50. ‘The Female of the Species’ by Lionel Shriver.

‘Still unattached and childless at the age of 59, world renowned anthropologist Gray Kaiser is seemingly invincible – and untouchable. Returning to make a documentary at the site of her first great triumph in Kenya, she is accompanied by her faithful middle aged assistant, Errol McEchern, who has loved her for years in silence. When sexy young graduate assistant Raphael Sarasola arrives on the scene, Gray is captivated and falls hopelessly in love – before an amazed and injured Errol’s eyes. As he follows the progress of their affair with jealous fascination, Errol watches hopelessly from the sidelines as a once proud and fierce woman is reduced to miserable dependence through subtle, cruel and calculating manipulation’.

Thus reads the back cover of this astonishing book. Mum read this in 2011, I for the first time in January this year, and I found it enthralling. I didn’t like Gray very much to begin with, she had too many ‘super-powers’, but as the story unfolded, which is told very much by Errol, we see her becoming much more human, with all that that entails.

Raphael’s story is told quite uniquely as envisaged by Errol, an interesting technique which I thought fascinating. He has had, shall we say, an interesting upbringing, becoming a ruthless and really quite unpleasant and self serving individual, something Errol sees but of course, Gray, for all her super-powers, misses entirely. Errol cares so much for Gray, and she at one point admits that she feels ‘protected’ by him, something that is hard for her to recognise.

This was Lionel Shrivers first novel, and it really is a stunner, dealing with deep and complex emotions and needs, and bringing together a cast of unique and interesting characters. I definitely recommend it, and am looking forward to reading more of her work; most of her novels are in Mum’s collection.

As always, I’m going to be gifting this copy forward, so if you’d like to add it to your collection, please get in touch here, or through the Mums Books page and group on Facebook, or Instagram, and I will be delighted to send it to you…