Nuala Ellwood’s Top Five Grip Lit Novels

Nuala Ellwood’s Top Five Grip Lit Novels

Have you heard about the hot new literary genre? It’s grip lit. Grip lit is made up of novels that are a blend of fiction and thriller and typically written by, for, and about women. Nuala Ellwood, author of My Sister’s Bones, is no stranger to the genre. Here, she shares her favorite grip lit books with Bookish readers.


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Talking to the Dead

Helen Dunmore, who sadly passed away in June, was a huge inspiration to me as a writer. In this stunning novel she explores sibling bonds, childhood violence, and unreliable memory with an understated menace that bleeds through the pages. The story takes place in a remote Sussex farmhouse at the height of summer where two sisters with a tragic past are reunited when one of them gives birth to her first child. We slowly come to realize that all is not as it seems; one or both of them may have committed a terrible crime years previously and yet each of them manage to convince the reader that the other is to blame. This haunting, beautifully written thriller gives me goose bumps every time I read it.

Apple Tree Yard

On the surface Yvonne Carmichael has it all: a successful career, a happy marriage, two much loved children. So why does she feel so unfulfilled? A chance encounter with a handsome stranger under the Houses of Parliament seems to give her a new lease of life, a chance to break away from the safe, steady world she has built around herself. But a random act of violence brings that world crashing down and forces Yvonne to make a drastic decision, one that threatens to destroy her life. Louise Doughty excels at creating bone-chilling stories by delving into the darkness that exists at the heart of seemingly ordinary lives. One of the things I loved about Apple Tree Yard was that, through its second person narration, it managed to turn the reader into a voyeur. Much like the CCTV camera hidden in the titular yard, we are at once removed from and yet colluding in the horrifying events that unfold.

He Said/She Said

Laura and her boyfriend Kit are at a festival in Cornwall watching a solar eclipse when Laura interrupts the apparent rape of a woman called Beth. They call the police and a man is arrested. However, as Beth becomes ever more entwined in Laura and Kit’s lives it becomes clear that she is getting too close for comfort. This is an extraordinary novel that clouds your perception throughout, much like the eclipse that sets the whole story in motion, so that you are never sure if what you are seeing is the whole picture or just a strange trick of the eye.

The Last Days of Summer

When Jasper Curtis is released from prison and returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters he assures them that he is a changed man, but soon trouble comes calling with horrifying consequences. Here is a novel where the landscape and searing temperature of Texas become characters in their own right and add to the intensity of this terrifying story. Vanessa Ronan’s thriller drips with tension and foreboding from the first sentence to the last.

Lie with Me

This chilling thriller is narrated by Paul, a failed author and pathological liar. One night at dinner Paul meets Alice, a widow. They become involved and Alice invites Paul to stay with her at the villa she owns on an idyllic Greek island. But the trip turns into a nightmare where the ghosts of both Paul’s and Alice’s pasts come back to haunt them and Paul’s lies finally start to catch up with him. I read this novel in one sitting and loved the way Sabine Durrant managed to combine beautiful, hypnotic prose with a killer plot and truly unexpected twist.

Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller.

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