January Fiction Preview

Welcome back, dear readers. We hope you all had a lovely break, filled with all the Quality Streets your hearts desired. Since this is the only year where we can say that foresight is also 2020, how about we get straight into having a look at what’s ahead in fiction for January?

The Shrödinger Girl by Laurel Brett
(Akashic Books, 9781617757297, pb, £14.99)

A young woman appears to split into four versions of herself, raising the question; what is science and what is delusion?

Garrett Adams, an uptight behavioural psychology professor who refuses to embrace the 1960s, is in a slump. Then, at a Columbus Circle bookstore, he meets mysterious Daphne, who draws him into the turbulent and exciting world of Vietnam War protest politics and the music of Bob Dylan and the Beatles. When Daphne evolves into four separate versions of herself, Garrett’s life becomes complicated as he devotes himself to answering questions about character and destiny raised by her iterations.

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda (trans. Alison Watts)
(Bitter Lemon Press, 9781912242245, pb, £8.99)

The winner of the 59th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Novel, in
English for the first time.

On a stormy summer day in the 1970s the wealthy Aosawas host a large birthday party in their villa on the Sea of Japan, which turns to tragedy when 17 people die from cyanide in their drinks. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only family member spared death. Inspector Teru is convinced that Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town. The truth is revealed through a skilful juggling of testimony by different voices, including that of the mesmerising Hisako herself.

Like Biting Into Sugar Cane by Simon Speiser
(Broken Dimanche, 9783943196603, pb, £10)

Speculative fiction in the style of Ursula Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, and J. G. Ballard.

The phantasmagoria of artist Simon Speiser has seeped into the room, it has perfumed these pages: over the course of this, his first collection of writing, we move through a book that displays the intense visualisation of the artist’s thoughts, dreams and desires. Some of these have existed before, sometimes within or part of an exhibition of the artist’s physical works housed in spaces, real, situated. These texts, situated across the broad hallways of this book, attain their own physical presence, you can traverse around them as they coalesce into at times a three-dimensional literature of both the body and the mind.

The Heartsick Diaspora by Elaine Chiew
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408368, pb, £8.99)

Elaine Chiew’s award-winning stories travel into the heart of the
Singaporean-Malaysian diaspora.

Four Asian writers are flummoxed by the sexual shenanigans that start when a handsome young Asian writer joins their support group; three Singaporean daughters welcome their mother on a first visit to London and quarrel over a steamboat; a Chinese woman raps about being a Tiger Mother. Elaine Chiew drills below the surface of her characters’ circumstances with exemplary narrative skill and subtlety. Her stories are as varied, worldly and emotionally resonant as the characters themselves. This is a fabulous debut collection and heralds an exciting new literary talent.

GBH by Ted Lewis
(No Exit Press, 9780857302939, pb, £9.99)

An unnerving tale of paranoia and madness in the heart of London’s
1970s criminal underworld.

In London, George Fowler heads a lucrative criminal syndicate that specialises in illegal pornography. Fowler is king, with a beautiful woman at his side and a swanky penthouse office, but his world is in jeopardy. Someone is undermining his empire from within, and Fowler becomes increasingly ruthless in his pursuit of the unknown traitor, trusting an ever smaller set of advisers. Juxtaposed with the terror and violence of Fowler’s last days in London is the flash-forward narrative of his hideout bunker in a tiny English beach town where he skulks during the off-season, trying to salvage his fallen empire. Just as it seems possible for Fowler to rise again, another trigger may cause his total, irreparable unravelling.

The Teacher by Michal Ben-Naftali
(Open Letter, 9781948830072, pb, £12.99)

The story of a Holocaust survivor who spent her life trying to disappear,
based on true events.

The Teacher takes us through a keenly crafted, fictional biography of high school teacher Elsa. From childhood through adolescence, from the Holocaust to her personal aftermath and her impact on the children under her care, Ben-Naftali’s masterpiece brings us face to face with one woman’s struggle in light of one of history’s great atrocities.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
(Text Publishing, 9781922268334, pb, £10.99)

An original and delightfully bizarre tale of unlikely friendship,
equal parts hilarious and compassionate.

Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help. Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other – and stay cool, while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her.

Two Blankets, Three Sheets by Rodaan Al Galidi
(World Editions, 9781912987023, pb, £12.99)

A humorous account of a nine-year wait.

Amsterdam Airport, 1998. Samir Karim steps off a plane from Vietnam, flushes his fake passport down the toilet, and requests asylum. Now, safely in the heart of Europe, he is sent to an asylum centre and assigned a bed in a shared dorm – where he will spend the next nine years. As he navigates his way around the absurdities of Dutch bureaucracy, Samir tries his best to get along with his 500 new housemates. Told with compassion and a unique sense of humour, this is an inspiring tale of survival, a close-up view of the hidden world of refugees and human smugglers, and a sobering reflection of our times.

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