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Welcome to the first monthly post of British books to look for!
I take these titles from a number of sources, including the highlighted books on The Bookseller, my own knowledge of authors to watch, and various lists around the web, and while I can’t claim to have read them, they definitely seem to have merit — or, at least, buzz. Unless indicated otherwise, descriptions are taken from Goodreads, Amazon, or the publisher’s site.
Eureka, by Anthony Quinn (6th July, UK, literary fiction)
Summer, 1967. As London shimmers in a heat haze and swoons to the sound of Sergeant Pepper, a mystery film – Eureka – is being shot by German wunderkind Reiner Werther Kloss. The screenwriter, Nat Fane, would do anything for a hit but can’t see straight for all the acid he’s dropping. Fledgling actress Billie Cantrip is hoping for her big break but can’t find a way out of her troubled relationship with an older man. And journalist Freya Wyley wants to know why so much of what Kloss touches turns to ash in his wake. Meanwhile, the parallel drama of Nat’s screenplay starts unfurling its own deep secrets.
Travelling Light: Journeys Among Special People and Places, by Alastair Sawday (6th July, UK, memoir)
Campaigner, publisher and wanderer Alastair Sawday has spent his life travelling. En route he has unearthed a multitude of stories – stories of people ploughing their own furrows, of travellers’ tales, stories from the ‘front line’ of his publishing , ruminations and reflections about places, people and ideas. In this deeply charming, erudite and spirited book, he shares his experiences and explores the value of travel.
Get Me the Urgent Biscuits, by Sweetpea Slight (6th July, UK, memoir)
A keenly observed memoir about the vanishing world of London’s West End in the 1980s and 1990s, in which a young woman is swept into the orbit of a theatrical impresario. Shrewd, poignant and irresistibly funny, above all it is a coming-of-age story about the search for independence and an ode to the beguiling nature of theatre.
A Poison Apple, by Michel Laub, transl. Daniel Hahn (6th July, UK, literary fiction)
They both had tickets to Nirvana in 1993, the only gig the band ever played in Brazil. But he was on military service and failed to join her. She was there with his best friend instead. Consumed by insecurities and tricks of memory, he continues to feel, two decades later, that one fateful night has defined his entire adult life. Entwining this most personal story with seminal events of the 1990s, A Poison Apple circles around and back to some of the biggest questions: what is a life worth? What does it mean to really commit to living? And can we ever break free of the past?
Jane Austen at Home, by Lucy Worsley (11th July, UK and US, history)
This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.
Together, by Julie Cohen (13th July, UK, literary fiction)
On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually would. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret – one they will do absolutely anything to protect.
Indigo Donut, by Patrice Lawrence (13th July, UK, YA)
Seventeen-year-old Indigo has had a tough start in life, having grown up in the care system after her dad killed her mum. Bailey, also seventeen, lives with his parents in Hackney and spends all his time playing guitar or tending to his luscious ginger afro. When Indigo and Bailey meet at sixth form, serious sparks fly. But when Bailey becomes the target of a homeless man who seems to know more about Indigo than is normal, Bailey is forced to make a choice he should never have to make.
A life-affirming story about falling in love and everyone’s need to belong.
The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce (13th July, UK, literary fiction)
1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need. Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind.
The Party, by Elizabeth Day (13th July, UK, 15th August, US, literary fiction)
Martin Gilmour is an outsider. When he wins a scholarship to Burtonbury School, he doesn’t wear the right clothes or speak with the right kind of accent. But then he meets the dazzling, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and gains admission to an exclusive world. But Martin has a secret. He knows something about Ben, something he will never tell. It is a secret that will bind the two of them together for the best part of 25 years. At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the great and the good of British society are gathering to celebrate in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the hundreds of guests – the politicians, the celebrities, the old-money and newly rich – Martin once again feels that disturbing pang of not-quite belonging. His wife, Lucy, has her reservations too. There is disquiet in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship. Would he?
