Review: Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg (2022)


Steven Harding is a handsome, well-respected professor. Ellie Masterson is a wide-eyed young college student. Together, they are driving south from New York, for their first holiday: three days in an isolated cabin, far from the city.

Ahead of them, the promise of long, dark nights – and the chance to explore one another’s bodies, away from disapproving eyes. It should be a perfect, romantic trip for two.

Except that he’s not who he says he is. But then again, neither is she…


Thank you so much to the publisher and the Squadpod for sorting out a proof copy for me in exchange for an honest review.

I’m not sure if I devoured this book, or if this book consumed me, but either way, I could not put it down. This is one of the most tense – and intense – reading experiences I’ve had for a while, and I loved every second of it. From the dramatic opening to the gradual unveiling of what has taken place, Nobody But Us is an absolute masterclass in creating narrative tension. It’s a tricky book to review in terms of the story, because so much of the twisted pleasure comes from discovery as you read, so I’ll keep this brief and focus instead on what I love about Laure Van Rensburg’s writing.

There is a sharpness to the prose, a piercing accuracy – each sentence has the ability to startle, to awaken new ways of seeing. It is beautiful, clever writing – shaped and polished, with the glassy sleekness of the house itself. The descriptions of the house where these disturbing events unfold are some of the sharpest writing in the novel: the author could not have chosen a more perfect setting for Ellie and Steven’s weekend away. Its stylish modernity contrasts with the wildness of the landscape around it, and the visual quality of the writing creates a cinematic effect. I really felt like I was watching the events unfold rather than reading about them – it’s a very powerful effect.

Nobody But Us isn’t my usual type of book – but I have come to realise that I pretty much only have a ‘usual’ type in order to attempt to manage the ever-growing list of books I want to read! Every time I step outside my comfort zone, I realise how much can be learned from books outside my typical genres. This is some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time, and Laure Van Rensburg is a debut author to watch. It’s a book that will have you messaging your friends to say “text me when you’ve finished!” – a book you’ll want to talk about and recommend to everyone you know.

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg is published by Michael Joseph. A special signed edition with sprayed edges is available to preorder here.


Review: Wet Paint by Chloe Ashby (2022)


Since the death of her best friend Grace, twenty-six-year-old Eve has learned to keep everything and everyone at arm’s length. Safe in her detachment, she scrapes along waiting tables and cleaning her shared flat in exchange for cheap rent, finding solace in her small routines.

But when a chance encounter at work brings her past thundering into her present, Eve becomes consumed by painful memories of Grace. And soon her precariously maintained life begins to unravel: she loses her job, gets thrown out of her flat, and risks pushing away the one decent man who cares about her.

Taking up life-modelling to pay the bills, Eve lays bare her body but keeps hidden the mounting chaos inside her head. When her self-destructive urges spiral out of control, she’s forced to confront the traumatic event that changed the course of her life, and to finally face her grief and guilt.


Thank you very much to Alex at Orion for sending me a proof copy of Wet Paint in exchange for an honest review.

I love it when you start reading a debut novel and know straight away that this is a writer you’ll want to read more from. There’s a tingling excitement that comes from discovering a new voice, and from the opening pages of Wet Paint, I was all in.

Eve is a complicated, frustrating, endlessly fascinating protagonist, and watching her negotiate the haze of 20-something life is an engrossing experience. It’s all there – the bad decisions, the quickly-formed friendships, the drunken nights, the blurred boundaries between making choices and stumbling into the dark. It feels raw and real, and brought back the vivid feelings of that time in my life.

For Eve, of course, she is also wrestling with a deep grief, one that taints everything whether she realises it or not. I loved the flashbacks of Eve and Grace – that level of friendship that I think only exists at that specific time, when you can spend hours and hours together, day after day, becoming closer than lovers, closer than siblings. It’s beautifully depicted. I liked that in many ways the relationship between Eve and Grace is the centre of the novel – there is a love interest, Max, and he’s wonderful (I had a book crush) but Ashby doesn’t let the romance storyline take over. I think it’s very cleverly done – a nice reminder that there is so much more to life.

The connection Eve feels with the Manet painting she visits, and the artistic themes explored when she becomes a life model, add another layer of interest to an already multi-faceted book. And yet, despite heavy themes of grief and art, there is a light touch here, a humour and a readability that reminded me of Meg Mason’s brilliant novel Sorrow and Bliss. And, as the novel reaches its dramatic climax, there are thriller-ish touches, a rising tension that honestly had me frightened to read on, and put me in mind of Magpie by Elizabeth Day.

