It’s getting to that time of year when the bookworm’s equivalent of digging out the red pen and snaffling a copy of the Christmas Radio Times starts. That’s right, it’s 2019 publisher catalogue time. So I’ve undergone the arduous task of sitting down and seeing what bookish offerings we can expect in the first half of next year. This time I’ve been looking at the offerings of Vintage, whose imprints also include Bodley Head, Harvill Secker, Chatto & Windus, Jonathan Cape, Yellow Jersey and Square Peg.
January first, naturally and a very busy month. Origins: How the Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell looks at how we made the earth, but how the earth made us and answers the important questions such as Why do so many of us eat cereal for breakfast? Is it because we like the taste? Or because 20 millions years ago, a certain species of plant colonised the same hospitable land that humanity did? Why is the world the way it is? In this ultimate origin story, Professor Lewis Dartnell investigates how the fabric and activity of our planet have governed our evolution, influenced civilisations over millennia, and continue to shape our lives today (Bodley Head).
The Language of Kindness: A Nurse’s Story by Christie Watson is out in paperback this month. Christie Watson was a nurse for twenty years. Taking us from birth to death and from A&E to the mortuary, and this book The Language of Kindness is an account of her working life. We watch Christie as she nurses a premature baby who has miraculously made it through the night and we stand by her side during her patient’s agonising heart-lung transplant. In our most extreme moments, when life is lived most intensely, Christie is with us. She is a guide, mentor and friend. And in these dark days of division and isolationism, she encourages us all to stretch out a hand (Vintage).
Star of the North by D.B. John is also out in paperback. In it a young American woman disappears without trace from a South Korean island and the CIA recruits her twin sister to uncover the truth. Now, she must go undercover in the world’s most deadly state and only by infiltrating the dark heart of the terrifying regime will she be able to save her sister and herself (Vintage).
In Hunted by Arne Dahl, Desiré Rosenkvist of Stockholm Police receives a letter. Two things are immediately clear: the letter she holds in her hands was written in a state of utter desperation and paranoia. It has details of one of her old murder cases, which only the murderer could know. She contacts private investigator Sam Berger, who sets off to the remote north of Sweden with his colleague Molly Blom to find the author of the letter and to stop them in their tracks. But someone wants to keep them from getting to the bottom of the mystery at any cost and is watching their every move. (Harvill Secker)
Published to celebrate the author’s 70th birthday, Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami is out in January. One rainy Tokyo night, a waitress’s uneventful twentieth birthday takes a strange and fateful turn when she’s asked to deliver dinner to the restaurant’s reclusive owner. (Harvill Secker)
Also out is My Coney Island Baby by Billy O’Callagahan. Once a month, for the past quarter of a century, Coney Island has been their haven as Michael and Caitlin escape their unhappy marriages. These precious, hidden hours are their only nourishment. But now the shut-down, out-of-season resort feels like the edge of the world. Their lives, suddenly, are on the brink – with news of serious illness on one side, and a move to the Midwest on the other. And so, after half a lifetime spent in secret, certain long-avoided facts need to be faced, consequences examined, decisions made, and, perhaps, chances finally taken. (Jonathan Cape)
Slack-Tide by Elanor Dymott. It is four years since the loss of a child broke her marriage, and Elizabeth is fiercely protective of her independence. She meets Robert, exuberant, generous, apparently care-free, and they fall in love with breath-taking speed. The book tracks the ebbs and flows of the affair: passionate, coercive, intensely sexual. When you’ve known lasting love and lost it, what price will you pay to find it again? (Jonathan Cape)
In Dream Sequence by Adam Foulds, Henry Reynolds, a brilliant but narcissistic young actor, is prepared to go to any length for a role. However, Henry has, unwittingly, become an important part of the life of recently-divorced Kristin: someone who is also on the brink. Sitting in her beautiful, empty Philadelphia home, Kristin is obsessed with the handsome English actor and convinced they are destined to be together. She resolves to fly to London and bring their relationship to fruition. Dream Sequence is a stunning, terrifying drama about psychological damage, stalking, and the perils of celebrity. (Jonathan Cape)
Then there’s Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam. Professor Chandra is an expert at complex problems. There’s just one he can’t crack: the secret of happiness. In the moments after an accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes, but his life’s work. He’s just narrowly missed the Nobel Prize (again) and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas. All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor, Professor Chandra should just follow his bliss. Professor Chandra doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. (Chatto & Windus)
In Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza, the narrator is an Argentinian woman whose obsession is art. The story of her life is the story of the paintings, and painters, who matter to her. Her intimate, digressive voice guides us through a gallery of moments that have touched her. All of these fascinating episodes in art history interact with the narrator’s life in Buenos Aires—her family and work; her loves and losses; her infatuations and disappointments. The effect is of a character refracted by environment, composed by the canvases she studies. (Harvill Secker)
Another paperback edition out this month is The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower.1785 and merchant Jonah Hancock finds one of his captains has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid. As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society, where he meets Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course. What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the legendary destructive power a mermaid is said to possess? (Vintage)
Finally out in January is the paperback edition of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it. Us. We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us Sapiens? Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we’re going. (Vintage Classics)
Also out this month are Vertigo & Ghost by Fiona Benson (Jonathan Cape), White King: The Tragedy of Charles I by Leanda de Lisle (Vintage paperback), Help by Simon Amstell (Vintage paperback), The Rough Patch: The Art of Living Together by Daphne de Marneffe (Vintage paperback), The Only Story by Julian Barnes (Vintage paperback), At Your Own Risk by Derek Jarman (Vintage Classics), Adventurs in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince (Vintage Classics), Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond (Vintage Classics) and The Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin (Vintage Classics).
