Shortlisted for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize awarded to debut novels published in the UK, ‘How to Be Human’ by Paula Cocozza tells the story of Mary Green, a woman in her thirties who has recently separated from her partner Mark. Now living alone after buying him out of their home in Hackney in east London, she becomes captivated by an urban fox who regularly visits her garden. Meanwhile, her next door neighbours, Michelle and Eric, regard her new visitor as a pest while Mark makes an unwelcome return into her life. Continue reading
‘Asymmetry’ by Lisa Halliday consists of two seemingly unrelated stories which are eventually revealed to have surprising connections. The first part, ‘Folly’, concerns Alice, an editorial assistant in her twenties living in post 9/11 New York City who begins a relationship with a much older man, a Jewish author named Ezra Blazer who has repeatedly been overlooked for a Nobel Prize for Literature. In the second part, ‘Madness’, an Iraqi-American economist, Amar Jaafari, is on his way to Kurdistan to visit his brother but is detained by immigration officials at Heathrow Airport. Continue reading
Happy new year! Without further ado, here is a selection of 20 upcoming titles I will be looking out for in 2018 (publication dates where known apply to the UK):
Among non-fiction titles, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari will be out in August as the historian turns his attention to issues in the present day following the success of Sapiens and Homo Deus. I have a particular interest in non-fiction concerning healthcare and medicine and two books I will be looking out for are Shapeshifters: On Medicine and Human Change by Gavin Francis and Brainstorm: Detective Stories from the World of Neurology by Suzanne O’Sullivan. Elsewhere, Feel Free by Zadie Smith is a collection of the celebrated author’s essays on a variety of subjects due in February. Continue reading
‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney tells the story of twenty-one-year-old student and aspiring poet Frances and her friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi who live in Dublin and perform spoken word pieces together. They meet Melissa, a journalist and photographer in her thirties who wants to write a profile of their work, and her husband Nick who is an actor. Frances soon begins an affair with Nick which profoundly changes the dynamic of her friendship with Bobbi and becomes very messy very quickly to say the least. Continue reading
Out of all of the debut novels which have been published recently, ‘Spaceman of Bohemia’ by Jaroslav Kalfar has one of the most intriguing and original premises. Set in 2018, it tells the story of Jakub Procházka, a Czech astrophysicist turned astronaut on a solo mission to investigate a dust cloud between Earth and Venus and collect samples for analysis. However, his marriage to Lenka is under further strain as she is left behind on Earth and Jakub has plenty of time on his own to reflect on his family’s past. The appearance of a giant Nutella-loving alien spider called Hanuš who may or may not be a figment of Jakub’s imagination only complicates things further.
‘Harmless Like You’ by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan tells the story of Yukiko Oyama, a teenager in New York in 1968 whose parents move back to Japan after emigrating to the United States when she was a child. She decides to stay in New York with her friend Odile to pursue her dream of becoming an artist. Many years later, her son Jay, who has recently become a father himself, travels to Berlin to find his estranged mother and inform Yuki that his father has died and has left the house to her in his will. The journey also leads Jay to discover why Yuki abandoned him suddenly when he was just two years old. Continue reading
‘The Nix’ by Nathan Hill tells the story of Samuel Andresen-Anderson, a thirty-something college professor with writer’s block whose estranged mother Faye is arrested for throwing rocks at a conservative Presidential candidate and subsequently portrayed in the media as a radical hippie. Samuel is on the verge of being sued by his publisher for failing to produce the novel he received a huge advance for several years earlier and in order to avoid bankruptcy, he must write a biography of his mother who he hasn’t seen for over twenty years. However, his quest for information about Faye reveals that she has a far more complex past than he ever imagined. Continue reading