The Last Pearl Fisher Of Scotland by Julia Stuart

(Vintage, £7.99)

The only licensed pearl fisher left in Scotland, Brodie McBride, has spent the last 19 years secretly making a pearl necklace for his wife, Elspeth. He’s desperate to finish it off, as their marriage is in trouble and he hopes the presentation of this love token will set them back on the right road again. It only needs one final pearl, but the mussels he needs are nowhere to be found any more in the polluted Highland rivers. Money is at the root of most of their problems. Their 10-year-old daughter, Maggie, needs a new prosthetic arm, which they can’t afford to buy. But Maggie has her own plans to save their marriage, inadvertently triggering a series of events that is much more than she bargained for. One can’t help but empathise with the McBrides, and the bright and determined Maggie is instantly likeable. For all the grimness of their situation, Julia Stuart has leavened it with plenty of warmth and humanity.

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Whispers Through A Megaphone by Rachel Elliott

(One, £8.99)

Miriam Delaney, 35, never raises her voice above a whisper because her domineering, unhinged mother detested noise. She also hasn’t left her house for three years. But finally, with her mother gone, she feels ready to face the outside world, convinced that she can finally be who she was meant to be – if only she knew what that was. Once outside, she encounters Ralph Swoon, a psychotherapist who has discovered that his Twitter-addicted wife doesn’t love him and has moved out to live in a hut in the woods with a ginger cat. Miriam and Ralph strike up a friendship, which does them both the power of good. Meanwhile, Ralph’s wife, Sadie, has taken a break from Twitter for her own voyage of self-discovery. Elliott has a background in psychotherapy herself, and this debut novel, longlisted for the Baileys Prize, is a charming story of growing, changing and overcoming our pasts, told with wit, insight and some colourful supporting characters.

Diary Of An Oxygen Thief by Anonymous

(Little, Brown, £8.99)

Originally self-published in Holland in 2006 by an Irish advertising executive, this short novel of self-loathing has been an underground hit ever since, helped along by the author-publisher’s clever internet-based marketing campaign. Finally free of the shackles of his alcohol addiction, the repentant narrator purges his guilt over how he enjoyed psychologically abusing and degrading women during his drinking years. Much of the middle part of the book is taken up with his soul-crushing tenure as an art director at an agency in Minnesota, but when he becomes obsessed with a young woman and moves to New York he finds out what it’s like to have the tables turned on him and become an object of humiliation himself. Is it a genuine memoir, a novel or a mixture of both? It’s impossible to be sure, but with its depictions of misogynistic cruelty and an uncompromising psychological honesty, it’s both a disturbing book and one that’s hard to put down.