Ten top beach reads

Forget the lovely view: you won't be able to take your eyes off our selection of 2013's best page-turners



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'The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman

A lot happened in the eight-year gap between this and Neil Gaiman’s last adult novel, most notably profile-rocketing ventures into cinema with ‘Stardust’ and ‘Coraline’. The hype could easily have sunk ‘The Ocean…’, but instead it demonstrates Gaiman’s knack for picking apart and preying on our juvenile fears. Fantasy for people who don’t read fantasy.

Click here to buy 'The Ocean at the End of the Lane’


‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Robert Galbraith

We all know by now which literary wizard wrote this, but if she hadn’t been outed, would you have guessed? In a bid to escape the pressure of post-Potter expectation, JK Rowling hid behind pen name ‘Robert Galbraith’ for her first foray into crime writing. It seems to have done the trick, allowing her to write this genuinely thrilling, gripping detective tale set in London.

                                                       Click here to buy ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’


‘The Reason I Jump’ by Naoki Higashida

Written by Naoki Higashida when he was 13 (the writer is now in his twenties), this book reveals the inner experience of a boy born with a severe form of autism. Higashida was locked in a world of silence before being introduced to an alphabet grid which allowed him to spell out words and share the isolating, sometimes devastating experience of his condition. An enlightening read.

                                                       Click here to buy ‘The Reason I Jump’

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

'The Universe Versus Alex Woods’ by Gavin Extence

Being hit by a meteor at ten and having a psychic single mum makes Alex a rather unusual boy. This charming, moving story follows his unusual journey into adulthood.

Click here to buy 'The Universe Versus Alex Woods'


‘Joyland’ by Stephen King

Has there ever been a setting better suited to the macabre penmanship of the great Stephen King than a creaking, middle-America amusement park? A supernatural whodunit with a wonderfully pulpy edge.

Click here to buy 'Joyland'


‘Vampires in the Lemon Grove’ by Karen Russell

A collection of short stories ranging from the surreal to the really surreal, this follow-up to the American novelist’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated novel ‘Swamplandia!’ delivers everything from reincarnated American presidents to a sports tournament for sea creatures.

Click here to buy 'Vampires in the Lemon Grove'


‘One Step Too Far’ by Tina Seskis

On occasion, haven’t we all wanted to ditch our responsibilities, change our name and run off into a new life? Emily (or is it Catherine?) takes the plunge in this smartly written thriller.

Click here to buy 'One Step Too Far'


‘Big Brother’ by Lionel Shriver

Unsurprisingly, this book by the author of ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ isn’t brimming with sunshine. Still, there are no psychopathic teens in a story about a woman coming to terms with her brother’s life-threatening obesity.

Click here to buy 'Big Brother’


‘Unseen’ by Karin Slaughter

This fast-paced tale takes Detective Trent on an undercover mission to the Deep South, and the plot has more twists and turns than a tornado. 

Click here to buy 'Unseen'


‘Bones of the Lost’ by Kathy Reichs

Peruvian dog mummies, an airline club card and a dead teenage girl are among the unlikely elements in this rollercoaster read which sees Dr Temperance Brennan kick forensic-anthropological-ass. 

Click here to buy 'Bones of the Lost'

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Billy Elliot the Musical

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

Current cast features Harris Beattie, Harrison Dowzel, Redmand Rance and Kaine Ward as Billy. Six years after it first stamped, swore, and pirouetted into audiences' hearts, 'Billy Elliot the Musical' continues to mark itself out as one of the best nights in town. Both as tough as a miner's fist after a Friday night booze-up and as soaringly sensitive as one of Tchaikovsky's swans, it's a gritty story of hope that works its magic by defying sentimentality and slaying stereotypes. Book writer Lee Hall has displayed a talent for comedy that has been noted by critics ever since he hit the radio airwaves with the less successful, but darkly Ortonesque 'Cooking With Elvis' in 1995. By taking the miners' strike as the backdrop to Billy's tale, he taps into a period of history that powerfully resonates as the last great iconic clash between left and right in British politics. What works so beautifully in 'Billy Elliot the Musical' is the miners' staunch embodiment of grimy-faced beer -without-frills masculinity – as threatened by the 12-year-old Billy's 'effeminate' attempts to express himself as a dancer, as they are by the rapacious, gorgon-style femininity of Thatcher. Hall and director Stephen Daldry exploit the gender clash to the full, both verbally and visually: so whether you're laughing at foul-mouthed ballerinas or miners in tutus, this is a glorious comedy – and near-tragedy – of dissonant values and shifting perceptions. It was Jamie Bell, of course, who so successf

