April Preview: fresh fiction you need on your shelves this month

What’s a long weekend for if not for book buying? Now that we’re getting a sneak peek of the sun, nothing sounds nicer than doing a crawl of our favourite bookshops and picking up some stellar new reads. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the trendiest fiction titles you need on your shelves. And they’re all fresh out this month!

Booksellers — you know what to do. Contact your local sales rep to get these in stock.

Keep Moving and No Questions by James Kelman

PM Press, 9781629639673, PB, £16.99, 11/4/2023

A sharp and original collection of short stories by Booker Prize winner James Kelman.

James Kelman’s inimitable voice brings the stories of lost men to light in these twenty-one tales of down-on-their-luck antiheroes who wander, drink, hatch plans, ponder existence, and survive in an unwelcoming and often comic world. Keep Moving and No Questions is a collection of the finest examples of Kelman’s facility with dialogue, stream of conscious narrative, and sharp cultural observation. Class is always central in these brief glimpses of men abiding the hands they’ve been dealt. An ideal introduction to Kelman’s work and a wonderful edition for fans and Kelman completionists.

The Jewish Son by Daniel Guebel, translated by Jessica Sequeria

Seven Stories Press UK, 9781911710004, PB, £10.99, 27/4/2023

In this short, unrelenting novel, Daniel Guebel blends autobiography, fiction and criticism to explore his complicated relationship with his own elderly father.

A brilliant and dark tour de force, The Jewish Son presents the delicate archeology of the stubbornness of a boy who demands his parents’ attention. It is a brutal confession of the lies necessary to win a space of approval in a troubled family, a treatise on the excesses of love and the paradoxical lack of affection that is never enough, an accomplished narration of childhood from the point of view of the adult gaze, and a rewriting of Kafka’s Letter to His Father. As his father’s imminent death becomes an ever more concrete reality with surgeries, caregivers and sedatives, and his mother grows obsessed with visits to the rabbi and amasses saint cards and Buddhist prayers, the narrator evokes the remnants of the rejection that pervaded his childhood. Without yielding to the idealisation of youth or to the delight in pain before physical decay and death, Guebel dissects, beautifully although with discomfort, his very early conversion to the dream of literature as an act of reparation.

The Way the Day Breaks by David Roberts

Weatherglass Books, 9781739983390, PB, £10.99, 27/4/2023

Set in Yorkshire in the 1980s, The Way the Day Breaks is a novel about family, love, memory and mental illness. We follow one family, mostly in car trips across the dales, as they discuss nature, speculate on the future, dream up get-rich schemes, laugh, quarrel and try to hold together. But there is a darker current running beneath this family’s shared life. The father, Sinclair, is approaching a manic episode, and life in the family becomes strained. The impact of his breakdown is heartbreaking and felt through the children down the years, especially by the youngest son, Michael. As formally inventive as it is narratively rich, the story unfolds in two modes, through dialogue and through the poetic reflections of Michael, some years later, in a style reminiscent of Lucy Ellman’s Ducks, Newburyport. The Way the Day Breaks is one of the most moving, honest accounts of the way mental illness vibrates through the life of a family.

Life is Everywhere by Lucy Ives

Peninsula Press, 9781913512293, PB, £12.99, 22/4/2023

A multi-faceted, matryoshka doll of a novel which asks how far we ever able to understand ourselves.

Manhattan, 2014. Erin Adamo is locked out of her apartment. Her husband has just left her, and her keys are at her parents’ apartment, abandoned when she exited mid-dinner after her father — once again — lost control. Erin takes refuge in the library of the university where she is a grad student. Her bag contains two manuscripts she’s written, along with a monograph by a faculty member who’s recently become embroiled in a bizarre scandal. Erin isn’t sure what she’s doing, but a small, mostly unconscious part of her knows: within these documents is a key she’s needed all along. With unflinching precision, Life Is Everywhere captures emotional events that hover fitfully at the borders of visibility and intelligibility, showing how the past lives on, often secretly and at the expense of the present. Multifarious, mischievous, and deeply humane, Lucy Ives’s latest masterpiece rejoices in what a novel, and a self, carry.

Never Was by H. Gareth Gavin

Cipher Press, 9781739784966, PB, £11.99, 6/4/2023

Part hallucination, part queer bildungsroman, Never Was is a beautifully strange novel about grief, addiction and working-class masculinity, taking us from a limbo of lost dreams to a small salt-mining town and exploring the way identity is both inherited and re-invented.

Daniel sits on a clifftop in the aftermath of a party at Fin’s mansion, looking out over a junky sea. Daniel’s not sure why they’re there, or who Fin is, even though Fin seems to be somebody famous. To find out, Daniel must tell Fin the story of their childhood, going back to a small salt-mining town in The North, a visit from their now-estranged cousin Crystal, and the life and losses of their salt-miner father, Mika. Taking us from bus shelters to playgrounds to McDonalds, from the depth of a salt mine to a nightclub toilet, Daniel describes their world of soap operas, sunglasses, newspaper clippings and Princess Diana, steering Fin through the events that led up to The Great Subsidence, when their town and the mine that sustained it collapsed. As Daniel tells their story, they come to learn they’re in a place called Never Was, a limbo for lost dreams and disappointments, a landfill for things that never came to be, but also a place of change and transition. Dreamy, poignant, and revelatory, Never Was is a bold and inventive novel by an unparalleled voice in literary fiction.

