Another year over, and thank goodness for that. Though we hope and pray this year will be better than the last, there is one few thing we can be sure of: it will be another year of fantastic books. Kicking things off with our first fiction preview, here are ten must read books for January.
The Disoriented by Amin Maalouf, trans. by Frank Wynne
(World Editions, 9781912987061, p/b, £12.99)
A big, exquisite novel about friendship, betrayal, nostalgia, culture, politics, and beliefs.
Having fled his homeland 25 years ago for France, Adam returns to the East for the first time to see a dying friend. Among the milk-white mountains of his homeland, the past soon catches up with him. His childhood friends have all taken different paths in life – and some now have blood on their hands. Loyalty, identity, and the clash of cultures and beliefs form the heart of this big and bold novel.
Crossed Lines by Marie Darrieussecq, trans. by Penny Hueston
(Text Publishing, 9781911231349, p/b, £10.99)
A critique of a woman’s midlife, middle-class crisis of conscience, told through the astute voice of one of France’s most prolific writers.
Middle-class, middle-aged Rose wonders whether she should leave her husband who drinks too much. But she does too, doesn’t she? And what about the renovations to their holiday house in the south? And then there’s climate change to worry about. When her mother offers her a Mediterranean cruise with her two children, Rose jumps at the chance to get away. But one night they come upon a shipwrecked boat full of refugees. Without telling her teenage son, Rose gives his phone to a young Nigerian refugee. The secret phone connection takes Rose on a journey of discovery – for her and her whole family.
Take Me Apart by Sara Silgar
(Text Publishing, 9781922330673, p/b, £10.99)
A spellbinding novel of psychological suspense that follows a young archivist’s obsession with her subject’s mysterious death.
Journalist Kate leaves New York for a fresh start in California and a new job: as an archivist for the estate of late famed photographer Miranda Brand. Miranda’s son, Theo, has returned to the family home and needs Kate to organise his mother’s work and the mess of her personal effects. The further Kate digs into the material, the more a picture begins to emerge of a vibrant artist buckling under the pressures of ambition, motherhood and marriage. But Kate has secrets of her own, including a growing attraction to the enigmatic Theo, and when she stumbles across Miranda’s diary, her curiosity spirals into a dangerous obsession.
Cockfight by Maria Fernanda Ampuero
(Influx Press, 9781910312810, p/b, £7.99)
In lucid and compelling prose, Ampuero sheds light on the hidden aspects of the home: the grotesque realities of family, coming of age, religion, and class struggle.
A family’s maids witness a horrible cycle of abuse, a girl is auctioned off by a gang of criminals, and two sisters find themselves at the mercy of their spiteful brother. With violence masquerading as love, characters spend their lives trapped re-enacting their past traumas. Heralding a brutal and singular new voice, Cockfight explores the power of the home to both create and destroy those within it.
Crocodile Tears by Mercedes Rosende, trans. by Tim Gutteridge
(Bitter Lemon Press, 9781913394431, p/b, £8.99)
Welcome to the mean streets of Montevideo, Uruguay, and the tale of a bungled heist told with excoriating humour.
It all starts in an overcrowded prison, where Diego is being held on a charge of kidnapping. Diego’s lawyer secures his release, but his freedom comes at a price: he must join forces with a brutal psychopath and hold up an armoured truck. A hilarious caper ensues, as the robbery swiftly degenerates into mayhem and violence. While the men appear to be engaged in a perverse competition to see who is the most incompetent, Ursula Lopez, an amateur criminal with an insatiable appetite, and her rival, Captain Leonilda Lima reveal themselves to be the true protagonists.
Useless Miracle by Barry Schechter
(Melville House, 9781612197913, p/b, £12.99)
A classic, smart comedy about a meek college professor who achieves one of mankind’s most fervent wishes: the ability to fly.
What do you do if you discover, late one sleepless night, that you can fly? If you’re college professor George Entmen, you try to keep it hush hush, because he knows it will bring a kind of attention to his life that he dreads, and because – well, it’s embarrassing. George can only fly if he lays on the floor on his stomach and stretches his arms out in front of him like superman – and even then he can only fly about three inches off the ground, and very, very slowly. It’s what he calls a “useless miracle,” but his wife Rebecca thinks it’s entertaining at parties. Which is how word seeps out to his insanely competitive friends, which is how the media hears about it… which is how all hell breaks out.
Advent by Jane Fraser
(Honno Welsh Women’s, 9781912905256, p/b, £8.99)
A story of female empowerment, determination and desire in early 20th century Wales.
Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. On her return, she finds the family in disarray. Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices. Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.
The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry by C. M. Waggoner
(Ace, 9781984805867, p/b, £14.99)
A charming historical fantasy with a tender love story at its core, from the author of Unnatural Magic.
Hard-drinking petty thief Dellaria Wells is down on her luck in the city of Leiscourt – again. Then she sees a want ad for a female bodyguard, and she fast-talks her way into the high-paying job. Along with a team of other women, she’s meant to protect a rich young lady from mysterious assassins. At first Delly thinks the danger is exaggerated, but a series of attacks shows there’s much to fear. Then she begins to fall for Winn, one of the other bodyguards, and the women team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere.
Game of the Gods by Paolo Maurensig & Anne Milano Appel
(World Editions, 9781912987146, p/b, £11.99)
The story of a lowly servant who, for an instant, becomes a king.
In 1930s British India, a humble servant learns the art of chaturanga, the ancient Eastern ancestor of chess. His natural talent soon catches the attention of the maharaja, who introduces him to the Western version of the game. Brought to England as the prince’s pawn, Malik becomes a chess legend, winning the world championship and humiliating the British colonialists. His skills as a refined strategist eventually drag him into a strange game of warfare with far-reaching consequences.
The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Gina Apostol
(Soho Press, 9781641291835, h/b, £22.99)
The first ever US publication of Insurrecto author’s Philippine National Book Award-winning novel.
The story of Raymundo Mata, a visually impaired member of a 19th century anti-Spanish Philippine revolutionary society, is a polyphonic whirlwind of voices and histories. Told in the form of a memoir, the novel traces Mata’s childhood, his education in Manila, his love affairs, and his discovery of the writer and revolutionary, Jose Rizal. Mata’s autobiography, however, is de-centred by present-day foreword(s), afterword(s), and footnotes from three fiercely quarrelsome and comic voices: a nationalist editor, a neo-Freudian psychoanalyst critic, and a translator, Mimi C. Magsalin.
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