THE PROMISE by Damon Galgut (Chatto £16.99)
by Damon Galgut (Chatto £16.99)
No arguments about this year’s Booker winner, centred on a white family’s broken pledge to their black housekeeper in post-apartheid South Africa.
A sobering allegory, to be sure, but also a giddy pleasure, thanks to Galgut’s restlessly acrobatic narrative voice, which darts and zooms unpredictably around the action.
Colson Whitehead (Fleet £16.99)
Whitehead’s smash hits The Underground Railroad, The Nickel Boys and this gangster epic is his follow-up. It is set amid the racial divisions of 1950s New York, where an ambitious black businessman is seduced by the prospect of quick gains in the city’s criminal underworld.
MISSED AND LOVED
by Susie Boyt (Virago £16.99)
This tender, but powerful novel is a perfect example of emotionally shrewd storytelling. It’s about a North London teacher who finds herself suddenly in charge of a newborn after her drug-addicted daughter, long since AWOL, turns up out of the blue with news.
KLARA AND SUN
Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber £20)
Is it possible to fall in love with an automated robot? What might this say about human nature? Although Ishiguro missed the Booker, he still distills the major questions in the modern world through this simple tale about the friendship of a teenage girl with a terrifying mother, and her artificial friend.
HELLO WILLIAM! by Elizabeth Strout (Viking £14.99)
Elizabeth Strout (Viking £14.99)
Elizabeth Strout, the miniature novelist who continues the story of our first acquaintance in My Name Is Lucy Barton, tells the story again.
Lucy is in the midst of grieving David her second husband but she’s still friends with William her first. He asks Lucy to join him for a Maine trip to find a new step-sister. It’s a great novel about self-knowledge, loss, and the effect of time passing.
Luke Cassidy (Bloomsbury £14.99)
With this riveting debut, the Irish literary scene continues to grow. Aoife is a small-town drug dealer and Annie her uncontrollable partner, on a dangerous trip to England to sell 10kg of cocaine.
Cassidy is a master at mixing antic storytelling with vernacular poetry and piercing observations about parochial Irish culture.
It was a blast.
Sarah Hall (Faber £12.99)
Sex, death and art are the three pillars of Hall’s searing post-pandemic novel. Edith Harkness (famous sculptor) is finishing her last commission when we meet her. However, the central story of her intimate lockdown with a chef is described in visceral and indelible detail.
CROSSROADS Jonathan Franzen (4th Estate £20)
by Jonathan Franzen (4th Estate £20)
Franzen’s giant slab of a family saga (just the first instalment) is perfect for getting lost in this Christmas, not least as its opening section takes place over Advent.
Juicy dilemmas abound as the Hildebrandt clan, headed up by recently humiliated pastor Russ, agonise over how — and indeed whether — to be good.
Richard Powers (Hutchinson Heinemann £18.99)
This may not be Powers’s strongest novel, but it deserved its Booker shortlisting.
Centring on widowed astrobiologist Theo and his Greta Thunberg-like neuro-diverse son, it engages head-on with the environmental catastrophe that presents an existential threat to us all — and manages to be utterly absorbing.
THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY by Amor Towles (Hutchinson Heinemann £20)
THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY
Amor Towles (Hutchinson Heinemann £20)
Crammed full of emotion, madcap escapades and hugely endearing characters, Towles’ outstanding third novel criss-crosses 1950s America as three wayward young men, and one sweet kid brother, go in search of fresh starts and family fortunes. The ten day journey of their troubled, unruly adventure takes them on a bittersweet and painful journey, both influenced by their pasts as well as into unknown futures.
CIRCLE OF GREATNESS
by Maggie Shipstead (Doubleday £14.99)
Great Circle is an irresistible epic. With two charismatic heroines — one an adventurous aviator, the other a disgraced film star — its dual time soars between Prohibition America and contemporary Hollywood, telling a vivid, colourful tale of two women battling to live their best lives.
by Lauren Groff (Heinemann £12.99)
Lauren Groff tells the captivating story of Marie de France. She is an outcast at Eleanor’s court and becomes the poet-prioress in a convent in England 12th century. It’s a marvellously told story of devotion, desire and ambition in the heart of a female utopia.
CIRCUS OF WOONDERS
by Elizabeth Macneal (Picador £14.99)
The Crimean War, the glitter and grime of a Victorian circus, and the complicated relationships between two brothers and a high trapeze artist in Jasper Jupiter’s Circus Of Wonders makes Elizabeth Macneal’s second novel a darkly seductive read.
