Ahh, summer. It’s here at last. The days are getting warmer and the sun is coming out more, which means it’s perfect weather to lie in the park and read a good book. Isn’t it convenient that we’ve got some suggestions, then? This way please…
The Day I Fell Off My Island by Yvonne Bailey-Smith
(Myriad Editions, 9781912408955, p/b, £12.99)
Coming-of-age debut novel, by the mother of Zadie Smith, about a young Jamaican girl faced with the trauma of immigration.
The Day I Fell Off My Island tells the story of Erna Mullings, a teenage Jamaican girl uprooted from her island following the sudden death of her beloved grandmother. When Erna is sent to England to be reunited with her siblings, she dreads leaving behind her elderly grandfather, and the only life she has ever known. A new future unfolds, in a strange country and with a mother she barely knows. The next decade will be a complex journey of estrangement and arrival, new beginnings and the uncovering of long-buried secrets.
Foregone by Russell Banks
(No Exit Press, 9780857304599, p/b, £12.99)
The masterful new novel from two time Pulitzer Prize finalist Russell Banks.
At the centre of Foregone is famed Canadian American leftist documentary filmmaker Leonard Fife, one of sixty thousand draft evaders and deserters who fled to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Fife, now in his late seventies, is dying of cancer in Montreal and has agreed to a final interview in which he is determined to bare all his secrets at last, to demythologise his mythologised life.
The Transparency of Time by Leonardo Padura
(Bitter Lemon Press, 9781913394578, p/b, £12.99)
Equal parts The Name of the Rose and The Maltese Falcon, a novel that cements Leonardo Padura’s position as the preeminent literary crime writer of our time.
Mario Conde is facing a failing body, a slower mind, and a decrepit country, in which both the ideals and failures of the Cuban Revolution are being swept away in favour of a new worship of money. Rescue comes in the form of a new case: an old Marxist turned flamboyant practitioner of Santeria appears on the scene to engage Conde to track down a stolen statue of the Virgen de Regla – a black Madonna. This sets Conde on a quest that spans twenty-first century Havana as well as the distant past, as he delves as far back as the Crusades in an attempt to uncover the true provenance of the statue.
Future Feeling by Joss Lake
(Soft Skull Press, 9781593766887, p/b, £12.99)
A wildly inventive, delightfully subversive, nonconforming debut novel about illusion, magic, technology, kinship, and the emergent future.
An embittered dog walker obsessed with a social media influencer inadvertently puts a curse on a different trans man – and must adventure into mysterious dimension in order to save him – in this wildly inventive, delightfully subversive, genre-nonconforming debut novel about illusion, magic, technology, kinship, and the emergent future. Magnificently imagined, linguistically dazzling, and riotously fun, Future Feeling presents an alternate future in which advanced technology still can’t replace human connection but may give the trans community new ways to care for its own.
October Child by Linda Bostrom Knausgard
(World Editions, 9781912987177, p/b, £12.99)
A fight against the dark.
From 2013 to 2017, the narrator was periodically interned in a psychiatric ward where she was subjected to electroconvulsive therapy. As the treatments at this ‘factory’ progressed, the writer’s memories began to disappear. This novel, based on the author’s experiences, is an eloquent and profound attempt to hold on to the past, to create a story, to make sense, and to keep alive ties to family, friends, and even oneself.
Seed by Joanna Waslh
(No Alibis Press, 9781838108106, p/b, £15)
A queer non-coming-out story about sex, adolescence, class, fear and contagion in the 1980s.
Seed’s narrator is on the threshold of adulthood, living in an English valley in the late 1980s when life is overshadowed by fears of nuclear contagion, AIDS and CJD. Composed in narrative threads of poetic prose, Seed explores universal themes of restriction and desire, delving deep into the narrator’s subjective consciousness and demonstrating the polyphonic discourse – fashion magazines, art, public health advice – and relationships that shape her becoming.
The Service by Frankie Mirren
(Influx Press, 9781910312872, p/b, £9.99)
A powerful and challenging novel about women’s bodies, sex and relationships, mental health, entitlement, authenticity, privilege and power.
Lori works illegally in a rented flat in central London, living in fear of police raids which could mean losing her small daughter. Freya is a student who finds she can make more money as an escort than she could in an office. And Paula is a journalist whose long-term campaign against prostitution has brought her some strange bedfellows. After a shock change to the law, with brothels being raided by the authorities, lives across the country are fractured. As a threat from Lori’s past begins to catch up with her, the three women are increasingly, inevitably drawn into each other’s orbit.
The Ones We’re Meant to Find
(Text Publishing, 9781911231332, p/b, £7.99)
The fallout of a dying planet and the destructive potential of our not-so-distant future.
Cee wakes up on an abandoned island. Her only companion is a protective and agreeable robot. Her sister Kasey is a long way away on Earth’s last unpolluted zone. Kasey wants to escape from the home she thought she trusted and the science that sees her questioning her reality and her future. She has choices to make. Big choices. Kasey thinks Cee is dead; Cee knows Kasey needs her. Encountering everyone from robots, to climate experts, competitive scientists and mysterious castaways, the connected siblings find their paths to each other through the fallout of a dying planet.
Skye Papers by Jamika Ajalon
(The Feminist Press, 9781952177965, p/b, £15.99)
Twentysomething and restless, Skye flits between cities and stagnant relationships until she meets Scottie, a disarming and disheveled British traveller, and Pieces, an enigmatic artist living in New York. The three recognise each other as kindred spirits – Black, punk, whimsical, revolutionary – and fall in together, leading Skye on an unlikely adventure across the Atlantic. They live a glorious, subterranean existence in 1990s London: making multimedia art, throwing drug-fueled parties, and busking in Tube stations, until their existence is jeopardised by the rise of CCTV and policing.
Sterling Karat Gold by Isabel Waidner
(Peninsula Press, 9781913512040, p/b, £12.99)
Aspiring writer Sterling is arrested one morning, without having done anything wrong. Plunged into a terrifying and nonsensical world, Sterling – with the help of their three best friends – must defy bullfighters, football legends, spaceships, and Google Earth tourists in order to exonerate themselves and to hold the powers that be to account. Sterling Karat Gold is Kafka’s The Trial written for the era of gaslighting, a surreal inquiry into the very real effects of state violence and coercion on gender-nonconforming, working-class, and Black bodies.