On to February (yet another bumper book month) and the paperback release of If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch. Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to wake up. He listens as his family debate withdrawing life support. But he soon begins to suspect that his accident wasn’t really an accident. The perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger. Alex must use a series of clues from his past to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him. He needs to protect those he loves – before they decide to let him go. (Vintage) I have a copy of this book so keep a look out for my review.
The Shadow Killer by Arnaldur Indridason is published in paperback. Set in Reykjavík, August 1941, when a travelling salesman is found murdered in a basement flat, the police initially suspect a member of the Allied occupation force. Flóvent, Reykjavík’s sole detective, is joined by theyoung military policeman Thorson. Their investigation focuses on a family of German residents, the retired doctor Rudolf Lunden and his estranged son Felix, who is on the run, suspected of being a spy. Flóvent and Thorson race to solve the case before US Counterintelligence can take it out of their hands. As evidence emerges of dubious experiments carried out on Icelandic schoolboys in the 1930s, Thorson becomes increasingly suspicious of the role played by the murdered man’s former girlfriend, Vera, and her British soldier lover. (Vintage)
Seven Signs of Life by Aoife Abbey is also published in paperback this month. Grief. Anger. Joy. Fear. Distraction. Disgust. Hope. What would happen if all emotions we expect to encounter over our lifetime were encountered every day? And what if your ability to manage them was the difference between life and death? For a doctor in Intensive Care this is part of the job. Fear in the eyes of a terminally ill patient who pleads with you to not let them die. Grief when you make a potentially fatal mistake. Disgust at caring for a convicted rapist. But there are also moments of joy, like the rare bright spots of lucidity for a dementia patient, or when the ward unexpectedly breaks into song. (Vintage)
In Freefall by Jessica Barry, Alison survives the plane crash that kills her fiancé. Now she must run, not only to escape the dark secrets in her past, but to outwit the man who is stalking her every move. Allison’s mother is desperate for news of her daughter, who is missing, presumed dead. Refusing to accept that she could have lost her only child, Maggie sets out to discover the truth. Mother and daughter must fight – for survival and to find their way through a dark web of lies and back to one another, before it’s too late. (Harvill Secker)
Also out is The Gendered Brain by Gina Rippon. Gendered brains: a sexist myth, or a fact of life? Reading maps or reading emotions? Barbie or Lego? We live in a gendered world where we are bombarded with messages about sex and gender. The belief that your gender determines your skills and preferences, and even if you’ve got what it takes to become a scientist, is deeply engrained. But what does this constant gendering mean for our thoughts, decisions and behaviour? And what does it mean for our brains? Drawing on her life’s work as a Professor of Cognitive Neuroimaging, Gina Rippon unpacks the stereotypes that bombard us from our earliest moments and shows how these messages mould our ideas of ourselves and even shape our brains. This is not feminist science – it’s just science.(Bodley Head)
Another non-fiction book to look out for is Let Me Not Be Mad: A Story of Unravelling Minds by A. K. Benjamin. A consulting room with two people in it. One of them is talking, the other is listening. Both of them need help. A K Benjamin has lived an improbable number of lives – as a screenwriter, a contemplative monk, a counsellor for addicts, a support-worker for gang-members and ultimately, for ten years, as a clinical neuropsychologist. In all of them, he has found himself drawn to extreme behaviour. His book begins as a series of superbly realised clinical encounters with anonymised patients, some recently traumatised, some on the brink of mental collapse, others already in freefall. But with each encounter, it becomes increasingly and disturbingly apparent that what we are reading is not really about the patients at all: it is about the author’s own fevered descent into mental illness and mania as he confronts his traumatic past (Bodley Head)
More non-fiction, with Time Song by Julia Blackburn. Julia Blackburn has always collected things that hold stories about the past, especially the very distant past: mammoth bones, little shells that happen to be two million years old, a flint shaped as a weapon long ago. Time Song brings many such stories together as it tells of the creation, the existence and the loss of a country now called Doggerland, a huge and fertile area that once connected the entire east coast of England with mainland Europe, until it was finally submerged by rising sea levels around 5000 BC. Blackburn mixes fragments from her own life with a series of eighteen ‘songs’ and all sorts of stories about the places and the people she meets in her quest to get closer to an understanding of Doggerland. (Jonathan Cape)
In Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley, Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been close friends since they first met in their twenties. Thirty years later Alex and Christine receive a call from a distraught Lydia. Zach is dead. In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored. Inconsolable, Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine. But instead of loss bringing them closer, the three of them find over the following months that it warps their relationships, as old entanglements and grievances rise from the past, and love and sorrow give way to anger and bitterness. (Jonathan Cape)