This is one of those books you want to race through and savour at the same time: a taut, fresh, emotional story that envelops you in its reality while you’re reading, and leaves you thinking about its themes and characters for a long time afterwards. I can’t wait to read more by this talented author.

Wet Paint by Chloe Ashby is published by Trapeze Books and is available to pre-order here.

Review: When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Sola translated by Mara Faye Lethem (2022)


When Domenec – mountain-dweller, father, poet, dreamer – dies suddenly, struck by lightning, he leaves behind two small children, Mia and Hilari, to grow up wild among the looming summits of the Pyrenees and the ghosts of the Spanish civil war.

But then Hilari dies too, and his sister is forced to face life’s struggles and joys alone. As the years tumble by, the inhabitants of the mountain – human, animal and other – come together in a chorus of voices to bear witness to the sorrows of one family, and to the savage beauty of the landscape. This remarkable English-language debut is lyrical, mythical, elemental, and ferociously imaginative.


Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with a beautiful finished copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Sometimes, you pick up a book, and it just speaks to you. From the opening chapter, told from the point of view of the clouds, When I Sing, Mountains Dance captured my attention with its lyrical prose and dazzling imagination. This is a novel that swoops and soars, that zooms in and out with all the panache and confidence of a brilliantly talented writer. Sentences lodged themselves in my mind: beautiful images, profound truths, and humour, too. All of life is contained within its pages, from the beauty of nature to the stink of it, the mess and the decay as well as the majesty.

And humanity, too, is represented in myriad ways. We meet and become attached to a whole cast of characters, whose paths and stories cross at intervals, giving this book a much more epic feel than its modest size might suggest. I loved the moments when, as a reader, I could make connections between the characters, when someone from the past appeared in a new storyline. It creates a sense of continuity, of life carrying on regardless, of a series of moments stretching on and on. And the drifting point of view, taking us from singular to plural, from animals to people, from past to present and back again, just adds to this incredible sense of connectedness. The book feels woven rather than written.

When I Sing, Mountains Dance had a real effect on me – it is poetically beautiful, deeply moving, delicate and light while also containing tragedy and brutality. It feels perfect to me – a book that I know I will return to again and again. I can’t recommend this powerful novel highly enough.

When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Sola translated by Mara Faye Lethem is published by Granta and is available to purchase here.

March 2022 Reading: Good Intentions; The Exhibitionist; The Green Indian Problem; Small Things Like These; Nobody But Us; My Phantoms; Wet Paint; When I Sing, Mountains Dance

March was a better month for reading – I’m pleased I managed to get through 8 books, and every single one was a brilliant read. I love being on a winning streak with reading! Here’s what I read, with links to my reviews where relevant:

Good Intentions by Kasim Ali (2022)

A wonderful contemporary love story that had me full engrossed in Nur and Yasmina’s complicated relationship. You can read my full review here.

The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson (2022)

This is the first book by this author that I have read, but it will certainly not be the last. You can read my full review of The Exhibitionist here.

The Green Indian Problem by Jade Leaf Willetts (2022)

Another gem from fab indie press Renard – everyone should read this book. My blog tour review is here.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan (2021)

This is a short but powerful read, showing just how much can be packed into a few pages by a talented writer. My review of Small Things Like These is here.

Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg (2022)

This is our Squadpod Book Club pick for April, and it is incredible. I’ll have a full review up after our Twitter chat – do join us on @squadpod3 if you have a copy of this gripping read!

My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley (2021)

Another short but perfectly formed book. This story of a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship is fascinating and powerful. You can read my full review here.

Wet Paint by Chloe Ashby (2022)

I loved this book – a brilliant debut that announces the author as a talent to watch. Look out for my review on the Wet Paint blog tour – my spot is on 18th April!

When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Sola, translated by Mara Faye Lethem (2022)

This book is as beautiful inside as the gorgeous cover promises. Every sentence is a revelation. I only finished it last night, so I will get a full review up soon – but this is a book that will stay with me for a long time. A stunning read.

I hope you’ve seen something you like among my March reads! Do let me know in the comments if any of these are on your TBR.

Happy reading!

Ellie x