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Top Shelf With Laura McPhee-Browne

The Little Plum and Cherry Beach author shares the books that mean the most to her, and the one she’d buy for her mortal enemy

By Laura Brading

For this fortnight’s instalment of Top Shelf—a Q&A series featuring smart, book-loving women that offers a peek inside their reading lives—we caught up with Laura McPhee-Browne.

Laura is the author of novels Little Plum and Cherry Beach, and works as a social worker and counsellor.

If you read our best books of 2023 list last week, you will have seen Little Plum in the lineup. “The kind of book you will swallow whole in one afternoon,” wrote PRIMER’s co-founder Anna.

I had a similar experience with her debut Cherry Beach – an elegant story of female friendship, love, desire, loss and ambiguity. If you appreciate quietly told novels that are not afraid to explore the dark corners of our emotional lives, then McPhee-Browne deserves a place your library.

Now, to the book chat…

A book you recommend to everyone
I don’t know that you can recommend the same book to everyone. I have assumed a friend would like a book so many times, and have often been wrong, because reading is such a personal thing. Having said that, I would buy a copy of My Name Is Lucy Barton for my mortal enemy and they would love it.


I would buy a copy of My Name Is Lucy Barton for my mortal enemy and they would love it.

A book you return to or have re-read
I have returned to The Vegetarian by Han Kang many times, because it’s a work of art.

A book you think more people should read
Nothing to See by Pip Adam is one of the most incredible books I have ever read, and such an exciting and groundbreaking portrayal of addiction.

Little Plum is a quiet, short novel that offers a perspective of motherhood that's rarely told

You read everything this author writes. Who is it?
My favourite author is Margaret Drabble, and I will reread her forever. She is 84 and hasn’t published a book in over 10 years, but I hope there’ll be another one. Olga Tokarczuk is another author I will always read, and she is only 61!

Which book do you wish you could read again for the first time?
Alone by Beverley Farmer. The perfect dark lesbian novella.

A book you’re looking forward to reading
There’s a new Clare Chambers novel coming out in 2025, and photos of proofs are being shared around the place, which is excruciating. I have loved all of her books and am desperate to read it.

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BY Laura Brading

Laura is PRIMER's books editor

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