Gothic and filled with convincing characters and a Gothic feel, this book explores the themes of power, personal autonomy, and performance.
CRIME AND THRILLERS
BILLY SUMMERS by Stephen King (Hodder £20)
by Stephen King (Hodder £20)
After leaving Iraq, an Iraqi war veteran becomes a hit man. He takes one more job in order to secure his financial security. But he finds that his last encounter has changed him profoundly. It is a poignant look at what it means for a person to be killed. This thriller will touch the soul.
by David Baldacci (Macmillan £20)
In her second outing, FBI agent Atlee Pine finally finds out what happened to her sister Mercy, who was abducted when the girls were just six years old — destroying their family. Pine feels even more pain after the shocking discovery. Here is Baldacci at the best of his brilliance.
by John le Carre (Viking £20)
This 26th, final installment of Edward and Deborah’s British spy novel is a great success. Edward and Deborah, two former spies are caught in hiding at a tiny seaside resort when their lives turn upside-down. It is a superb example of Le Carre’s enduring and exquisite genius.
SPAIN, APRIL by John Banville (Faber £14.99)
APRIL IN SPAIN
by John Banville (Faber £14.99)
This successor to Booker Prize-winner Banville’s first literary crime novel, Snow, again features his gentlemanly Irish detective St John Strafford, but is set in Spain this time. The story is elegant and holds onto its grip until the end.
THE DARK HOURS
by Michael Connelly (Orion £20)
One of the world’s greatest crime writers is back with a case featuring two of his finest detectives — Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard.
A man dies on New Year’s Eve, while Ballard searches for serial rapists called The Midnight Men, and she recruits Bosch — vintage Connelly.
THE MURDER BOX
by Olivia Kiernan (Riverrun £14.99)
In this fourth story, Kiernan shows her extraordinary talent for finding the unexpected. An envelope arrives in her office, which is actually a joke with a missing girl.
FOR YOUR OWN GOOD by Samantha Downing (Michael Joseph £12.99)
GET YOUR OWN GOOD
by Samantha Downing (Michael Joseph £12.99)
It’s a hilarious black comedy that tells the story of Ted Crutcher (a teacher at a public school) who loves to invent hells for his students. Then, Fallon Knight, one his past victims, appears suddenly at the school and becomes a teacher. Things become more sinister and people start to lose their lives. It is original and surprising.
THE SCORPION’S HEAD
by Hilde Vandermeeren (Pushkin £9.99)
This dark tale features a contract killer with a conscience and a mother who is suspected of trying harm to her child. Dolores Bartosz, a Bond-style mastermind, plays the main characters.
Exactly who is guilty of what isn’t clear until the very last page. It’s written by a psychologist who is also a truly gifted storyteller. It’s worth reading just for Dolores.
by Laura Lippman (Faber £14.99)
Lippman delivers another win with his story of an American writer who is high on painkillers after an accident and thinks that a fictional female character in one of his books might be trying to hurt him.
These insights are amazing and provide insight into writers’ egotistical tendencies. The plot is compelling with well-drawn characters, an engaging ending, and some great insights. It is the perfect psychological thriller to satisfy fans and convert anyone who would enjoy it.
by Alex Michaelides (W&N, £14.99)
This is a terrific follow-up to Michaelides’s smash hit The Silent Patient. Set in a sort of amped-up backdrop of Cambridge University, Marianne, a young widow, investigates the death of her niece’s friend. Marianne must deal with the secrets society of young, beautiful women and her demons. Gripping.
STILL LIFE by Sarah Winman (4th Estate £16.99)
by Sarah Winman (4th Estate £16.99)
It was my favorite book of the year. Cockneys are a motley bunch who leave war-torn East End to seek the beautiful, warm and bright Florence. Through the decades, we follow their journey. It is a story full of friendship and love.
by A. J. Pearce (Picador £14.99)
Emmy, working on Woman’s Friend magazine, is asked by the War Office for articles recruiting women for munitions work. It’s exciting until she goes to the factories, sees the poor conditions and decides to take action.
In the meantime, she is getting married. She is charming, kind-hearted, and comfortingly good looking.
