The best books to soothe and console after a love affair, divorce or Covid

Why am I passionate about this?

Elizabeth Buchan began her career as a blurb writer at Penguin Books. She moved on to become a fiction editor at Random House before leaving to write full-time. Her novels include the award-winning Consider the Lily, The Museum of Broken Promises, and the international bestseller, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, which was made into a CBS Primetime Drama. Elizabeth’s short stories are broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and published in magazines. She has reviewed for The Times, the Sunday Times, and the Daily Mail, and has chaired the Betty Trask and Desmond Elliot literary prizes. She has been a judge for the Whitbread First Novel Award and for the 2014 Costa Novel Award.


I wrote...

Two Women in Rome

By Elizabeth Buchan,

Book cover of Two Women in Rome

What is my book about?

A city full of secrets…Lottie Archer arrives in Rome newly married and ready for change. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence. Nina seems to have led a rewarding life restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978? Researching Nina’s life, Lottie unravels a love story beset by the violence and political turmoil of post-war Italy – only to find that its betrayals and sacrifices subtly shape her own future.

"This gorgeously written novel has as many twists and shadows as the baroque city in which it is set." Daily Mail

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Elizabeth Buchan Why did I love this book?

I first read this many years ago and it has stayed with me. Every so often, I return to it in order to immerse myself in its wonderful prose and insights. It combines travelogue with biography, detective work with a probing inner exploration and is both an account of a physical journey and a remap of the writer’s imagination. He begins with his homage to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Travels with a Donkey and describes his own trek over the Cevennes. He starts out with the idea that he will be a poet and finishes his walk having been led "far away into the undiscovered land of other’s men and women’s lives. It led towards biography."

It is the turning point of his life and for the remainder of the book – as he hunts down his subjects which include Mary Wollstonecraft, Shelley, Gerard de Nerval, and Gautier – he goes on to explore the nature of the relationship between the biographer and the quarry. The book has so enraptured me that I found myself walking in the company of friends over the Cevennes in Stevenson’s and Holmes’s footsteps. It was one of the best journeys of my own life. 

By Richard Holmes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Footsteps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Holmes knew he had become a true biographer the day his bank bounced a check that he had inadvertently dated 1772. Because for the acclaimed chronicler of Shelley and Coleridge, biography is a physical pursuit, an ardent and arduous retracing of footsteps that may have vanished centuries before.
 
In this gripping book, Holmes takes us from France’s Massif Central, where he followed the route taken by Robert Louis Stevenson and a sweet-natured donkey, to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Revolutionary Paris, to the Italian villages where Percy Shelley tried to cast off the strictures of English morality and marriage. Footsteps is a…


Book cover of The Brontes

Elizabeth Buchan Why did I love this book?

Juliet Barker’s monumental biography, The Brontes (Abacus), certainly falls into the category of the tried and tested which will not let you down. A fiercely revisionist, meticulously researched reassessment of the background, landscape, and events that shaped and formed Patrick, Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Anne, it breathes fresh air and common sense into the dark myths and fantasies which envelop the sisters in particular. I love it for the hard work that the author invested in it, her detail, her scrupulous integrity, and her determination to get at the truth about the individuals and the family as a whole. She argues well and powerfully that "without this intense family relationship, some of the greatest novels in the English language might never have been written."

By Juliet Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Brontes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of the tragic Bronte family is familiar to everyone: we all know about the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wild romantic Emily, unrequited Anne and "poor Charlotte". Or do we? These stereotypes of the popular imagination are precisely that - imaginary - created by amateur biographers from Mrs Gaskell onwards who were primarily novelists, and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius. Later biographers still repeat her mistakes, and have, without exception, relied on the bowdlerised texts published by T.J. Wise, a forger. Juliet Barker's landmark book is…


Book cover of The House on the Strand

Elizabeth Buchan Why did I love this book?

As a teenager, I glutted on the novels of Daphne du Maurier, and revelled in their Gothic thrills and the hints of darker compulsions and ambiguity which I did not fully comprehend. On re-reading a few not so long ago, I discovered that Rebecca was toppled from my personal number one spot by The House on the Strand. A time-travel story written long before it was voguish, it manages to achieve the delicate balance between the traditional, (albeit far-fetched) romantic love story and the more troubling question about perception and identity. This is not a peaceful novel as it is suffused with longings and a restlessness – there is also a vein of anger and disgust hovering below the surface - but it is both gripping and resonant and, for the purposes here, cathartic.

