By Milla Alexander / 4 May 2020


Illustration by Elli Smith

In a time of unrest and uncertainty, there will be a level of anxiety coursing through everyone’s minds. Though everyone’s experience of this pandemic will look different, having a little distraction can only be a good thing.

If you’re looking for another world to escape to while this one is a lot to endure, here are five novels that will entertain, enlighten and exhilarate. Five stories you won’t help but get lost in...


TW for this book: suicide/ self harm /sexual abuse

“When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity.

Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realise, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.”

It’s rare to read a book of this length (720 pages) and be left wanting more. ‘Yanagihara’s gift of pulling you into the lives and minds of every character will make it difficult leaving them behind.’ 

This book is not for the fainthearted. A completely compelling and captivating read, the story will haunt you long after you’ve put it down. 


“Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion—for each other and for their homeland.”

This capacious, absorbing novel is a dissection of modern attitudes to race wrapped up in a love story. The author’s poetic way of writing characters and human interactions will leave you feeling like you’ve known them all your life.

This is an important read, about race and identity. But Adichie cleverly weaves comedy seamlessly while capturing emotions in rich detail. A thoroughly entertaining and original novel, not only will you want to keep in touch with the book’s protagonist, but you’ll also want to consume more of the author’s work.

Thoughtful, provocative, brilliant.


“Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last - inexorably - into evil.”

This mesmerising story is a modern classic. Donna Tartt captivates you from the very first sentence. You may not be knowledgeable or mildly interested in Greek mythology, but they the end of this book, you’ll be itching for more. 

The ‘secret’ is revealed early in the book, but Tartt’s exquisite writing has you absorbed in what will happen to the characters left. Further to that, the author’s excellent storytelling will make you care about the characters; even though you hate them.


“The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.”

Masterfully, with empathy and wit, Mistry tells the story of India’s working poor, through the lives of four strangers who eventually become a family.

Expect to be left heartbroken yet inspired. While the fates of the characters you come to love and connect with are horribly diminished, when you turn the last page, you’ll be laughing along with them.


“Set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay, Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.” 

The pages of this novel, based on true events, will undoubtedly wrap you up in a world that is vivid, gritty, and complex. You may experience anguish and alarm throughout this story, but the world that Roberts’ bestows upon the reader is woven in poetry, passion and profound love.

Once you turn the last page, the awe will set in, and the realisation that you’ve finished reading will fill you with a sense of loss. Be ready to laugh, cry, and gasp while reading every enthralling chapter.

Words by
Milla alexander

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