APPLES DO NOT FALL
by Liane Moriarty (Michael Joseph £20)
Joy Delaney disappeared, and Stan Delaney is being investigated for her murder. The four adult children of the couple try to unravel what has happened. Was it the odd girl who lived with them? The tennis theme is woven into this sharp, perceptive story of family politics and pressure.
EMILY NOBLE’S DISGRACE
by Mary Paulson-Ellis (Mantle £16.99)
Paulson-Ellis’s subject is society’s forgotten and overlooked, and this seaside-set mystery is superb. Essie, who is a crime-scene cleaning lady, and Emily are police officers when the remains of a long-dead woman are found in an old boarding house. Who are these tiny bones? The terrible tale slowly emerges.
ANIMAL by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury £16.99)
by Lisa Taddeo (Bloomsbury £16.99)
The addictive thriller literary novel is one of my favorite reads. Joan the narrator is both victim as well as perpetrator in this unique tale. She takes us on a roller coaster ride through shame and sadness that characterize her life. This is about abuse, control and power — and is raging, shocking and thought-provoking.
by Louise Nealon (Manilla Press £12.99)
Debbie, the protagonist, lived on her farm with her eccentric, depressed mother and uncle before she went to university. Debbie, socially awkward and desperate to be accepted by society, is astonished at the city lifestyle but struggles with her family’s problems.
This is an emotionally rich, well-written story about coming of age that’s great for mental health.
This is NOT THE THING THAT ANYONE IS SAYING.
by Patricia Lockwood (Bloomsbury Circus £14.99)
When I first reviewed the debut, I didn’t know it would go on to be shortlisted for a Booker. I’m thrilled for the American author, an acclaimed poet born in a trailer, because this high-concept, often weird but absolutely accessible book about cancellation and homogenised internet opinion is full of wisdom.
Everyone is still alive by Cathy Rentzenbrink (Phoenix £14.99)
EVERYONE IS STILL ALIVE
by Cathy Rentzenbrink (Phoenix £14.99)
Juliet, Liam, and Charlie settle in Magnolia Road, South-West London. Liam decides to make friends with the neighbors by including them into his novel.
When one couple breaks up, tensions rise and new cracks are created in the group. It was both humorous and moving to see the details of motherhood, marriage and friendship.
by Virginia Feito (4th Estate £14.99)
Married to a best-selling novelist, Mrs March celebrates her latest book. When someone assumes the main character — a prostitute with a dwindling clientele — is based on Mrs March herself, her world begins to fracture.
The film is an intriguing psychological thriller that chills and a portrait of woman living on edge.
by Sarah Gilmartin (One £12.99)
Kate is hosting a party for Halloween 2018 to honor her tragic sister’s early death. They are not with their mother, however her two brothers arrive.
The years of the family’s history are brought back in dramatic fashion to reveal the truth about their past and the reasons for the problems they have faced. An insightful and beautifully written novel which kept me hooked.
by Adam O’Riordan (Bloomsbury £14.99, 272pp)
Charles returns home in 1890 from school bored and sets his cap towards Hettie (the young governess) of his sisters.
He arranges for his parents to marry her and make major life-changing decisions. This beguiling family portrait traces not just their fortunes but Charles’s sisters’ too, over the following decades of social change.
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz £20, 528pp)
SCI FI & FANTASY
THE WISDOM OF CROWDS
by Joe Abercrombie (Gollancz £20, 528pp)
First came war, then peace and now, with the revolutionary spirit alive in the Middlerlands, the peasants are revolting and everyone’s life is turned upside down. Get ready for vivid characters, plot twists and great writing.
THE BLACK LOCOMOTIVE
by Rian Hughes (Picador £16.99)
The problem is knotty but the solution worthy of a Boy’s Own comic in this conceptually complex, graphically gorgeous, full-steam-ahead masterpiece.
UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR
by T.J. Klune (Tor £16.99)
If Bill Bryson visited Limbo, he’d just love the tea shop at Charon’s Crossing — the afterlife’s waiting room. Wallace doesn’t. He’s a crabby accountant’s ghost who must learn it’s never too late to live and love — even when you’re dead. Simply put, it’s enchanting.
NOTES FROM THE BURNER AGE
by Claire North (Orbit, £18.99)
Since the Burning Age, religion has been all about living in harmony with nature, but with a new, populist movement intent on repeating the mistakes of the past, it’s time to ditch old loyalties. This gripping and engaging dystopian eco-thriller balances the intimacies that betrayal with global climate collapse.
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