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The House on the Strand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this haunting tale, Daphne du Maurier takes a fresh approach to time travel. A secret experimental concoction, once imbibed, allows you to return to the fourteenth century. There is only one catch: if you happen to touch anyone while traveling in the past you will be thrust instantaneously to the present. Magnus Lane, a University of London chemical researcher, asks his friend Richard Young and Young's family to stay at Kilmarth, an ancient house set in the wilds near the Cornish coast. Here, Richard drinks a potion created by Magnus and finds himself at the same spot where he…


Book cover of Under the Tuscan Sun

Elizabeth Buchan Why did I love this book?

When it was first published, Frances Mayes struck gold with Under the Tuscan Sun. It is a book that plugs into the contemporary fantasy of giving it all up to live out the idyll in some sun-kissed spot abroad. I confess I am a sucker for it and to read of her patient and loving restoration of Bramsole, the house she bought near Cortona, is to indulge in a highly potent daydream of a beautiful, neglected dreaming house longing for the restorative touch – and she is the one to bestow it. There are the funny and, occasionally, almost disastrous battles to make it liveable again and the triumphant finale. There are descriptions of luscious food and meals, her fascination with the local topography, history, and landscape, plus a selection of authentic recipes. All in all, it is irresistibly naughty but nice escapism – a guilty and, at this time, a necessary pleasure?

By Frances Mayes,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Under the Tuscan Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the New York Times bestseller that inspired the film. The perfect read for anyone seeking an escape to the Italian countryside.

When Frances Mayes - poet, gourmet cook and travel writer - buys an abandoned villa in Tuscany, she has no idea of the scale of the project she is embarking on.

In this enchanting memoir she takes the reader on a journey to restore a crumbling villa and build a new life in the Italian countryside, navigating hilarious cultural misunderstandings, legal frustrations and the challenges of renovating a house that seems determined to remain a ruin.

Filled with…


Book cover of Persuasion

Elizabeth Buchan Why did I love this book?

There is recourse to the enduring classic and Jane Austen’s Persuasion has to be the favourite. The opening chapters depict the lonely figure of Anne, the middle sister of three, who has lost her bloom, struggling to live well at a time when her future, and her family’s, is precarious has the all the melancholy of lost hope and neglected chances. This is a novel where the spectre of autumn hovers. Yet, as the plot progresses, the spectre lifts and is chased away and Anne moves towards a late blooming. As a young woman, she was persuaded to turn down marriage to Captain Wentworth. Now, her good sense, her good qualities, and her experience and intelligence persuade her otherwise.

The Anne who emerges is hardly passive and she grasps at her second chance with both hands. Woven into this portrait of a woman’s renaissance is Jane Austen’s deliciously acerbic observation, an uncharacteristic tenderness, and a deal of sharp, brilliant social comedy. All in all, Persuasion is irresistible, life-affirming and nourishing which, like chicken soup, is just what is needed.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Persuasion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 17.

What is this book about?

'In Persuasion, Jane Austen is beginning to discover that the world is larger, more mysterious, and more romantic than she had supposed' Virginia Woolf

Jane Austen's moving late novel of missed opportunities and second chances centres on Anne Elliot, no longer young and with few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she was persuaded by others to break off her engagement to poor, handsome naval captain Frederick Wentworth. What happens when they meet again is movingly told in Austen's last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension,…


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Melody and the Pier to Forever: Parts Five and Six

By Shawn Michel De Montaigne,

Book cover of Melody and the Pier to Forever: Parts Five and Six

Shawn Michel De Montaigne

New book alert!

What is my book about?

A young adult and epic fantasy novel that begins an entire series, as yet unfinished, about a young girl named Melody who discovers that the pier she lives near goes on forever—a pier that was destroyed by a hurricane that appeared out of blue skies in mere moments in 1983.

Melody doesn't know it, but a king has been searching for her for more than twenty years—longer than she's been alive. His kingdom is readying for the day when they may return to the world found beyond the end of that very pier, a world cast into darkness by an…

Melody and the Pier to Forever: Parts Five and Six

By Shawn Michel De Montaigne,

What is this book about?

Melody Singleton is a bright 13-year-old girl who loves math, classical music, her mom, her best friend Yaeko, and her dog. To her classmates that makes her a nerd, and they cruelly treat her as such. After being expelled from the advanced algebra class for not paying attention, she meets her new teacher, Mr. Conor, who gives her a very strange homework assignment. You see, she got kicked out because she was distracted by a symbol that the rest of us can't see, a beautiful sigil that, incredibly, Mr. Conor can see too, because it's on the assignment he gave…


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