Welcome to May! We are now entering the Bank Holiday zone, which means 1) we are beginning the slow slide into delicious summer, and 2) this month has 48 extra reading hours available to us. What a gift! If you’re in need of suggestions to fill all that bonus time, then boy oh boy do we have the list for you.
Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann
(Text Publishing Company, 9781911231257, £10.99)
A brilliant literary debut about belonging and the nature of identity.
When Anton goes missing and the only clue is a postcard sent from Istanbul, his twin sister Alissa leaves her life in Berlin to find him. Without her twin, the sharer of her memories and the mirror of her own self, Ali is lost. In a city steeped in political and social changes, where you can buy gender-changing drugs on the street, Ali’s search – for her missing brother, for her identity – will take her on a journey for connection and belonging.
The Cracks in Our Armour by Anna Galvada
(Europa Editions, 9781787701632, £12.99)
(Re-)introducing Anna Gavalda, France’s best-selling female author
In this collection of seven short stories, Anna Gavalda has created an ode to those who confront their vulnerabilities and admit their weaknesses. From the trucker who puts his dog to sleep following the death of his son to the alcoholic widow who befriends a stranger raised in a strict military family, readers will find the classic Gavaldian universe on full display in these stories of suffering and salvation.
A Devil Comes to Town by Paolo Maurensig
(World Editions, 9781642860139, £9.99)
The risky ventures of a village full of aspiring writers
and a vile publisher.
In Dichtersruhe, everyone’s a writer. So when the devil turns up in a black car claiming to be a hot-shot publisher, unsatisfied authorial desires are unleashed and the village’s former harmony is shattered. Taut with foreboding and Gothic suspense, Paolo Maurensig’s latest is a refined and engaging literary parable on narcissism, vainglory, and our inextinguishable thirst for stories.
Juliet the Maniac by Juliet Escoria
(Melville House, 9781612197593, £12.99)
A confident and raw debut from a talented new novelist, portraying the unravelling of a teenage girl as she plunges into self-destruction.
It’s 1997, and 14-year-old Juliet has it pretty good. But over the course of the next two years, she rapidly begins to unravel, finding herself in a downward trajectory of mental illness and self-destruction. An explosive portrayal of teenage life from the perspective of The Bad Friend, Juliet The Maniac is a bold, stylish breakout book.
Life of David Hockney by Caroline Cusset
(Other Press, 9781590519837, £12.99)
This meticulously researched novel draws an intimate, moving portrait of the most famous living English painter.
A compelling hybrid of novel and biography, Life of David Hockney offers an accessible overview of the painter who shook the world of art with a vitality and freedom that neither heartbreak, illness nor loss could corrode.
The Restorer by Michael Sala
(Text Publishing Company, 9781925603736, £8.99)
An exploration of the insufficiency of love, the way trauma shapes identity and the power parents have over the lives of their children.
After a year apart, Maryanne returns to her husband, Roy, bringing their eight-year-old son Daniel and his teenage sister Freya. The family move from Sydney to Newcastle, where Roy has bought a derelict house. As Roy patches holes in the floor and plasters over them, Maryanne believes that they can rebuild a life together. But Freya doesn’t want a fresh start – she just wants out – and Daniel drifts around the run-down house in a dream, infuriating his father, who soon forgets the promises he has made.
A Season on Earth by Gerald Murnane
(Text Publishing Company, 9781925773347, £18.99)
A masterwork from Australia’s greatest cult literary figure, published for the first time as the author originally intended.
The hilarious tale of a lustful teenager in 1950s Melbourne, A Season on Earth is a revelatory portrait of the artist as a young man. Here, at last, is sixteen-year-old Adrian’s journey in full, from fantasies about orgies with American film stars and idealised visions of suburban marital bliss to his struggles as a Catholic novice, and finally a burgeoning sense of the boundless imaginative possibilities to be found in literature and landscapes.
The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi
(Text Publishing Company, 9781911231240, £8.99)
A majestic historical novel and a profound, startlingly intimate meditation on memory, family and home.
Twenty years after his father’s disappearance, long after he has published a novel on the subject, Cheng receives a reader’s email asking whether his father’s bicycle also disappeared. Perplexed and amused, Cheng decides to track down the bicycle, which had been stolen years previously. The journey takes him to a scavenger’s treasure trove, the mountain home of an aboriginal photographer, deep into the secret world of antique bicycle collectors, and ultimately to his own heart.
Shut Up You’re Pretty by Téa Mutonji
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551527550, £13.99)
A high-wire collection of darkly humorous stories about a young woman floating in and out of her skin.
A woman contemplates her Congolese traditions during a family wedding; a teenage girl looks for happiness inside a pack of cigarettes; a mother reconnects with her daughter through their shared interest in fish, and a young woman decides on shaving her head in the waiting room of an abortion clinic. These punchy, sharply observed stories blur the lines between longing and choosing, exploring the narrator’s experience as an involuntary one. Tinged with pathos and humour, they interrogate the moments in which femininity, womanhood and identity are not only questioned but also imposed.
Things To Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods
(Seven Stories, 9781609809157, £12.99)
The strange and unique characters in this collection include a woman who secretly resides in a local cemetery; a queer teen goth who is facing ostracism from her small-town evangelical church; a Brooklyn artist who learns more about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict than he ever wanted to; and the UFOs that trouble a group of friends in the rural Midwest.