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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 most reliable place to find UK books in the original British English and at the date at which they come out in the UK is bookdepository.com, though you may also have some luck with wordery.com and bookwitty.com.
Bitter Orange, by Claire Fuller (UK, 2nd August, US, 9th October, literary fiction)
From the attic of a dilapidated English country house, she sees them – Cara first: dark and beautiful, clinging to a marble fountain of Cupid, and Peter, an Apollo. It is 1969 and they are spending the summer in the rooms below hers while Frances writes a report on the follies in the garden for the absent American owner. But she is distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she discovers a peephole which gives her access to her neighbours’ private lives.To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to spend time with her. It is the first occasion that she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes till the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled. But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up – and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.
Perfidious Albion, by Sam Byers (UK, 2nd August, literary fiction)
Welcome to Edmundsbury, a small town in England, some time in the recent future. Brexit has happened and is real. Fear and loathing are on the rise. Grass-roots right-wing political party England Always are fomenting hatred. Jess Ellis’s research into internet misogyny pushes her relationship with her over-exposed opinion columnist boyfriend Robert Townsend to breaking point. Robert’s championing of the inhabitants of the threatened estate begins to erode the edges of his fragile idealism. Local England Always politician Hugo Bennington finds his twisted loyalties catching up with him. At the nearby tech park, behind the utopian rhetoric, Trina James finds that something is dangerously amiss. A controversial tweet; a series of ill-judged thinkpieces; a riot of opinions. Suddenly Edmundsbury is no longer the peaceful town it has always imagined itself to be. Things are changing. No-one is quite who they appear. The future has arrived, and it is not what anyone imagined.
Prague Spring, by (UK, 2nd August, US, 13th November, literary fiction)
It’s the summer of 1968, the year of love and hate, of Prague Spring and Cold War winter. Two English students, Ellie and James, set off to hitch-hike across Europe with no particular aim in mind but a continent, and themselves, to discover. Meanwhile Sam Wareham, a first secretary at the British embassy in Prague, is observing developments in the country with a mixture of diplomatic cynicism and a young man’s passion. In the company of Czech student Lenka Konecková, he finds a way into the world of Czechoslovak youth, its hopes and its ideas. It seems that, for the first time, nothing is off limits behind the Iron Curtain. Yet the wheels of politics are grinding in the background. The Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev is making demands of Dubcek and the Red Army is massed on the borders. How will the looming disaster affect those fragile lives caught up in the invasion?
The Light Between Us, by Katie Khan (UK, 9th August, contemporary fiction/SF)
Thea and Isaac first met at University. Theirs was an instant connection but it never went further than friendship. Because, then and now, Thea only has eyes for her work. Not just her course, but also a private project – Thea is determined to prove that time travel is not just the stuff of science fiction. And she has never told anyone the reason why. When one of their friends goes missing in an experiment, Isaac and Thea must work together to find her – forcing them to re-examine their own friendship. Is it really as platonic as they used to think?
The Island, by MA Bennett (UK, 9th August, YA)
Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad – however ancient that quad may be? When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School – forever – if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes ‘No man is an island’ – but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone’s true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence…
Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?, by Holly Bourne (UK, 9th August, YA)
Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for her new friends, who are all dealing with their own battles. But as Olive settles in, she starts to wonder – maybe it’s this messed up world that needs fixing, and not them. And so she comes up with a plan. Because together, snowflakes can form avalanches…
Country, by Michael Hughes (UK, US audiobook, 9th August, literary fiction)
Northern Ireland, 1996. After twenty-five years of conflict, the IRA and the British have agreed an uneasy ceasefire, as a first step towards lasting peace. But if decades of savage violence are leading only to smiles and handshakes, those on the ground in the border country will start to question what exactly they have been fighting for. When an IRA man’s wife turns informer, he and his brother gather their old comrades for an assault on the local army base. But the squad’s feared sniper suddenly refuses to fight, and the SAS are sent in to crush this rogue terror cell before it can wreck the fragile truce, and drag the whole region back to the darkest days of the Troubles. Inspired by the oldest war story of them all, this powerful new Irish novel explores the brutal glory of armed conflict, and the bitter tragedy of those on both sides who offer their lives to defend the honour of their country.
