random furniture and a Welsh dresser. In the drawers of the dresser Adam finds an expensive watch, an address and an old flip phone.

He wonders if he should throw the items out, but curiosity gets the better of him and he decides to investigate further. Soon, however, he will have wished he chucked them, as his sleuthing will lead to his entire family being endangered. A very tense thriller from a master of Domestic Noir.

The Sunrise Swimming Society, Rosie Hannigan, Avon €11.99

This dual timeline novel tells the story of three friends who form a strong bond in secondary school, promising to meet up every year when school is over and investigating why that tradition hasn’t been maintained. Three school friends, Heather, Niamh and Lauren, meet up regularly for a morning swim in the local lake, fortified afterwards by hot drinks from Lauren’s granny who lives on the lake shore. In 2003 they leave school, promising to meet up every midsummer’s morning for a swim together.

Fifteen years later, life has taken its toll on all three. There are marital problems, unrealised ambitions, fertility problems and a host of other unfortunate issues the girls, now women making their way in the world, have had to face. Midsummer meet-ups no longer happen. Now they all find themselves back in their hometown at the same time, knowing they’ve drifted apart. The question is, can they find their way back to each other, or should they even try?

Garment Goddess, Laura de Barra, Gill, €19.99

If you think you know a thing or two about clothes, think again. This book is a surprising mountain of information. As society begins to shun the whole business of quick-fix cheap ‘n’ fast fashion, considering the horrific circumstances that allow it to be manufactured, we’re all slowly learning to do as our forebears did; make do and mend. It makes more sense to buy decent garments, a lot fewer of them, and take good care of them, instead of chucking them after the third wash when they’re only fit for the bin anyway. Sweatshops and sweaty fabrics cannot feature in the wardrobe of anyone who’s concerned about sustainability, not to mention social justice.

But how do we take care of our pared-down selection of good, hard-wearing clothes? Clue: don’t put them in the boil wash. And that’s all I know. But Laura de Barra knows just about everything there is to know about purchasing, wearing, minding, mending and keeping our clothes, maintaining a lasting and classic wardrobe. A sartorial feast of a book.

Secret Voices: A Year of Women’s Diaries, Ed Sarah Gristwood, Batsford, €36

What do Virginia Woolf, Anne Frank, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott, and Queen Victoria have in common? They all kept diaries. And they’re all featured in this remarkable book, containing hundreds of entries from well-known and lesser-known women, historical and contemporary, yielding valuable insights into the lives of these diary-keepers. The sheer volume of research in putting this book together is eye-watering and the result is something special.

The great freedom in keeping a personal journal is that you can tell it anything. It won’t contradict and it doesn’t judge. This book is structured like a regular diary in that it begins on January 1, with entries from, among others, George Eliot, Queen Victoria and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It ends on December 31, quoting from the diaries of Caroline Fox, Vera Brittain, the great George Eliot again, and others. Along the way we encounter PD James, Barbara Pym, Oprah Winfrey, Emma Thompson, Alice Walker and Patricia Highsmith, to name a few. It’s an absolute treasure of a book, beautifully presented and my copy has already taken up residence on my bedside locker. One of the best ‘dip in’ books I’ve seen in years, it would make a fabulous gift.

Bright Young Women, Jessica Knoll, Pan, €13.99

Based on Ted Bundy’s attack on a sorority house in Tallahassee in 1978, where he killed two young college girls and seriously wounded two others, this is a story that gives a distinct feminist angle on the murders, and on crimes against women in general. Bundy is never mentioned, is merely referred to as ‘the Defendant’, and instead of the criminal mastermind that some sickos elevated him to be in their various ‘fan’ clubs (much as they did with Charles Manson), this novel depicts him as pathetic, a ‘man’ who could only perpetrate his violence and bloodlust on smaller, physically weaker people i.e. women.

It’s an angry book, but also an enthralling one as the protagonist Pamela is forced to do some private investigating of her own, gaining not only momentum but a new sense of strength as the story progresses. It’s been described as ‘a silent scream of a book’ and that it is, but nonetheless this scream is sharply and intelligently, if disturbingly, conveyed.


With St Patrick’s Day nearly here, what’s on outside of the big Dublin festival?

Tullamore is hosting the Rise of the Phoenix festival over the weekend, tickets available from

Most of the bigger towns (and lots of small ones) will be hosting parades; check your local area for details.

If you’re feeling fit, you could always join lots of others in climbing Croagh Patrick on his feast day.

If Mayo is too far away, you could run the Mullingar Half Marathon, on March 17.