Love & death: 5 great health-inspired novels to read before bed

By Kitty Knowles 30 January 2017

The Wellcome Book Prize 2017: Rousing reads about mental and physical hardship.

We all know that a good book is one of the best ways to close the day – sleep expert Arianna Huffington swears by it.

Luckily there’s a raft of fantastic new novels for you to get stuck into, hand-picked by experts for the Wellcome Book Prize.

As ever, the 2017 longlist, celebrates budding authors who’ve written about medicine, health or illness. But this year (unusually) five of the entries are fiction, spanning everything from modern-day tragedy to historical erotica.

Expect lots and lots of love and death – perfect for bed-time reading.

The five fiction titles featured in the 2017 Wellcome Book Prize longlist – in no particular order…

Mend the Living

By Maylis de Kerangal

The first ever translated work to be shortlisted, Mend the Living is literally a tale of the heart.

Maylis de Kerangal’s fifth novel starts with three young surfers heading out to the waves, but a road accident on their return journey leaves one hospitalised – and brain-dead.

Be gripped by the tragic story that unfurls around his perfectly beating heart – and the decisions his family makes, before it beats in the body of another.

MacLehose Press. £10.74 Amazon

The Golden Age

By Joan London

In The Golden Age, Joan London depicts a family, far from home, as they confront a life-changing sickness.

Frank Gold may have escaped Hungary and World War II turmoil, but must now confront a new challenge: polio.

Luckily a clandestine love affair in the children’s hospital gives Frank strength, while his parents face up to their new found isolation.

Europa Editions. £11.38 Amazon.

The Tidal Zone

By Sarah Moss

With The Tidal Zone, Sarah Moss digs deep into the experience of grief.

This isn’t just a about the shock a father experience over his 15-year daughter’s death, but how this impacts every aspect of his life: his academic work, his marriage, the grind of daily chores at home.

A gripping novel tactfully transcends both the deeply sad and unexpectedly funny to weave a tapestry of love and fear.

Granta Books. £10.49, Amazon

The Essex Serpent

By Sarah Perry

In The Essex Serpent Sarah Perry invites you to step back in time to London 1893, as a newly widowed woman prepares to embrace her circumstances.

Driven by the emotional release from her marriage, Cora Seaborne takes leave for Essex with her son – little could she have predicted the beast she’d find herself tracking out on the marshes, nor the friendship she forms with the local vicar, as a result.

A story about love, albeit an unusual one.

Serpent’s Tail, Profile Books. £8.99, Amazon.

Miss Jane

By Brad Watson

Set in early 20th-century Mississippi, Miss Jane is inspired by the true story of Brad Watson’s great-aunt.

However, this female protagonist is unable to serve her ‘purpose’, as a genital abnormality means she cannot have sex – and will unlikely marry.

Despite this Jane’s charisma shines though, as you follow her story from childhood into a turbulent world of romance.

A rich, complex, and erotic return to the past – a must-read.

Picador. £7.99, Amazon

Check out the full Wellcome Book Prize longlist (including non-fiction selections) today.