Welcome to our weekly Books Digest where we round-up the new books you should, and shouldn’t, be reading. This week features The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor by Tina Brown, People Person by Candice Carty-Williams and The Lonely Stories: 22 Celebrated Writers on the Joys & Struggles of Being Alone by Natalie Eve Garrett.

For more books take a look through our Books Digest Archive.

The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor, the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown (Cornerstone, £13.59).

Jenny Hjul

There is no question that the latest contribution to this year’s surfeit of royal titles is engrossing. Tina Brown may not be a traditional royal historian — and her nearly 600 pages are often devoid of references — but she can sure capture the Windsor essence in a way that suggests her contacts are as impressive as she says.

Her account of the post-Diana period races along with like an extended newspaper exposé, with her purple prose almost as exhausting as the action. How could one family have so many dramas, one often thinks when reading about the royals, but Brown has a gift for making even “royal dullness” sound sensational.

If it wasn’t for her reputation, not just as the author of the best-selling Diana Chronicles but as a Queen in her own right of magazine journalism on both sides of the pond, would this all be accepted as authoritative? How does she know that William had a picture of Julia Carling on his dartboard at Eton? Who told her that Camilla called Emilie van Cutsem “that Dutch cow”? 

It hardly matters as this is unadulterated entertainment, offering layers of insight, revelatory to seasoned British royal watchers — maybe to the royals themselves, and explaining a weird world, where posh women like Camilla age naturally (resisting “all improving tucks and Botox”), to uninitiated Americans.

People Person by Candice Carty-Williams (Orion Publishing, £9.79)

Alice Crossley

Candice Carty-Williams shot to fame in 2019 with the publication of her debut novel Queenie. Praised for both her comic writing and astute depictions of black womanhood and black British life, the book was named Blackwell’s Book of the Year and sold over 150,000 copies. Just three years later, Carty-Williams is back with her highly-anticipated second novel, People Person. 

The book follows the Pennington family; five estranged siblings united by just one thing — their lothario father Cyril Pennington who wooed and abandoned their individual mothers over a 20 year period. One summer’s day in South London, Cyril decides his offspring should finally meet and an awkward afternoon ensues. The five children won’t meet again until adulthood when an unexpected phone call finds them at the scene of a crime and forces them into one another’s lives, whether they like it or not.

People Person has a taste of Zadie Smith about it; Carty-Williams’ reflections on family and the difficulties of navigating relationships that exist outside of the typical definitions of “father”, “sister” or “brother” are poignant and stirring. There are similarities between Queenie and Dimple Pennington, but this is largely a flex of Carty-William’s ability to write beyond the trope of one character. Her amusing and uncomplicated writing will surely put People Person at the top of the best-seller charts this summer.

The Lonely Stories: 22 Celebrated Writers on the Joys & Struggles of Being Alone (Catapult, £12.15)

Saffron Swire

A series of illnesses — from chronic sinus infections to anxiety and chronic fatigue — meant that the artist and author Natalie Eve Garett spent many of her formative years in solitude. Nowadays, Garett relishes and craves these bouts of isolation and has even braided together 22 personal essays from celebrated writers on the joys and struggles of being alone in her cathartic anthology The Lonely Stories.

Drawn to essays that voice the “quiet delights of solitude and the shocks of isolation”, Garett has created a sanctuary for these writers’ stories that use loneliness as a springboard to ruminate on topics such as gender, sexuality, addiction, immigration, insecurity and illness.

Expect a series of vignettes on solitude experienced in different passages of life: Imani Perry confronts chronic illness in her essay “Ward”, Aja Gabel offers a meditation on miscarriage and hope in “The Body Secret,” Anthony Doerr comically shares his struggles with internet addiction in “Am I still Here?”, Lidia Yukanitich sensuously revels in her solitude in “Reliquary: A Quartet”, Claire Dederer confront her alcohol dependency in a writer’s residency in Texas in “Javelinas” and Girls writer Lena Dunham unpacks her loneliness after the breakup of a long-term relationship in “Alone Time”.

Together, all of the threads from these stories weave a rich tapestry that illuminates the experience of being alone — its trials, tribulations and its replenishing blessings. After years of shielding and self-isolating, what better anecdote than this compendium of essays to keep you company and serve as a reminder that loneliness is as close to universal as experiences come.