Hello! How long has it been? And how have you coped without your residential fiction expert to recommend you reading? Well, never fear, as bookshops re-open we too are back with our usual programming. Featuring forgotten folklore, terrible life-choices, meandering road-trips and more, here’s an excellent array of upcoming fiction for the month ahead.
Foxfire, Wolfskin and other stories of Shapeshifting Women by Sharon Blackie
(September Publishing, 9781912836246, p/b, £8.99)
From an established writer of empowering literature comes a first fictional collection – of transformational power. Drawing on N. European folklore rather than Greek myth or male-interpreted fairy tales, these are the original feminist voices. Sharing revenge and rebirth, capturing love and shaking off the past, changing the elements and shedding skins, they are heroines all. Each shapeshifting woman has an extraordinary story of change and survival to tell, and each story is born out of a regional folk tale, from Iceland to Ireland, Scotland to Scandanavia, Croatia to Cornwall.
Raised in Captivity: Fictional Nonfiction by Chuck Kolsterman (Penguin Books, 9780735217935, p/b, £12.99)
Microdoses of the straight dope, stories so true they had to be wrapped in fiction for our own protection. A man flying first class discovers a puma in the lavatory. A couple considers getting a medical procedure that will transfer the pain of childbirth from the woman to her husband. A lawyer grapples with the unintended side effects of a veterinarian’s rabies vaccination. Fair warning: Raised in Captivity does not slot into a smooth pre-existing groove. But it does bid fair to be one of the most original and exciting story collections in recent memory, funny, wise and weird in equal measure, a fever graph of our deepest unvoiced hopes, fears and preoccupations.
Pondweed by Lisa Blower
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408726, p/b, £8.99)
One Monday afternoon, around three o’clock, pond supplies salesman Selwyn Robby arrives home towing the Toogood Aquatics exhibition caravan and orders his like-wife, Imogen ‘Ginny’ Dare, to get into the car. He’s taking her on a little holiday, he says. To Wales. So begins their road trip west via ponds, pitstops, and blasts from Selwyn’s past. But it’s a fishy business towing this caravan with its saucy mermaid curtains, fully stocked bar, and the words ‘For your pondlife and beyond’ in the slanted red font favoured by Pound shops. And Ginny must untangle the pondweed to get to the bottom of it, even it does mean unearthing her own murky past to find out.
Boy Parts by Eliza Clark
(Influx Press, 9781910312636, p/b, £9.99)
Irina obsessively takes explicit photographs of the average-looking men she persuades to model for her, scouted from the streets of Newcastle. Placed on sabbatical from her dead-end bar job, she is offered an exhibition at a fashionable London gallery, promising to revive her career in the art world and offering an escape from her rut of drugs, alcohol, and extreme cinema. The news triggers a self-destructive tailspin, centred around Irina’s relationship with her obsessive best-friend, and a shy young man from her local supermarket who has attracted her attention.
The Ballad of Big Feeling by Ari Braverman
(Melville House, 9781612197678, p/b, £15.99)
An ambitious portrait of an unnamed woman who craves love and a fantastic life, but finds life is mocking her instead. We witness the woman being scolded at her local gym, having sex after vomiting expensive tuna, witnessing a seizure in a movie theatre. Set in the American heartland that feels at once sprawling and claustrophobic, the woman carves through the years with wavering deliberation, unable to escape the fate of an ordinary life. Throughout this narrative, she forces us to contend with the imagined spaces that so often breed discomfort in our daily lives.
Deadly Revenge by Leigh Russell
(No Exit Press, 9780857303059, p/b, £8.99)
When a hysterical mother reports her baby’s sudden disappearance, suspicion immediately falls on the absent husband. But Detective Geraldine Steel’s gut instinct tells her this case is not as simple as her colleagues think… Complications in the mother’s life begin to surface, including her relationship with her controlling father, a controversial political figure. As the police investigate, their urgent attempt to find the missing infant grows ever more perplexing. Steel is forced to suspect everyone associated with the family – and when a body is discovered, matters take a deadly turn.
The Wonderous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Conde, trans. by Richard Philcox
(World Editions, 9781912987092, p/b, £12.99)
Ivan and Ivana are twins with a bond so strong they become afraid of their feelings. As young adults in Paris, Ivana joins the police while Ivan walks the path of radicalisation. Unable to live with or without each other, become perpetrator and victim in a wave of violent attacks. With her most impressive novel to date, this master storyteller offers an impressive picture of a colourful yet turbulent 21st century.
She’s My Witch by Stewart Home
(London Books, 9780995721746, p/b, £9.99)
Strange things happen on social media, such as the almost chance encounter between a London born-and-bred fitness instructor and a drug-fueled Spanish witch. At first Maria Remedios and Martin Cooper share their love for super-dumb, two-chord stomp in private messages, but when they meet magic happens. Maria knows that she and Martin have been lovers in past lives, and sets out to convince the former skinhead that her occult beliefs are true.
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If anything you’ve read about on our blog catches your eye, consider ordering from your local bookshop. Find yours here. #ChooseBookshops