It’s still snuggling under blankets season, so grab one of these great new releases and settle down with a hot chocolate.
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I take the titles for these monthly posts 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.
The Only Story, by Julian Barnes (UK, 1st February, US, 17th April, literary fiction)
First love has lifelong consequences, but Paul doesn’t know anything about that at nineteen. At nineteen, he’s proud of the fact his relationship flies in the face of social convention. As he grows older, the demands placed on Paul by love become far greater than he could possibly have foreseen.
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging, by Afua Hirsh (UK, 1st February, non-fiction)
You’re British. Your parents are British. You were raised in Britain. Your partner, your children and most of your friends are British. So why do people keep asking you where you are from? Brit(ish) is about a search for identity. It is about the everyday racism that plagues British society. It is about our awkward, troubled relationship with our history. It is about why liberal attempts to be ‘colour-blind’ have caused more problems than they have solved. It is about why we continue to avoid talking about race.
Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton (UK, 1st February, essay/memoir)
When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Timesdating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you’ve ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It’s a book about bad dates, good friends and – above all else – about recognising that you and you alone are enough.
Feel Free, by Zadie Smith (US, 6th February, UK, 8th February, essays)
No subject is too fringe or too mainstream for the unstoppable Zadie Smith. From social media to the environment, from Jay-Z to Karl Ove Knausgaard, she has boundless curiosity and the boundless wit to match. In Feel Free, pop culture, high culture, social change and political debate all get the Zadie Smith treatment, dissected with razor-sharp intellect, set brilliantly against the context of the utterly contemporary, and considered with a deep humanity and compassion. This electrifying new collection showcases its author as a true literary powerhouse, demonstrating once again her credentials as an essential voice of her generation.
Goodbye, Perfect, by Sarah Barnard (UK, 8th February, YA)
Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it’s the last person she would have expected. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.
Ivy and Abe, by Elizabeth Enfield (UK, 8th February, contemporary fiction)
Ivy and Abe were inseparable as children until an accident tore them apart. Several decades later, when both are in their seventies, a chance encounter reunites them. But time is not on their side. What if they’d met in a different time and place? In another life, Ivy and Abe meet in their forties, when both are married already. Unable to resist the attraction between them, they embark on a passionate affair. In yet another, they marry young, with a bright future ahead of them – only for a dark shadow to threaten their happiness. Throughout various incarnations of their lives, they come together and go their separate ways, fall in and out of love, make or break promises.
The Adulterants, by Joe Dunthorne (UK, 8th February, US, 6th March)
Ray is not a bad guy. He mostly did not cheat on his heavily pregnant wife. He only sometimes despises every one of his friends. And though his career as a freelance tech journalist is dismal and he spends his afternoons churning out third-rate listicles in his boxer briefs, he dreams of making a difference. But Ray is about to learn that his special talent is for making things worse.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turnton (UK, 8th February, US, 18th September)
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…
Rise Up Women!: The Remarkable Lives of the Suffragettes, by Diane Atkinson (UK, 8th February, US, 17th April/8th February for ebook only)
On 6 February 1918, after campaigning for over 50 years, British women were finally granted the vote. In November 1919, the first woman MP, Lady Nancy Astor, was elected to the House of Commons. History was made. A hundred years on, it is time to reflect on the daring and painful struggle women undertook to break into a political system that excluded them. In the voices of key suffragettes, Rise Up Women! chronicles the founding of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in the 1860s, led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and the formation of the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903.
The Story of Our Lives, by Helen Warner (UK, 8th February, US, 13th February, contemporary fiction)
Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they met twenty years ago. As history has moved on around them, they have seen each other through everything. From Sophie’s secret fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside-abusive-on-the inside marriage to Melissa’s spiralling alcoholism and Emily’s single motherhood. But could a lie that spans just as long tear them apart?
Wallis in Love: The untold true passion of the Duchess of Windsor, by Andrew Morton (UK and US, 14th February)
From her domineering and powerful Uncle Sol, to her rise through the social ranks and her determination to one day beat men at their own game – to the ultimate conquest of the Prince of Wales. Morton paints a vivid and multi-faceted picture of a compelling, ambitious and often hard-hearted woman, who may have won the jewel in the British crown but very possibly at the expense of her true happiness.
Unthinkable: An Extraordinary Journey Through the World’s Strangest Brains, by Helen Thomson (UK, 22nd February, US, 26th June, non-fiction)
Award-winning science writer Helen Thomson has spent years travelling the world tracking down incredibly rare brain disorders. In Unthinkable she tells the stories of nine extraordinary people. From the man who thinks he’s a tiger to the doctor who feels the pain of others just by looking at them, their experiences illustrate how the brain can shape our lives in unexpected and, in some cases, brilliant and alarming ways.
Monsieur Ka, by Vesna Goldsworthy (UK, 22nd February, US, 24th July, historical fiction)
The London winter of 1947. As cold as St Petersburg during the Revolution. The Karenins keep their vodka under the layers of snow in their suburban garden, in bottles entombed like their Russian past. But when a young Frenchwoman arrives to work as a companion to the aged ‘Monsieur Ka’ he begins to tell his story… Albertine is the wife of a British army officer who is often abroad on covert government business. Lonely, yet eager to work, she begins to write Monsieur Ka’s life story a as a secret gift to him, and even learns his mother tongue. As she is drawn into Ka’s dramatic past, her own life is shaken to its foundations. For in this family of former princes, there are present temptations which could profoundly affect her future.
The Image of You, by Adele Parks (UK, 22nd February, contemporary fiction)
Anna and Zoe are twins. Identical in appearance, utterly different in personality, they share a bond so close that nothing – or no one – can rip them apart. Until Anna meets charismatic Nick. Anna is trusting, romantic and hopeful; she thinks Nick is perfect.
Zoe is daring, dangerous and extreme; she thinks Nick is a liar. Zoe has seen Anna betrayed by men before. She’ll stop at nothing to discover if Nick is as good as he seems.
Stickle Island, by Tim Orchard (US, 6th February, UK, 20th February, fiction)
Spring 1980. Stickle Island follows the island’s myriad residents as they come up with a (not entirely agreed upon) plan to form a co-op and use the profit from pot sales to save the island’s only ferry, which, thanks to the miserly Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, has just been placed on the chopping block. There’s hot-tempered and anarchic DC, a soused farmer Henry Stick, his bitter rival John, a horny vicar, an even hornier Postmistress, and their collected offspring: a clutch of teen punks, all of whom could use a leg up, or at least, a decent toke. Unfortunately for them, a violent and wildly erratic mainland drug dealer called Carter and his soft-hearted henchman Simp have plans of their own, and they’re coming to Stickle to see them through. The islanders must set aside their bitter rivalries and decades long feuds to save the ferry and protect their way of life, navigating the choppy waters of new romances as things grow increasingly, and hilariously, complicated.
Plus, out this month in the USA:
How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig (6th February, fiction)
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old history teacher, but he’s been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen it all. As long as he keeps changing his identity he can keep one step ahead of his past – and stay alive. The only thing he must not do is fall in love…