As we get into the heart of the summer, things are heating up here at Turnaround (sorry), so it’s time for another scorching (sorry again) list of literary fiction!
The Caine Prize for African Writing 2019 edited by the Caine Prize and Chris Brazier (New Internationalist, 9781780265209, p/b, £14.99)
The anthology of works from the Caine Prize for African Writing 2019 shortlist.
Now in its twentieth year the Caine Prize for African Writing is Africa’s leading literary prize, and is awarded to a short story by an African writer published in English, whether in Africa or elsewhere. The authors shortlisted for the 2019 Caine Prize are: Lesley Nnneka Arimah (Nigeria) for Skinned, Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for The Wall, Cherrie Kandie (Kenya) for Sew My Mouth, Ngwah-Mbo Nana Nkweti (Cameroon) for It Takes A Village Some Say, Okafor Tochukwu (Nigeria) for All Our Lives.
Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann
(Galley Beggar Press, 9781910296967, p/b, £14.99)
Latticing one cherry pie after another, an Ohio housewife tries to bridge the gaps between reality and the torrent of meaningless info that is the
United States of America.
She worries about her children, her dead parents, African elephants, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples”, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and how to hatch an abandoned wood pigeon egg. Ducks, Newburyport is a scorching indictment of America’s barbarity, past and present, and a lament for the way we are sleepwalking into environmental disaster.
The Fault by Kitty Sewell
(Honno Welsh Women’s Press, 9781909983991, p/b, £8.99)
At the heart of The Rock are secret tunnels, hard to navigate and even harder to escape.
Sebastian is a civil engineering prodigy and his latest project is his most ambitious to date: to build a new city on the sheerest face of The Rock. His fiancee, Eva, a diver, is concerned that her lover doesn’t push himself beyond human limits to see his dream realised. His sister Mimi, still in her teens, is desperate to spread her wings and chafing at the limits placed on her movements by her overprotective older brother. Soon, Sebastian’s precarious mental health spirals out of control putting them all in danger. When Mimi is lost amidst their twists and turns the race is on to find her before the water rises.
The Fragility of Bodies by Sergio Olguin
(Bitter Lemon Press, 9781909983991, p/b, £8.99)
A novel fiercely critical of a system that tolerates the powerful and wealthy of Buenos Aires putting the lives of young boys at risk for their entertainment.
When she hears about the suicide of a local train driver who has left a note confessing to four mortal ‘accidents’ on the train tracks, she decides to investigate. For the police the case is closed (suicide is suicide), for Veronica it is the beginning of a journey that takes her into an unfamiliar world of grinding poverty, junkie infested neighbourhoods, and train drivers haunted by the memory of bodies hit at speed by their locomotives in the middle of the night.
The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling
(Text Publishing Company, 9781911231318, p/b, £10.99)
A gorgeous, raw debut novel about a young woman braving the ups and downs of motherhood in a fractured America.
Daphne is a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent – her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a ‘processing error’ – Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity. But clarity proves elusive.
The Murder of Harriet Monckton by Elizabeth Haynes
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408238, p/b, £8.99)
A delicious Victorian crime novel based on a real murder and marking the author’s breakthrough into historical fiction.
On 7th November 1843 Harriet Monckton, 23 years old and a woman of respectable parentage and religious habits, was found murdered behind the chapel she had regularly attended in Bromley, Kent. The community was appalled by her death, apparently as a result of swallowing a fatal dose of prussic acid, and even more so when the autopsy revealed that Harriet was six months pregnant. Drawing on coroner’s reports and witness testimonies, the novel unfolds from the viewpoints of each of the main characters, each of whom have a reason to want her dead.
Plastic Emotions by Shiromi Pinto
(Influx Press, 9781910312315, p/b, £9.99)
This novel paints a complex picture of Minnette de Silva, the first female
Sri Lankan architect and a forgotten feminist icon.
Plastic Emotions is a novel based on the true life story of Minnette de Silva, the first female Sri Lankan architect. Shiromi Pinto charts Minnette’s affair with famed modernist Le Corbusier and her efforts to build a post-independence Sri Lanka. Set in London, Chandigarth, Colombo, Paris and Kandy, Plastic Emotions explores the life of a young, trailblazing south Asian woman at a time of great political turbulence across the globe.
Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison
(No Exit Press, 9780857303189, p/b, £8.99)
A gritty and lyrical American epic about a young woman who disguises herself as a boy and heads West.
In the spring of 1885, seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney finds herself orphaned and alone on her family’s homestead. Desperate to fend off starvation and predatory neighbours, she cuts her hair, binds her chest, saddles her beloved mare, and sets off across the mountains to find her gun-slinging fugitive brother Noah and bring him home. A talented sharpshooter herself, Jess’s quest lands her in the employ of the territory’s violent, capricious governor, whose militia is also hunting Noah – dead or alive.