The best new books to get lost in
From bright new writing talents to blissfully escapist murder mysteries, we round up the best new books to get lost in.
After Booker-nominated debut The Water Cure, Sophie Mackinstosh returns with another unsettling dystopian exploration of women's role in society. Blue Ticket revolves around a system where girls are assigned a fertility status in a arbitrary lottery: a white ticket gives you children, a blue one gives you freedom. The story unravels with icy intensity, as Mackintosh cuts through concepts of motherhood and patriarchal violence, which maintain an intriguing and dreamy distance from reality.
This blistering debut novel has already earned a place on the 2020 Man Booker Prize long list. Douglas Stuart's story of working-class life in 80s Glasgow is devastating and urgent, but undercut with such warmth and wit you can't help rooting for the vulnerable but proud characters who fall through the cracks of society. Poverty, abuse and addiction are brought into sharp relief, with an intensity that will appeal to fans of Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life. It's an all-consuming, deeply emotional book, which signals the arrival of a formidable new literary talent.
Journalist and best-selling writer Bryony Gordon turns her trademark humour and candour to addiction in this sparky sobriety memoir. Glorious Rock Bottom defies the clichés of alcoholism to chronicle a toxic 20-year struggle with drink and drugs. Regardless of your own relationship with substances and self-control, the compassion and humanity of this recovery story will shift perceptions around what it means to admit defeat and overcome obstacles.
The debut novel from TV personality and producer Richard Osman, The Thursday Murder Club exudes charm and intelligence. Four pensioners meet weekly to decipher unsolved crimes. But when a violent murder occurs right on their doorstep, Ron, Joyce, Ibrahaim and Elizabeth find themselves in the thick of the investigation. As the octogenarians set about collecting clues, Osman melds thrilling mystery with laugh-out-loud humour and warm, quirky characterisation. This is a book to raise spirits and maximise the warm and fuzzy feelings – without anything too twee or cheesy.
Ali Smith's masterful season quartet concludes with Summer. Timely and original, it's set in the context of Brexit, Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter. Smith swipes at the political and social zeitgeist, while introducing timeless human themes through artful storytelling as we follow a family on the cusp of change, searching for common ground.
This deliciously dark comedy follows a young woman trying to discover her roots. Charlie Regan's film industry ambitions aren't going quite to plan, so she travels to her ancestral home in a remote part of Ireland. Comforted by the notion of her Irish heritage and the chance to connect with her elderly father, Charlie is disconcerted to find a dramatic conspiracy theory interwoven in her family history. Pacy, playful and increasingly unsettling, Scenes of a Graphic Nature hooks you with an intriguing plot and clear characterisation.
Lyricism and gothic tension combine in this potent story about the bond between two sisters. Something unspeakable has happened to July and September. Seeking a fresh start, they move to a strange old house on the other side of the country. But in their unsettling new surroundings, the girls find their lifelong bond shifting and twisting. Daisy Johnson's sly storytelling gets under your skin, delivering a sharp shock of a book with an ending that leaves you reeling.
If you could erase the mistakes of the past and start again, would you make better choices the second time around? Best-selling writer Matt Haig ruminates on regret and forgiveness in a story about desperate woman who finds herself in a magical library, where each book allows her to relive a moment in life to find the perfect outcome. But, in trying to rectify the past she discovers that it's the little, overlooked things that matter most. This is a gently uplifting and deeply comforting book, with an important message about mental health.
Avni Doshi captures the complexity of mother-daughter relationships with acerbic wit in her Booker-nominated debut novel. Burnt Sugar is the story of Tara, whose misspent youth was spent causing chaos and shirking responsibility while dragging her small daughter along for the ride. Antara grows up to resent her feckless mother. But when Tara starts to slide into dementia, the onus falls to her grown-up daughter to take on the role of carer. Memory, love and betrayal spark together in Antara's caustic first-person narrative.
Pioneer of the multi-hyphenate working method and mouthpiece for millennial women Emma Gannon ventures into fiction with debut novel Olive. Tackling life’s expectations, obstacles and milestones, it follows a strong-minded woman who becomes increasingly isolated as her friends all drift towards marriage and motherhood. Olive is sure she doesn’t want children, but is she missing out on too much?
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