Half In Love

When a fellow dinner party guest recommends a book, it's natural to make a mental note of the title and check it out next time you're in a bookshop looking for something to read

However, when that fellow guest happens to be the author of the book in question, then politeness (and curiosity) dictate that you actually buy the book.

Unless you move in literary circles, it shouldn't be too expensive – it has happened to me only once but it's how I came across Half In Love, a collection of short stories by an American called Maile Meloy, who we met on holiday in Maine a few years ago.

(She was one of these women who make you wonder how you fill your day – an Olympic kayaker as well as a published author, with a boyfriend who was a lead writer for The Simpsons.)

Anyway, it turned out to be a great recommendation – apart from anything else, short stories make perfect holiday reading when (like me) you don't get much time to relax with a 600-page novel.

The best stories are those set in the author's native Montana (where I think she is artistically most comfortable); the two set in England and France perhaps ring less true.

But there is no doubting the quality of the book as a whole - and that's not just me being polite. She was recently named as one of Granta's 21 Best Young American Novelists.