  1. 126 Victoria Street, SW1E 5EA
  2. £19.50-£95. Runs 3hrs
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Dec 19
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War Horse

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Critics choice

Five years on, the National Theatre's 'War Horse' has become ubiquitous. The toast of the West End and Broadway, as I write this it's sold out at the New London Theatre for the next two months – by contrast, you can book to see 'Matilda' next week. Its enormous success has negated the impact of Arts Council funding cuts on the NT, to the extent that the show has started to be singled out by some commentators as an example of 'safe' post-credit crunch programming. And, of course, there's the Steven Spielberg film, a curious affair sparked by the director's genuine love of the play, in which he gives Michael Morpurgo's 1982 a lavish screen treatment that has everything bar the one thing that made the play so special in the first place. That is, of course, Handspring's astonishing life-size puppets. Skeletally modernist in form but utterly, magically alive thanks to their talented army of puppeteers and Toby Sedgwick's phenomenal choreography, they are the true stars of Tom Morris and Marianne Elliott's production. Without them, Morpurgo's tale of how Devon-dwelling teen Albert Narracott signed up to throw himself into the meat grinder of World War I – in order to track down his beloved horse Joey – would be a likeable, humane, slightly formulaic introduction to the catastrophe of the war. With them, it is something different entirely, a virtuoso spectacle that combines grit and charm in equal measure. Joey is a multifaceted delight and the clumsy wheeled goose which shares

  1. Drury Lane, WC2B 5PQ
  2. £15-£62.50. Run 2hrs 35mins
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Feb 14
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Matilda the Musical

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

'My mummy says I'm a miracle,' lisps a pampered mini-me at a purgatorial kiddies' birthday party at the outset of this delicious, treacly-dark family show. The obnoxious ma and pa of its titular, gifted, pint-sized heroine are not, of course, quite so doting. But 'Matilda' must be making its creators, playwright Dennis Kelly and comedian-songsmith Tim Minchin, a very pair of proud parents. Opening to rave reviews in Stratford-upon Avon before transferring to the West End in 2011 and snatching up Olivier Awards with all the alacrity of a sticky-fingered child in a sweetshop, Matthew Warchus's RSC production remains a treat. With hindsight, Kelly and Minchin's musical, born of the 1988 novel by that master of the splendidly grotesque Roald Dahl, is a little too long and, dramatically, a tad wayward. But like curly-haired little girl in the famous nursery rhyme, when it is good, it is very, very good. And it's even better when it's horrid. The past few months have seen some cast changes, including, alas, the departure of Bertie Carvel's tremendous Miss Trunchbull, headmistress of the dread Crunchem Hall School, former Olympic hammer-thrower and a gorgon of monumental nastiness, complete with scarily Thatcher-esque tics of purse-lipped gentility and faux concern. David Leonard doesn't quite match the squirm-inducing, hair-raising detail of Carvel in the role, but his more butch, granite-faced version is fantastically horrible nonetheless. And if Paul Kaye as Matilda's loathsom

  1. Earlham St, WC2H 9HU
  2. £24-£85. Runs 2hrs 40mins
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sun Dec 20
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Silent Disco at The View from The Shard

The silent disco phenomenon reaches new heights at these exclusive Time Out events. Pick your channel and choose your side as three DJs battle it out over separate wireless channels, playing the best in pop, rock and party classics, while you dance the night away at 1,000ft. The View from The Shard is the visitor attraction at the top of Western Europe's tallest building, The Shard. With unparalleled, panoramic views, it offers visitors a unique perspective on the capital.