Breakwater by Marijke Schermer, translated by Liz Waters

World Editions, 9781912987504, PB, £13.99, 6/4/2023

Emilia has it all: a rewarding career as a statistician, a wonderful husband, and two healthy young sons. Having escaped Amsterdam for a life in the countryside, she and Bruch pass their time performing endless jobs around the house. But when a brief moment of panic triggers the memory of a traumatic experience from twelve years before, Emilia finds herself floating away from her average existence. The secret she’s kept for so long refuses to stay hidden, and as Emilia’s grip on reality loosens, heavy rains begin to fall. In this critically acclaimed novel, Schermer explores the impact of sexual violence, and whether or not it’s possible to truly know another person. Breakwater is a haunting examination of memory and trauma, written in a prose stunning in its frankness and precision.

What the Hex by Jessica Clare

Berkley, 9780593337585, PB, £12.99, 6/4/2023

Enemies-to-lovers has never been more enchanting in this witchy romantic comedy.

Penny Roundtree wants nothing more than to be a familiar to a witch. She’s been a member of the Society of Familiars ever since she was old enough to join the Fam. There’s just a small problem — no one’s hiring. Witches and warlocks are so long-lived that there are far more familiars available than witches to train them. So when an unorthodox arrangement to apprentice under the table to a forbidden warlock presents itself, she takes it. Willem Sauer is banned from having a familiar due to past transgressions, thereby limiting his magic-casting abilities. Unfortunately for the surly, Prussian warlock, he has no choice but to work with enthusiastic Penny as a familiar. They immediately clash like dried roan horsehair and honeycomb gathered by moonlight (it’s a terrible spell combination, ask anyone). Casting spells has delightful perks Penny never could have dreamed of, but also greater dangers. Someone is targeting Penny. Willem and Penny must work together to catch their enemy, and if their ploy requires a little kissing on the side, who is to question the rules of magic?

The Son: A Novella by Gina Berriault

Counterpoint, 9781640095977, PB, £15.99, 27/4/2023

This haunting story tells of a woman who desires ‘something more, as if something more had been promised her that was not yet given.’

First published in 1962, The Son introduces readers to Vivian Carpentier, confined by her role as an upper class woman in the 1940s, gleans meaning only from erotic love. Troubled by the elusiveness of men, yet convinced that they run the world, she can barely conceal her desperation to entice. Struggling with motherhood and the failure of marriage, she takes jobs to bridge intervals between lovers. She sings in a hotel bar, sells dresses, and nurses her father’s friend through his last illness, hoping to atone for a self-centred life. The constant in Vivian’s life is her son, David. Having seen her worst and best moments, he provides her with consolation and a reason for living. Gina Berriault’s work as a storywriter of great psychological empathy and extraordinary elegance and subtlety was celebrated widely at the end of her life and, with this reissue of one of her more celebrated short novels, her work can be discovered by a new generation of readers.

Writers by Barry Gifford

Seven Stories Press, 9781644212868, PB, £14.99, 27/4/2023

Great American storyteller Barry Gifford paints portraits of famous writers caught in imaginary vulnerable moments in their lives through a series of short plays or vignettes.

This new edition of Writers includes five new scenes featuring Georges Simenon and Andre Gidé, Flannery O’Connor and William S. Burroughs, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Pauline Garcia-Viardot, Joseph Conrad and D.H. Lawrence, and Willa Cather and Gypsy Rose Lee. In prose that is funny, grotesque, and a touch brutal, Gifford shows these writers at their most human, which is to say at their worst: they are liars, frauds, lousy lovers, and drunks. This is a world in which Ernest Hemingway drunkenly sets explosive trip wires outside his home in Cuba, Marcel Proust implores the angel of death as a delirious, Arthur Rimbaud lies dying in a hospital bed, and Albert Camus converses with a young sex worker while staring at himself in the mirror of a New York City hotel room. In Gifford’s house of mirrors, we are offered a unique perspective on this group of literary greats. We see their obsessions loom large, and none more than a shared needling preoccupation with mortality. And yet these stories, which are meant to be performed as plays, are also tender and thoughtful exercises in empathy. Gifford asks: What does it mean to devote oneself entirely to art? And as an artist, what defines success and failure?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming Publications, 9781906772758, PB, £9.99, 13/4/2023

Meet James Bond, the world’s most famous spy, in these landmark 70th anniversary reissues of Ian Fleming’s classic series.

In the novel that introduced James Bond to the world, Ian Fleming’s agent 007 is dispatched to a French casino in Royale-les-Eaux. His mission? Bankrupt a ruthless Russian agent who’s been on a bad luck streak at the baccarat table. ‘Le Chiffre,’ has been a prime target of the British Secret Service for years. If Bond can wipe out his bankroll, Le Chiffre will likely be ‘retired’ by his paymasters in Moscow. But what if the cards won’t cooperate? Taut, tense, and effortlessly stylish, Ian Fleming’s inaugural James Bond adventure has all the hallmarks that made the series a touchstone for a generation of readers.

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