The Litten Path, by James Clarke (UK, 15th August, literary fiction)
The Litten Path is a sweeping debut that provides an intimate view of the miners’ strike of 1984 as it unfolds through the eyes of two families on either side of the struggle. The Litten Path is a novel of the strike as much as about the strike, knitting the intense emotional and political terrain of the famous dispute with the stark landscape of a small town in South Yorkshire. Written in a tough yet lyrical northern vernacular, The Litten Path is grimly honest and tender, comic and painful, a story of the clash between the urban and the rural, class frictions and the pressures of family. It is about what happens when a decision is made, when one cannot turn back.
Take Nothing With You, by Patrick Gale (UK, 21st August, literary fiction)
1970s Weston-Super-Mare and ten-year-old oddball Eustace, an only child, has life transformed by his mother’s quixotic decision to sign him up for cello lessons. Music-making brings release for a boy who is discovering he is an emotional volcano. He laps up lessons from his young teacher, not noticing how her brand of glamour is casting a damaging spell over his frustrated and controlling mother. When he is enrolled in holiday courses in the Scottish borders, lessons in love, rejection and humility are added to daily practice. Drawing in part on his own boyhood, Patrick Gale’s new novel explores a collision between childish hero worship and extremely messy adult love lives.
Four Feet Under: Thirty untold stories of homelessness in London, by Tamsen Courtenay (UK, UK ebook only, 23rd August, non-fiction)
Tamsen Courtenay spent two months speaking to people who live on London’s streets, the homeless and the destitute – people who feel they are invisible. With a camera and a cheap audio recorder, she listened as they chronicled their extraordinary lives, now being lived four feet below most Londoners, and she set about documenting their stories, which are transcribed in this book along with intimate photographic portraits. A builder, a soldier, a transgender woman, a child and an elderly couple are among those who describe the events that brought them to the lives they lead now. They speak of childhoods, careers and relationships; their strengths and weaknesses, dreams and regrets; all with humour and a startling honesty. Tamsen’s observations and remarkable experiences are threaded throughout. The astonishing people she met changed her for ever, as they became her heroes, people she grew to respect. You don’t have to go far to find these homegrown exiles: they’re at the bottom of your road. Have you ever wondered how they got there?
State of Play: Under the Skin of the Modern Game, by Michael Galvin (UK, 23rd August, non-fiction)
In State of Play, in what marks the pinnacle of a career investigating the human stories of football, award-winning writer Michael Calvin turns his eye to the biggest story of all – the game itself. From mental health to money, concussion to Champions league, fan-owners to oligarchs, women’s football to world cups, Calvin gets under the skin of the beautiful game, and reveals why it is truly the game of our lives. Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with leading figures around the world, from Arsene Wenger to Steven Gerrard, Calvin reveals the winners, the losers, the politics, the pleasure, the hope, and the despair of the world’s most popular sport.
The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker (UK, 30th August, US, 11st September, literary fiction)
When her city falls to the Greeks, Briseis’s old life is shattered. She is transformed from queen to captive, from free woman to slave, awarded to the god-like warrior Achilles as a prize of war. And she’s not alone. On the same day, and on many others in the course of a long and bitter war, innumerable women have been wrested from their homes and flung to the fighters. The Trojan War is known as a man’s story: a quarrel between men over a woman, stolen from her home and spirited across the sea. But what of the other women in this story, silenced by history? What words did they speak when alone with each other, in the laundry, at the loom, when laying out the dead? In this magnificent historical novel, Pat Barker charts one woman’s journey through the chaos of the most famous war in history, as she struggles to free herself and to become the author of her own story.
The Way of All Flesh, by Ambrose Parry (UK, US ebook and audiobook, 30th August, US hardback, 2nd October)
In the city’s Old Town a number of young women have been found dead, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. Across the city in the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson. Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of Raven’s intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education. With each having their own motive to look deeper into the city’s spate of suspicious deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.