  1. The View from the Shard Joiner St, SE1 9QU
  2. Sat Nov 15 - Sun Feb 8
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  • Rated as: 4/5

Kerry Ellis returns to the role of Elphaba from August 4 until October 25. See official website for full cast list. The film world continues its love affair with werewolves, vampires and all things 'Twilight'. But theatre types have always known witches are where it's at. In its sixth year at the Apollo Victoria, Oz prequel 'Wicked' continues to fill this massive theatre with an international crowd of voracious consumers (glass of champagne and a choccy for £16 anyone?). But this stylish and bombastic musical still delivers, sailing over its patchy score thanks to a gravity-defying performance from its current leading lady Rachel Tucker, as the intense green-skinned undergrad who goes on to become the Wicked Witch of the West. 'Wicked' is a circus that rises or falls around its central performance. In the midst of a gigantic production full of bangs, bells and whistles Tucker, with her small frame and searing vocal ability, simply flies off with the show. She's closely followed by Gina Beck, who plays good girl, Glinda. Glinda and Elphaba's relationship forms the heart of this story and, as the Good Witch, Beck is a consummate clown, playing up the silliness of her character at every turn. But she can raise a tear, too, and her final duet with Tucker, 'For Good', is genuinely heart-rending. The Tim Burton-inspired ensemble oscillate between the hypnotic and grotesque and a sweet but thin voiced Matt Willis charms as the rather superfluous Prince. As in classical ballet,

  1. Wilton Rd, SW1V 1LG
  2. £15-£90. Runs 2hrs 45mins
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Nov 7
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The Alternative London Tour

  • Free

East London's 'alternative' side is revealed on this leftfield tour. Expect to be introduced to the history and culture of the Brick Lane 'Banglatown' and Shoreditch areas as well as current issues and street art. Booking essential via www.alternativeldn.co.uk

  1. Old Spitalfields Market Brushfield Street, Spitalfields, E1 6AA
  2. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Dec 20
More info

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Three theatres, three casts, one major disaster and seven Olivier Awards on, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel about Christopher Boone, the teenage ‘mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’ remains a thing of unbridled wonder.The occasion for this re-review is the end of the enforced layoff inflicted upon ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. The show figuratively blew the roof off when it transferred from the NT to the Apollo Theatre, but unfortunately the ageing ceiling responded by literally collapsing, necessitating a change of venue and months off. Hopefully, that episode will provide a footnote. The most important thing is that Simon Stephens’s adaptation remains high tech and high quality. The first Christopher, Luke Treadaway, will always cast a huge shadow, and incumbent Graham Butler can’t match his coiled spring energy and manic otherness. But if Butler offers a gentler, more ‘normal’ hero, his superficial lack of strangeness means that it’s all the more heartbreaking when his nameless condition – presumably Asperger’s – leaves him suddenly, unexpectedly broken, unable to cope with something as simple as a human touch.  Ultimately ‘Curious Incident’ is a tragedy about a family torn apart by the pressures of looking after their son. Nicolas Tennant and Emily Joyce are excellent as Christopher’s bumblingly selfless dad Ed and agonised mum Judy, driven to put her own wellbeing before that of the child who will never love

  1. Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6AR
  2. £15-£57.50. Runs 2hrs 40min
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat May 23
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The Book of Mormon

