I’ve been wanting to do a showcase on books set in the 1960s by other authors after writing my own novel, Out of Night. I asked an online community of authors and readers for their recommendations, and boy did they deliver! Here are ten books set in the changing times of the decade that we’ll always remember.
Story of a Country Boy by Val Portelli
A gritty saga set in 1960s London, it’s a perfect read for those that want to devour a story in one sitting.
Ridley Road by Jo Bloom
For fans of Maggie O’Farrell and Sadie Jones, amid the rise of fascism in sixties London, one woman searches for her lost love . . .
Summer, 1962. Twenty-year-old Vivien Epstein, a Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, arrives in London following the death of her father. Alone in the world, she is looking for Jack Fox, a man she had a brief but intense love affair with some months before. But the only address she has for him leads to a dead end.
Determined to make a new life for herself, Vivien convinces Barb, the owner of Oscar’s hair salon in Soho, to give her a job. There, she is swept into the colourful world of the sixties – the music and the fashions, the coffee bars and clubs.
But still, Vivien cannot forget Jack. As she continues to look for him, her search leads her into the fight against resurgent fascism in East London, where members of the Jewish community are taking to the streets, in and around Ridley Road. Then one day Vivien finally spots Jack, but her joy is short-lived when she discovers his secret.
For UK readers, this book is being adapted by BBC1 as a television series, and filming started in September 2020.No air date time announced as of yet.
Not the Life Imagined by Anne Pettigrew
A darkly humorous, thought-provoking story of Scottish medical students in the sixties, a time of changing social and sexual mores. None of the teenagers starting at Glasgow University in 1967 live the life they imagine. Beth Slater is shocked at how few female medical students there are and that some people, such as Conor Towmey, think they shouldn’t be there at all. Devastated by a close friend’s suicide, Beth uncovers a revealing diary and vows to find the person responsible for her death. Struggling with the pressure of exams while supporting friends though disasters, Beth charts the students’ changing, often stormy, relationships over two decades in a contemporary backdrop of Free Love, the Ibrox Football Disaster, the emergence of HIV and DNA forensics. In time, indiscretions surface with dire consequences for some. In Not the Life Imagined, retired medic Anne Pettigrew has written a tale of ambition and prejudice laced with sharp observations, irony and powerful perceptions that provide a humorous and compelling insight into the complex dynamics of the NHS fifty years ago.
The Girls from Greenway: A nostalgia saga perfect for fans of Daisy Styles and Rosie Clark by Elizabeth Woodcraft
A dramatic and nostalgic saga of two sisters coming of age in 1960s Essex.
Angie Smith lives in Greenway, Chelmsford, with her elder sister Doreen, their struggling mother and their drunk, violent father. Bored of her job, and of her dull, ordinary boyfriend, Angie dreams of bigger and better things.
But then she meets boutique owner Gene Battini. He is older, handsome, charming – and married. She is completely swept off her feet. But little does she know that Doreen is falling for Gene, too, and that their affair will have disastrous consequences.
As things at home go from bad to worse, Angie and Doreen must struggle to fight for what they want.
Can the girls from Greenway ever achieve their dreams?
‘[A] beautifully written saga which brims with the spirit of youth and is rich in period detail.’ Lancashire Evening Post
Kanyakumari by Hazel Manuel
Written during three separate trips to India and is set in that country. It is an unusual and powerful tale of friendship, danger and loss as three women find themselves alone in India, each facing some of her deepest fears and challenges.
When close friends and seasoned travellers, Rachel and Gina, take a trip to India, Rachel expects the usual round of sight-seeing and collecting experiences, but she is not prepared for the secret that Gina is harbouring. Interwoven with this unfolding drama is the story of Sandrine, who writes letters home to her brother as she travels around India in the late 60s.
In a tense narrative that moves between two periods, we take a journey that is both sumptuous and dark. Has Rachel placed herself in danger? What is at the root of Gina s anxiety? And what is Sandrine s place in this story of three women making interior journeys as they travel?
Mrs. Murray’s Ghost by Emily-Jane Hills Orford
It’s 1967 and Mary’s family has moved into a huge Victorian mansion. She loves her gigantic new house, especially her room. But then she begins to meet the house’s other residents. Mrs. Murray was murdered in Mary’s new house. At first she tries to scare the new residents away, but there seems to be a force connecting the ghost to Mary. Even the stranded Brownies, the little people who live between the walls, feel that connection. When Mary becomes deathly ill, the Brownies and the ghost team up to try to rescue her, only to encounter a witch and her evil dragons and minions. Time is running out. They must rescue Mary from a fever-induced dream world before she is trapped there forever.
Storm Clouds Gathering by Pauline Barclay
Storm clouds are gathering, silently and slowly, too far away to worry about. Or so it seems. But ignoring what is brewing will have dire consequences for the people caught up in the maelstrom.
Shirley Burton is too busy cheating on her husband, having a laugh and looking for fun to alleviate the boredom of her childless marriage. Kathleen Mitchell is too wrapped up in running around after her beautiful family to worry about her health. Anne Simpson has two things on her mind: her forthcoming marriage to Paul Betham, who seems to want to control her, and her career, which she does not want to give up.
Can Shirley really expect to deceive her husband and get away with it? Can Kathleen hold it all together, and is Anne able to have the best of everything?
Storm Clouds Gathering is a story of human emotion, passion and heart-rending grief. Set against the backdrop of the mid-sixties, these three families will be tested to the limit as betrayal, loss and love threaten to change their lives forever.
Living in the Shadows by Judith Barrow
Sequel to the acclaimed Changing Patterns and Pattern of Shadows. It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria. Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire. At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so? There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.
Her Mother’s Secret by Jane Baynham
A wonderful sixties saga from a promising new talent. Highly recommended.
It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …
Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.
To Brighton and Back and A Little Drop of Moonshine by Deirdre Palmer
One weekend in Brighton. And nothing will ever be the same again.
Four young Londoners – Carol-Anne, Jeanette, Terry, and Mark – head to Brighton for a weekend of seaside fun. Dancing, drinking, and a whole lot of lovin’ are high on the agenda, not necessarily in that order. It’s the Swinging Sixties, a time of freedom, so why not?
But behind the bravado lurk more insecurities than there are pebbles on Brighton beach. Each of the weekenders has a secret. Nobody is quite what they seem, especially Jeanette, whose problems run deeper than anyone could begin to imagine. When she disappears on a night out, tensions rise as her friends struggle to work out what to do.
They agree on two points: no parents, no police. Where they come from, people sort out their own problems. But can Carol-Anne, Terry and Mark really handle the situation without help, or is this too big, even for them?
A hot summer’s night when anything seems possible, no dream out of reach. Then everything changes.
As Apollo 11 hurtles into space and Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon, young Londoners Carol-Anne, Terry, and Mark join the celebrations at an all-night party in a holiday camp in Devon. But as the cheers go up for the astronauts, one of their group is missing: Carol-Anne’s teenage sister, Beverly.
When Beverly is discovered in tears back at their caravan, she has a story to tell that knocks the moonwalk into second place. But is she telling the truth?
The special night falls into chaos as loyalties are tested to the limit, with accusations hurled about like beach balls.
With Beverly becoming more of a liability by the minute, the best plan is to return to London. But once they’re back home, each of the group is forced to confront the troubles they thought they’d left behind.
A Little Drop of Moonshine is the sequel to To Brighton and Back but can equally well be enjoyed on its own.