Published this month is Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis. One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, 17-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He may help her fulfil an unusual obsession: to track down a troupe of Ukrainian dwarfs who have recently escaped a Soviet circus touring Mexico. They head for Zipolite, the ‘Beach of the Dead’, a community peopled by hippies, nudists, beach combers and eccentric storytellers, and Luisa searches for someone, anyone, who will ‘promise, no matter what, to remain a mystery’. But as she wanders the shoreline, she begins to discover that a quest is more easily envisioned than accomplished. (Chatto & Windus)
February also sees the release of as yet untitled essays by Toni Morrison. Spanning four decades, these essays, speeches, and meditations interrogate the world around us. They are concerned with race, gender and globalisation. The sweep of American history and the current state of politics. The duty of the press and the role of the artist. The collection is structured in three parts and these are introduced by a prayer for the dead of 9/11, a meditation on Martin Luther King and a eulogy for James Baldwin. Morrison’s Nobel lecture, on the power of language, is accompanied by lectures to Amnesty International and the Newspaper Association of America and she revisits The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved; reassessing the novels that have become touchstones for generations of readers. (Chatto & Windus)
Also published this month are Victory by James Lasdun (Jonathan Cape), You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian (Jonathan Cape), Cherry by Nico Walker (Jonathan Cape) and Graceland by Bethan Roberts (Chatto & Windus).
Marching on into March and The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware is published in paperback. Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast. There’s just one problem, Hal’s real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. Once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life. (Vintage)
Another paperback release is Bookworm by Lucy Mangan. When Lucy Mangan was little, stories were everything. They opened up different worlds and cast new light on this one. In Bookworm, Lucy brings the favourite characters of our collective childhoods back to life and disinters a few forgotten treasures poignantly, wittily using them to tell her own story, that of a born, and unrepentant, bookworm. (Vintage)
The Western Wind by Samathan Harvey is published in paperback this month. 15th century Oakham, in Somerset is a tiny village cut off by a big river with no bridge. When a man is swept away by the river in the early hours of Shrove Saturday, an explanation has to be found: accident, suicide or murder? The village priest, John Reve, is privy to many secrets in his role as confessor. But will he be able to unravel what happened to the victim, Thomas Newman, the wealthiest, most capable and industrious man in the village? And what will happen if he can’t? (Vintage)
March sees the publication of Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken. From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century – nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin and fifteen pounds of gold on her person – Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of and her mysterious origin scandalises and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark – with Bertha its most notable resident changing the town forever.(Jonathan Cape)
Also out is Charlie Savage by Roddy Doyle. Charlie Savage is a middle-aged Dubliner with a long-suffering wife, a daughter who is determined to drag him into the 21st century, and a drinking partner who has realized that inside he’s been a woman all along. Originally featured as a series of weekly pieces in the Irish Independent over the whole of 2017, this book collects those pieces in one volume. (Jonathan Cape)
In The Altruists by Andrew Ridker. Arthur Alter is in trouble. A middling professor at a Midwestern college, he can’t afford his mortgage, he’s exasperated his much younger girlfriend, and his kids won’t speak to him. And then there’s the money – the small fortune his late wife Francine kept secret, which she bequeathed directly to his children. On the verge of losing the family home, Arthur invites his children back to St. Louis under the guise of a reconciliation. But in doing so, he unwittingly unleashes a Pandora’s Box of age-old resentments and long-buried memories – memories that orbit Francine, the matriarch whose life may hold the key to keeping them together. (Jonathan Cape)
There is a also the release of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, the Graphic Novel version. I’ll quote the blurb in full though the story really needs no introduction. “Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us.” Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships. She serves in the household of the Commander and his wife, and under the new social order she has only one purpose: once a month, she must lie on her back and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if they are fertile. But Offred remembers the years before Gilead, when she was an independent woman who had a job, a family, and a name of her own. Now, her memories and her will to survive are acts of rebellion. (Jonathan Cape)