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Brace yourself for a shock: ‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Broadway-munching musical is not particularly shocking. Sure, there are ‘fucks’ and ‘cunts’ and gags about baby rape – but beneath it all, this is a big-hearted affair that pays note-perfect homage to the spirit of Broadway’s golden age as much as the sounds. The strapping young Latter Day Saints missionaries in ‘The Book of Mormon’ are as cartoonish as any ‘South Park’ character, with the endearing alpha-male woodenness of the ‘Team America’ puppets. In other words, they are loveable, well-intentioned idiots, traversing the globe like groups of pious meerkats, convinced they can convert the heathen through sheer politeness. And if they have doubts, then as Stephen Ashfield’s scene-stealingly repressed Elder McKinley declares in glorious faux-Gershwin number ‘Turn it Off’, ‘Don’t feel those feelings – hold them in instead!’ His advice is ignored by the show’s heroes, narcissistic, highly strung Elder Price (Gavin Creel) and dumpy, lying Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner). The pair are sent to Uganda in an effort to convert a village to Mormonism, a religion that essentially tells the penniless villagers how great distant America is. The locals are not keen: Price cracks and unwisely clashes with a crazed local warlord; Cunningham makes up his own version of Mormonism which involves fucking frogs to cure oneself of Aids. ‘The Book of Mormon’ is, above all, very funny, breathing three-dimensional, a

  1. Coventry St, W1D 6AS
  2. £37.50-£95. Runs 2hrs 30mins
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Jan 10
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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Alex Jennings replaces Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka from May 19 2014. ‘Skyfall’ director Sam Mendes’s huge new Warner Brothers musical confirms it: the hottest property in the West End right now is a grouchy, dead half-Norwegian, who loathed show-offs and spent most of his working life hiding out in a shed at the bottom of his garden. Roald Dahl probably wouldn’t have liked the whiz-popping rave that Mendes has created from his addictive kids’ book ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – because he felt it was Charlie’s story, and any adaptation inevitably becomes the Willy Wonka show. But what a show this is: a deliciously twisted anti-talent contest in which young Charlie finds a golden ticket and enters the factory of mysterious confectioner, Wonka, to battle four revoltingly spoiled brats for a lifetime’s supply of chocolate. Thanks to David Greig’s wicked script and preposterously talented child leads, Charlie’s rivals are updated brilliantly for our look-at-me generation: gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde now comes complete with rap and entourage. But, unlike the RSC kid-focused hit ‘Matilda’, our young hero fades into the background and it’s a relief when all the scenes showing what a nice lad he is are out of the way. Designer Mark Thompson has raised the bar on what kind of world it's possible to create on a stage, given colossal ingenuity (and a multimillion pound budget). And real fun starts when the giant gates of Wonka’s factory open, revealing gadgets, candy-brig

  1. Catherine St, WC2B 5JF
  2. £25-£90. Runs 2hrs 30mins
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Oct 31
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Les Miserables

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

From June 16 current cast will include Peter Lockyer as Jean Valjean, David Thaxton as Javert, Tom Edden as Thenrdier, Celine Schoenmaker as Fantine, Emilie Fleming as Cosette, Rob Houcher as Marius, Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine and Wendy Ferguson as Madame Thenardier.  If the second longest running show in the West End was looking a little tired, a rejuvenating orchestral facelift was just what the doctor ordered. Cameron Mackintosh's 'little girl' has shaken off that 1980s synth vibe and finally woken up to the organic noughties. This is a new, richer sound with strong operatic undertones and even the faint echoes of chamber music. Led by compelling ex-'Phantom…' Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, this dynamic cast blows a whirlwind through the Queen's Theatre, hurtling along Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's famous melodrama. Aided by a swirling revolve and John Napier's stunning constructivist set, we follow Jean Valjean's journey across France as he attempts to escape his criminal past and make amends. Hadley Fraser as Javert, Valjean's fated pursuer, matches Karimloo's booming vocals and moody stares step for step (at one point rather sweetly causing a premature ovation). Craig Mather and Lisa-Anne Wood do very prettily as lovelorn young leads Marius and Cosette. But it is Alexia Khadime's soaring 'On My Own' that storms the barricades; her plucky and faithful Eponine genuinely pulls at the heartstrings. For all its legions of fans, there are many who wou

  1. Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 6BA
  2. £20–£95. Runs 3hrs
  3. Tue Oct 21 - Sat Apr 25
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