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December is a light month when it comes to new releases, but here are a handful of notable ones I’ve found for you!
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 blackwells.com, which has free international delivery, including to the US, though you may also have some luck with wordery.com and bookwitty.com, as well as bookdepository.com, which is owned by Amazon.
Also, you may be able to find some of these books as audiobooks on Libro.fm — enter code BRITLIT to get your first 3 books for less than $5 each!
Joan Smokes, by Angela Meyer (UK, 5th December, novella)
She used to be someone else, but now she’s arrived in Vegas, where she can start again. It won’t do to let the past leak in. It’s the Sixties now. She’s going to become … Joan. She makes a list: Buy a new dress (fitted, floral). Dye her hair (dark). Curl it. Buy red lipstick. Buy cigarettes and a lighter, too: Joan, she decides, is a smoker. There’s no need to dwell on why she’s here, what went before. She is just moving forward, one foot in front of the other, becoming that new person. Joan. This city of flashing neon, casinos and shows is full of distractions. Finding a job will be quick and easy. Things to do. New people to meet. A clean sheet. She’s certainly not thinking about Jack, or … No. Not any more. Her new life starts right here, right now.
Our Times in Rhymes: A Prosodical Chronicle of Our Damnable Age, by Sam Leith (UK, US, 5th December, poetry/satire)
A parliament of fools, or a confederacy of dunces? Blethering celebrities and blundering politicians, royal babies and right royal cock-ups, milkshake madness and vegan sausage rolls – and, of course, the long and winding road to Brexit. If ever the times were ripe for a return to the high days of Augustan satire, it’s now – and the Spectator’s literary editor Sam Leith provides it. Our Times in Rhymes is a waspish, affectionate and very funny look at the state of our nation as it – let’s be even-handed – teeters on the cliff-edge of a marvellous opportunity. Here is all the insanity and inanity of 2019, month by cherishable month, rendered in galloping comic verse and paired with satirical drawings by the brilliant cartoonist Edith Pritchett.
The Woman Who Always Loved Picasso, by Julia Blackburn (UK, 12th December, poetry)
Marie-Therese was seventeen when she met Picasso. He was forty-six. The poems, simple in language – daubed as it were – make sense of Picasso’s love for this young woman who was, John Berger says, ‘the sexually most important affair of his life.’ They assume the young woman’s voice, taking up the story at their first meeting. We recognise some of his great paintings in their occasions and formation. Three years after his death she took her own life.
How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published, by Ashley Lister (UK, 19th December, non-fiction)
This book will help you plot like a pro, master the art of suspense like Poe, craft captivating dialogue like Twain and – most crucially – get your short stories published. How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is the essential guide to writing short fiction. It takes the aspiring writer from their initial idea through to potential outlets for publication and pitching proposals to publishers. Along the journey this guide considers the most important aspects of creative writing, such as character, plot, point of view, description and dialogue. All of these areas are illustrated with examples of classic fiction, and accompanied by exercises that will help every writer hone their natural skill and talent into the ability to craft compelling short stories.
The Assistant, by S K Tremayne (UK, 26th December, US, 14th May 2020)
Newly divorced Jo is delighted to move into her best friend’s spare room almost rent-free. The high-tech luxury Camden flat is managed by a meticulous Home Assistant, called Electra, that takes care of the heating, the lights – and sometimes Jo even turns to her for company. Until, late one night, Electra says one sentence that rips Jo’s fragile world in two: ‘I know what you did.’ And Jo is horrified. Because in her past she did do something terrible. Something unforgivable. Only two other people in the whole world know Jo’s secret. And they would never tell anyone. Would they? As a fierce winter brings London to a standstill, Jo begins to understand that the Assistant on the shelf doesn’t just want to control Jo; it wants to destroy her.