In The Snakes by Sadie Jones, Bea and Dan, recently married, drive through France to visit Bea’s dropout brother Alex at the hotel he runs in Burgundy. There they find him all alone and the ramshackle hotel deserted, apart from the nest of snakes in the attic. When Alex and Bea’s parents make a surprise visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea is so appalled, or why she’s never wanted him to know them; Liv and Griff Adamson are charming, and rich. Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath the family is stripped back to its heart, and then its rotten core, and even Bea with all her strength and goodness can’t escape. (Chatto & Windus)
Also published is Old Drift by Namwali Serpell. On the banks of the Zambezi River, a few miles from the majestic Victoria Falls, there was once a colonial settlement called The Old Drift. Here begins the epic story of a small African nation, told by a mysterious swarm-like chorus that calls itself man’s greatest nemesis. In 1904, in a smoky room at the hotel across the river, Percy M. Clark, foggy with fever, makes a mistake that entangles the fates of an Italian hotelier and an African busboy. This sets off a cycle of unwitting retribution between three Zambian families (black, white, brown) as they collide and converge over the course of the century, into the present and beyond. As the generations pass, their lives, their triumphs, errors, losses and hopes, form a symphony about what it means to be human. (Hogarth)
Finally this month, Dead Men’s Trousers by Irvine Welsh is published in paperback. Mark Renton is finally a success. An international jet-setter, he now makes significant money managing DJs, but the constant travel, airport lounges, soulless hotel rooms and broken relationships have left him dissatisfied with his life. He’s then rocked by a chance encounter with Frank Begbie, from whom he’d been hiding for years after a terrible betrayal and the resulting debt. The psychotic Begbie appears to have reinvented himself as a celebrated artist and, much to Mark’s astonishment, doesn’t seem interested in revenge. Sick Boy and Spud, have agendas of their own, but when they enter the bleak world of organ-harvesting, things start to go so badly wrong. Lurching from crisis to crisis, the four men circle each other and one of these four will not survive to the end of this book. Which one of them is wearing Dead Men’s Trousers? (Vintage)
Also out this month are Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez, Cherry Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved the Blossoms for Japan by Naoko Abe (Chatto & Windus), Dawn by Selahattin Demirtas (Hogarth), So Much Longing in so Little Space by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Harvill Secker), Unbreakable by Richard Askwith (Yellow Jersey) and The End: My Struggle Book 6 by Karl Ove Knausgaard (Vintage paperback).
On to April and if the showers keep us all indoors there are plenty of books to entertain us. In Throw Me to the Wolves by Booker-longlisted Patrick McGuinness. A young woman has been murdered, and a neighbour, a retired teacher from Chapleton College, is arrested. An eccentric loner – intellectual, shy, a fastidious dresser with expensive tastes – he is the perfect candidate for a media monstering. In custody he is interviewed by two detectives: the smart-talking, quick-witted Gary, and his watchful colleague, Ander. Ander is always watchful, but particularly now, because the man across the table is his former teacher, Michael Wolphram, whom he hasn’t seen in nearly 30 years. Wolphram is subject to a media lynching as ex-pupils and colleagues line up to lie about him. Ander’s faces memories of his life as a young Dutch boy in 80s England. Another outsider, another loner in a school system rife with abuse and bullying, Ander has another case to solve: the cold case of his own childhood. (Jonathan Cape)
How to Catch a Mole And Find Yourself in Nature by Marc Hamer is a life-affirming book about the British countryside, the cycle of nature, solitude, mortality and contentment, through the prism of Marc Hamer’s experience working as a traditional mole-catcher. Although common, moles are mysterious: their habits are inscrutable, they are anatomically bizarre, and they live completely alone. Marc Hamer has come closer to them than most, both through his long working life out in the Welsh countryside, and his experiences of rural homelessness as a boy, sleeping in hedgerows. Over the years, Marc has learned a great deal about these small, velvet creatures who live in the dark beneath us, and the myths that surround them, and his work has also led him to a wise and uplifting acceptance of the inevitable changes that we all face. Marc tells his story and explores what moles, and a life in nature, can tell us about our own humanity and our search for contentment. (Harvill Secker)
Another Booker nominated author has a book out this month. The Overstory by Richard Powers is released in paperback. The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Nine strangers – each summoned in different ways by trees – are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest. (Vintage)
Also out this month are The Parisian by Isabella Hammad (Jonathan Cape), Words from the Wall by Adam Thorpe (Jonathan Cape), Black Car Burning by Helen Mort (Chatto & Windus), Labels and Other Stories by Louis de Bernieres (Harvill Secker), Ordinary People by Diana Evans (Vintage paperback), Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz (Vintage paperback), The Comforts of Home by Susan Hill (Vintage paperback) and Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life by Rose Tremain (Vintage paperback).