How to Resist: Turn Protest to Power, by Matthew Bolton (13th July, UK, how-to/politics)
How to Resist: Turn Protest to Power is about what you can do after the march. In seven practical principles, Matthew Bolton outlines a method for how we can enact real and lasting change in our communities. Rooted in the tactics of the American Civil Rights era, How to Resist reminds us that history’s greatest social movements have been driven by ordinary people demanding that their voices be heard. This is the approach that Barack Obama used as a community organiser in Chicago – an approach that has been used to fight injustice and resist oppression for centuries.
Hot Mess, by Lucy Vine (13th July, UK, chick lit)
Have you ever shown up to Sunday brunch still smelling of Saturday night? Chosen bed, Netflix and pizza over human contact? Stayed in your mould-ridden flat because it’s cheap? Meet your spirit animal, Ellie Knight. Her life isn’t turning out exactly as she planned. She hates her job, her friends are coupling up and settling down, and her flatmates are just plain weird. Some people might say she’s a hot mess but who really has their sh*t together anyway? For fans of Fleabagand Girls, this is a fresh and funny coming-of-age story with a single-girl heroine that will speak to millennials everywhere.
As Kingfishers Catch Fire, by Alex Preston (13th July, UK, memoir)
Looking for moments ‘when heart and bird are one’, Preston weaves the very best writing about birds into a personal and eccentric narrative that is as much about the joy of reading and writing as it is about the thrill of wildlife. Beautifully illustrated and illuminated by the celebrated graphic artist Neil Gower, As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a book to love and to hold, to return to again and again, to marvel at the way that authors across the centuries have captured the endless grace and variety of birds.
Can I Speak to Someone in Charge?, by Emily Clarkson (13th July, UK and US, essays)
In a series of open letters, Emily Clarkson addresses all manner of subjects, from body hair to Facebook friends to the perils of wearing Lycra. She unpicks the validity of notions such as ‘the thigh gap’; questions the quotidian scrutiny by the media; ponders the etymology of the term ‘plus size’ and considers our unshakeable obsession with dieting, while wondering why some of us are still crying in changing rooms. Full of vital life lessons, outrageous confessions and poignant reflections, Can I Speak to Someone in Charge? is a love letter to women everywhere; reminding us that being strong, being kind and being yourself is really what ‘normal’ should be.
Tin Man, by Sarah Winman (27th July, UK and US, literary fiction)
Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more. But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between? This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.
Yuki Means Happiness, by Alison Jean Lester (27th July, UK, literary fiction)
Diana leaves America and moves halfway around the world to Tokyo seeking adventure. In Japan she takes a job as a nanny to two-year-old Yuki Yoshimura. But as Diana becomes increasingly attached to Yuki she also becomes aware that everything in the Yoshimura household isn’t as it first seemed. Before long, she must ask herself if she is brave enough to put everything on the line for the child under her care, confronting her own demons at every step of the way.
Friend Request, by Laura Marshall (27th July, UK, thriller)
When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past she feels sick. Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. ecause Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life knowing herself responsible for Maria’s disappearance. But now Maria is back. Or is she?
Come Let Us Sing Anyway, by Leone Ross (1st July, literary fiction/short stories)
In Leone Ross’s luminous collection of short stories ranging from richly extended stories to intense pieces of flash fiction, set between Jamaica and Britain anything can happen. Ross’s setting may be familiar and her characters recognisable, but these stories take a magical/fantastical turn that dramatically transforms the way we see. Other stories draw us straight into the world of the fantastical or the implausible with such meticulous and concrete detail that we accept these as reality: a wife returns from the dead and their marital bickering resumes, a headless girl barely lifts an eyebrow among her school companions, a security guard collects discarded hymens and uncovers a deeper empathy for women.
The Things I Would Tell You: British Muslim Women Write, ed. Sabrina Mahfouz (11th July, literary/mixed genre)
From established literary heavyweights to emerging spoken word artists, the writers in this ground-breaking collection blow away the narrow image of the ‘Muslim Woman’. Hear from users of Islamic Tinder, a disenchanted Maulana working as a TV chat show host and a plastic surgeon blackmailed by MI6. Follow the career of an actress with Middle-Eastern heritage whose dreams of playing a ghostbuster spiral into repeat castings as a jihadi bride. Among stories of honour killings and ill-fated love in besieged locations, we also find heart-warming connections and powerful challenges to the status quo.