We made it through January. Well done, everyone!
Here’s my roundup of British books hot off the press this month, chosen because they have buzz or critical acclaim or because I find them interesting. (Descriptions are taken from online retailers.) It’s a rough time for both authors and bookshops, and I’m sure they would love your support. It’s even more important than usual to buy from independent bookshops at the moment — and Bookshop.org is a great resource for that.
Also, let’s take a moment to pause and appreciate the consistency of the yellow-orange-pink palette!
Where to buy the books:
- UK links are mostly to the new British arm of Bookshop.org, the online platform for buying books that profit shares with independent bookshops. Not only are you supporting independent bookshops when you buy from them — and those bookshops really need our help right now — you’re also supporting the podcasts, since I get a generous commission through the links without adding any costs to you.
- US links, where the book is available there, are to Bookshop.org in the US.
- Where the book is not available in the US, and for other countries, I have linked to Blackwells.com, which is a small and excellent bookshop chain which ships inexpensively worldwide. I’ve searched high and low for reliable, non-Amazon ways to get British books in the US with inexpensive postage costs and Blackwell’s is the best thing I’ve found. These are also affiliate links, so you’ll be sending a few pennies my way, too.
The Crow Folk, by friend of the podcast Mark Stay (UK, 4th February)
Faye Bright always felt a little bit different. And today she’s found out why. She’s just stumbled across her late mother’s diary which includes not only a spiffing recipe for jam roly-poly, but spells, incantations, runes and recitations . . . a witch’s notebook. And Faye has inherited her mother’s abilities.
Just in time, too. The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum’s words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.
Before I Saw You, by Emily Houghton (UK, 4th Feb; US, 4th May)
Alice and Alfie are strangers. But they sleep next to each other every night.
Alfie Mack has been in hospital for months recovering from an accident. A new face on the ward is about as exciting as life gets for him right now, so when someone moves into the bed next to him he’s eager to make friends. But it quickly becomes clear that seeing his neighbour’s face won’t happen any time soon.
Alice Gunnersley has been badly burned and can’t even look at herself yet, let alone allow anyone else to see her. She keeps the curtain around her bed firmly closed, but it doesn’t stop Alfie trying to get to know her. And gradually, as he slowly brings Alice out of her shell, might there even be potential for more?
Last One at the Party, by Bethany Clift (UK, 4th February)
The human race has been wiped out by a virus called 6DM (‘Six Days Maximum’ – the longest you’ve got before your body destroys itself).
But somehow, in London, one woman is still alive. A woman who has spent her whole life compromising what she wants, hiding how she feels and desperately trying to fit in. A woman who is entirely unprepared to face a future on her own.
Now, with only an abandoned golden retriever for company, she must travel through burning cities, avoiding rotting corpses and ravenous rats on a final journey to discover if she really is the last surviving person on earth.
Life Lessons On Friendship: 13 Honest Tales of the Most Important Relationships of Our Lives, by Stylist Magazine (UK, 4th February)
How have your friends shaped who you are today? What happens if you fall in love with your best friend? How would you cope if a friend died suddenly? And what are the golden rules of going into business with a close friend? 15 women who have faced these questions – and many more – tell us everything they have learned in the process about life’s essential bond: friendship.
In turns funny, moving, confronting and uplifting, each lesson gives a frank and refreshing view on both the pleasure and pain of our closest connections. From contemporary questions about the authenticity of online friendship to universal talking points such as how many friends we really need, this is a wise exploration – and joyous celebration – of the most essential relationship in our lives.
The Divines, by Ellie Eaton (US, 19th January; UK, 18th February)
The girls of elite English boarding school, St. John the Divine, were notorious for flipping their hair, harassing teachers, chasing boys and chain-smoking cigarettes. They were fiercely loyal, sharp-tongued, and cutting in the way that only teenage girls can be. But for Josephine, now in her thirties, her time at St. John feels like a lifetime ago. She hasn’t spoken to another Divine in fifteen years, not since the day the school shut its doors in disgrace . . .