Moving onto May which sees the paperback release of Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman. Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son. In a moment of madness she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans? (Vintage) I have a copy of this so keep a look out for my review.
Also out this month is Dressed by Shahidha Bari. Some of us love clothes. We collect them, clamour over them, and use them to express our identity and individuality. For others, clothes are a uniform that barely warrant a thought. But for all of us, clothes matter. They carry memory and meaning. They bear the invisible record of our internal lives as well as the chain of human hands that made them. Shahidha Bari reveals the secret language of our clothes. She asks us to look beyond superficial questions of fashion to explore what we mean by the garments we wear, and the ways that our clothes can, by turns, declare and deny who we are. Item by item, the story of ourselves unravels. (Jonathan Cape)
More non-fiction, this time. L.E.L.: The Rise and Fall of Letitia Landon by Lucasta Miller. On 15 October 1838, the body of a thirty-six-year-old woman was found in Cape Coast Castle, West Africa, a bottle of Prussic acid in her hand. She was one of the most famous English poets of her day: Letitia Elizabeth Landon, known by her initials ‘L.E.L.’ What was she doing in Africa? Was her death an accident, as the inquest claimed? Or had she committed suicide, or even been murdered? To her contemporaries, she was an icon, hailed as the ‘female Byron’, admired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Heinrich Heine, the young Brontë sisters and Edgar Allan Poe. However, she was also a woman with secrets, the mother of three illegitimate children whose existence was subsequently wiped from the record. After her death, she became the subject of a cover-up which is only now unravelling. (Jonathan Cape)
In The Porpoise by Mark Haddon a newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash. She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world. When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…(Chatto & Windus)
Wild London by Sam Hodges and Sophie Vickers is an inspiring and comprehensive guide to London’s wild side. From exploring secret gardens, parks, farmers markets and city farms, to discovering the best spots for urban bee-keeping, foraging, open-air swimming and mudlarking, Wild London is packed with ideas for how to make the most of London’s hidden natural wonder. (Square Peg)
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer is released in paperback this month. Greer Kadetsky is a shy college student when she meets Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant, who has been a pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others. Hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer feels herself changed. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites her to make something out of this new sense of purpose, with a career opportunity that leads her down the most exciting and rewarding path as it winds towards and away from her meant-to-be love story with high school sweetheart Cory and the future she had always imagined. (Vintage)
Also out this month are This Land is Their Land by Suketu Mehta (Jonathan Cape), Sunday’s Child by Serena Katt (Jonathan Cape), Lowborn by Kerry Hudson (Chatto & Windus), What Red Was by Rosie Price (Harvill Secker), Conviction by Denise Mina (Harvill Secker) and So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres (Vintage paperback).
June sees the paperback release of a title I’m very much looking forward to, Smoke and Ashes by Abir Mukherjee. India, 1921. Captain Sam Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force. When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den and revealing his presence there could cost him his career. With the aid of the quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead (Vintage)
In Praise of Walking by Shane O’Mara explores the neuroscience behind the human’s race unique ability of bipedalism and a hymn to the joys and many benefits, mental, physical and social, of walking. Walking upright gives us all sorts of advantages. It frees our hands and it also frees our minds. Walking confers a great many benefits for the body and mind; walking helps protect and repair organs that have been subject to stresses and strains; it is good for the gut, helping the passage of food through the intestines. Regular walking also acts as a brake on the aging of our brains, and can, in an important sense, reverse the aging of our brains. Walking is also associated with improved creativity, improved mood, and the general sharpening of our thinking. We need to start walking again. We, and our societies, will be the better for it. (Bodley Head)
Mac and his Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas sees Mac, over sixty and recently unemployed, is shy (verging on terrified) of his literary aspirations, embark on writing under the guise of a secret diary, He soon finds inspiration in chance encounters with his neighbour, a celebrated novelist. (Harvill Secker)
Also out this month is Harvest by Edward Posnett. Off the coast of Sardinia, under the sparkling surface of the Mediterranean Sea, lie fields of giant pen shells, their golden beards drifting with the tide. These beards are one of nature’s most precious commodities. They are harvested and woven by an old woman known as The Master to create the delicate fabric known as sea silk, which is made into gifts for kings, presidents and popes. Harvest travels the globe and introduces us to the remote communities who harvest, process and trade these treasures – from edible bird’s nests, deep in the caves of Vietnam, to the western hunger for coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a civet. (Bodley Head)
The Weather Machine by Andrew Blum is a gripping account of the ingenious minds who gathered together the greatest technological inventions of our species to create a machine that can see into our planet’s future with astonishing accuracy. When Superstorm Sandy hit North America, weather scientists had accurately predicted its arrival a full eight days beforehand. Their ability to do so is unprecedented in human history and draws on nearly every major invention of the last two centuries: Newtonian physics, telecommunications, spaceflight and super-computing. (Bodley Head)
Noble Savages by Sarah Watling takes a look at the real life Olivier sisters. Brought up in the Bloomsbury milieu, the four Olivier sisters were emancipated, determined and wild in an age when society punished women for being so. Margery and Daphne studied at Cambridge at a time when education was still thought to be damaging to ovaries. There they met Rupert Brooke and formed the Neo Pagans, initiating a web of entanglements that would challenge even the sisters’ unbreakable bond. Daphne later became a pioneering educationalist, and set up Britain’s first Steiner school, and Noel joined a tiny minority of female doctors before the First World War. (Jonathan Cape)
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born, a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. (Jonathan Cape).
The Travelers by Regina Porter is also published in June. James Vincent, born in 1942 to a working class white couple, struggles to move beyond a difficult childhood and escapes the violence at home to attend law school in Michigan. In Georgia, Agnes Miller, a black woman on her first date with a handsome suitor, is pulled over by the police, and the terrible moments that follow make her question whether she will have a future at all. As the years pass, unexpected turns of fate will connect them and their families: two Americans who each come up against the forces of race, class, and gender that change, and end, ordinary lives. (Jonathan Cape)
Finally onto July in which Train Man by Andrew Mulligan is published. When Michael sets out on a train journey north, he’s determined that it will be his last day on earth. However circumstances conspire against him from the moment the train arrives 12 minutes late. The catering services have also been cancelled, but luckily he’s got a net of tangerines, and a fruit juice bottle filled with whisky, for Dutch courage. On his journey –as he recalls the dead-end jobs and ex-girlfriends, he also picks away at something much darker in his past. Along the way we meet the people whose lives contain their own complexities, joys and sorrows and that prompt Michael to stop and take stock. (Chatto & Windus)
Also out this month is Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor. 1878: The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker. Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager’s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. (Harvill Secker).
Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks is out in paperback this month. Researcher Hannah and runaway Moroccan teenager Tariq have little in common, but both are susceptible to the daylight ghosts of Paris. Hannah listens to the extraordinary women who were present under the German Occupation; in her desire to understand their lives, and through them her own, she finds a city bursting with clues and connections. Out in the migrant suburbs, Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him in his innocence, each boulevard, Métro station and street corner is a source of surprise. (Vintage)
Also out this month are Mother Ship by Francesca Segal (Chatto & Windus), Surge by Jay Bernard, The Convert by Stefan Hertmans (Harvill Secker), The World as it Is: Inside the Obama White House by Ben Rhodes (Vintage paperback), A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (Vintage paperback) and Chroma by Derek Jarman (Vintage Classics).
As a little bonus we can also take a peek at what to expect in August.
In The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa for residents of a small island, a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next? (Harvill Secker). Finally also out is the fifth book in the series, Death in the East by Abir Mukherjee sees the return of Calcutta police detective Captain Sam Wyndham and his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-not Banerjee. (Harvill Secker)
So there we are, a list as long as your arm of books to bury yourself under. Have you spotted any that will make their way onto your TBR?