But an impromptu visit reawakens blurry recollections of those doomed final weeks that rocked the community. With each memory that resurfaces, she circles closer to the ugly secret at the heart of the school’s scandal. But the more Josephine recalls, the further her life unravels, derailing not just her marriage and career, but her entire sense of self.
Insatiable, by friend of the podcast Daisy Buchanan (UK, 11th February)
Stuck in a dead-end job, broken-hearted, broke and estranged from her best friend: Violet’s life is nothing like she thought it would be. She wants more – better friends, better sex, a better job – and she wants it now.
So, when Lottie – who looks like the woman Violet wants to be when she grows up – offers Violet the chance to join her exciting start-up, she bites. Only it soon becomes clear that Lottie and her husband Simon are not only inviting Violet into their company, they are also inviting her into their lives.
Seduced by their townhouse, their expensive candles and their Friday-night sex parties, Violet cannot tear herself away from Lottie, Simon or their friends. But is this really the more Violet yearns for? Will it grant her the satisfaction she is so desperately seeking?
Uncoupling, by Lorraine Brown (UK, 18th February)
Hannah and Si are in love and on the same track – that is, until their train divides on the way to a wedding. The next morning, Hannah wakes up in Paris and realises that her boyfriend (and her ticket) are 300 miles away in Amsterdam!
But then Hannah meets Léo on the station platform, and he’s everything Si isn’t. Spending the day with him in Paris forces Hannah to question how well she really knows herself – and whether, sometimes, you need to go in the wrong direction to find everything you’ve been looking for…
The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot, by Marianne Cronin (UK, 18th February)
Life is short. No-one knows that better than seventeen-year-old Lenni living on the terminal ward. But as she is about to learn, it’s not only what you make of life that matters, but who you share it with.
Dodging doctor’s orders, she joins an art class where she bumps into fellow patient Margot, a rebel-hearted eight-three-year-old from the next ward. Their bond is instant as they realize that together they have lived an astonishing one hundred years.
To celebrate their shared century, they decide to paint their life stories: of growing old and staying young, of giving joy, of receiving kindness, of losing love, of finding the person who is everything.
As their extraordinary friendship deepens, it becomes vividly clear that life is not done with Lenni and Margot yet.
Raceless, by Georgina Lawton (UK, 18th February)
In Georgina Lawton’s childhood home, her Blackness was never acknowledged; the obvious fact of her brown skin, ignored by her white parents. Over time, secrets and a complex family story became accepted as truth and Georgina found herself complicit in the erasure of her racial identity.
It was only when her beloved father died that the truth began to emerge. Fleeing the shattered pieces of her family life and the comfortable, suburban home she grew up in, at age 22 Georgina went in search of answers – embarking on a journey that took her around the world, to the DNA testing industry, and to countless others, whose identities have been questioned, denied or erased.
When a personal identity has been wrongly constructed, how do you start again? Raceless is both the compelling personal account of a young woman seeking her own story amid devastating family secrets, and a fascinating, challenging and essential examination of modern racial identity.
Here Comes the Miracle, by Anna Beecher (UK, 18th February)
It begins with a miracle: a baby born too small and too early, but defiantly alive. This is Joe.
Decades before, another miracle. In a patch of nettle-infested wilderness, a seventeen year old boy falls in love with his best friend, Jack. This is Edward. Joe gains a sister, Emily. From the outset, her life is framed by his. She watches him grow into a young man who plays the violin magnificently and longs for a boyfriend. A young man who is ready to begin. Edward, after being separated from Jack, builds a life with Eleanor. They start a family and he finds himself a grandfather to Joe and Emily.
When Joe is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Emily and the rest of the family are left waiting for a miracle. A miracle that won’t come.
Here Comes the Miracle is a profoundly beautiful story about love and loss; and about the beautiful and violent randomness of life.
Find more British books published this month on this list:
And here’s an extensive list of British books being published in the US this month!
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