Happy New Year everyone! 2020 is shaping up to be a stellar year publishing wise (I think we say that every year don’t we!) there are SO MANY great books heading our way this year and even as I write this post, more and more fantastic looking books are being brought to my attention.
This post will be a long one for two reasons. Firstly there are quite a few books I want to mention and secondly I will be including the blurb for each book. I’m not usually big on including blurbs on my posts but in cases like this where I haven’t actually read the book yet it is a necessity, so bear with!
I have a mix of fiction, non-fiction and short stories (as always) but the majority are fiction. I have also put them in publication month order. So without further ado, let’s crack on with the books!
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride – Faber
At the mid-point of her life a woman enters an Avignon hotel room. She’s been here once before – but while the room hasn’t changed, she is a different person now.
Forever caught between check-in and check-out, she will go on to occupy other hotel rooms, from Prague to Oslo, Auckland to Austin, each as anonymous as the last, but bound by rules of her choosing. There, amid the detritus of her travels, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she will negotiate with memory, with the men she sometimes meets, and with what it might mean to return home.
I have never read any Eimear McBride but I have heard great things about her writing. The premise of this one really intrigues me and I’m excited to give her a whirl.
The Foundling by Stacey Halls – Bonnier Books
London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.
Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.
I read Stacey Hall’s The Familiars in 2018 and really enjoyed it. I have a bit of a fascination with the whole idea of foundlings and I think this could be another great piece of historical fiction.
Coming Up For Air by Sarah Leipciger – Doubleday
On the banks of the River Seine in 1899, a young woman takes her final breath before plunging into the icy water. Although she does not know it, her decision will set in motion an astonishing chain of events. It will lead to 1950s Norway, where a grieving toy-maker is on the cusp of a transformative invention, all the way to present-day Canada where a journalist, battling a terrible disease, risks everything for one last chance to live.
Taking inspiration from a remarkable true story, Coming Up for Air is a bold, richly imagined novel about the transcendent power of storytelling and the immeasurable impact of every human life. The legacy of the woman at its heart touches the lives of us all today, and this book reveals just how.
I must admit that I’m intrigued by the back story for this one. I do enjoy a multi time period narrative and I gave very high hopes for this one!
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – Tinder Press
On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?
Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
I don’t think I need to say much about this one! I’ve seen it all over the socials and the excitement and buzz around this book is almost palpable!
The Recovery Of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel – Michael Joseph
Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years.
She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair . . .
Turns out her mother is a really good liar.
After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with her daughter – and care for her new infant grandson.
When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend.
But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty won’t rest until she has her daughter back under her thumb. Which is inconvenient because Rose Gold wants to be free of Patty.
Only one Watts woman will get her way.
Will it be Patty or Rose Gold? Mother or daughter?
I don’t think I’ve ever read a book based around the subject of Muchausen Syndrome by proxy (which I find fascinating!) add to this the dynamic of an unusual mother/daughter relationship and I’m there!
The Animals Of Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey – Mantle
Some secrets are unspoken. Others are unspeakable . . .
Thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s collection of mammals. Once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, however, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for.
Protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is work enough, but when some of the animals go missing, and worse, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house.
As the disasters mount, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but clearly haunted daughter. But why is Lucy so traumatized? Does she know something she’s not telling? And is there any truth to local rumours of ghosts and curses?
A Manor House? Darkened corridors? Ghosts and curses? YES PLEASE. Enough said.
The Ninth Child by Sally Magnusson – Two Roads
Loch Katrine waterworks, 1856. A Highland wilderness fast becoming an industrial wasteland. No place for a lady.
Isabel Aird is aghast when her husband is appointed doctor to an extraordinary waterworks being built miles from the city. But Isabel, denied the motherhood role that is expected of her by a succession of miscarriages, finds unexpected consolations in a place where she can feel the presence of her unborn children and begin to work out what her life in Victorian society is for.
The hills echo with the gunpowder blasts of hundreds of navvies tunnelling day and night to bring clean water to diseased Glasgow thirty miles away – digging so deep that there are those who worry they are disturbing the land of faery itself. Here, just inside the Highland line, the membrane between the modern world and the ancient unseen places is very thin.
With new life quickening within her again, Isabel can only wait. But a darker presence has also emerged from the gunpowder smoke. And he is waiting too.
I do enjoy books that tell the story of a pregnant woman. Particularly one who has either struggled to get pregnant, stay pregnant struggle to cope after a baby is born. When you add a Fae element to this I am immediately interested!
She Clown And Other Stories by Hannah Vincent – Myriad Editions
These are stories told with a female gaze, showing women striving to be artists, employers, employees, daughters, mothers, sisters, friends, partners, wives and girlfriends. Characters are captured in recognisable moment of real life and in occasional flights of fancy. At the centre of each story is a woman engaged in an act of self-preservation.
In one story a young woman on the cusp of adulthood tries to express the horror and violence she perceives in the world around her, in another a teenage mother struggles to look after her child in the face of her obsession with the baby’s father. One character experiences the freedom of the workplace while another perceives its constraints. One discovers how far her career has pushed her out to the margins of family life while another contemplates retirement. In the title story a woman catches a whiff of what respect and reciprocal attraction feels like.
Women in these stories are exhilarated to discover the joy and surprise of other women’s company, they make bold sexual choices and go on night-time excursions. As grandmothers they give their grandchildren unsuitable presents. These women are at home and on holiday, at work and at play. They are young and they are old, fulfilled and frustrated, professional and amateur, educated and uneducated, knowing and unknowing. Their stories are witty, colourful tales of struggle and success, of yearning and learning.
If you’ve been around for a while you’ll know that one of my favourite books of all time is The Weaning by Hannah Vincent. When I saw she had a short story collection coming out I knew I had to have it! And have it I will!
Rest And Be Thankful by Emma Glass – Bloomsbury
Laura is a nurse in a paediatric unit. On long, quiet shifts, she and her colleagues, clad in their different shades of blue, care for sick babies, handling their exquisitely frangible bodies, carefully calibrating the mysterious machines that keep them alive.
Laura may be burned out. Her hands have been raw from washing as long as she can remember. When she sleeps, she dreams of water; when she wakes, she finds herself lying next to a man who doesn’t love her any more. And there is a strange figure dancing in the corner of her vision, always just beyond her reach.
This is a very interesting one because I didn’t really gel with Peach story wise but I knew Emma Glass could write. Does that make sense? Therefore I want yo give her second book a try and see whether I get on better with it.
Death In Her Hands by Otessa Moshfegh – Penguin
While on her daily walk with her dog in the nearby woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.
Shaky even on her best days, she is also alone, and new to this area, having moved here from her long-time home after the death of her husband, and now deeply alarmed. Her brooding about the note grows quickly into a full-blown obsession, as she explores multiple theories about who Magda was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But is there either a more innocent explanation for all this, or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home?
I discovered Ottessa Moshfegh towards the end of 2019 (I know, I know, VERY late to the party!) but I binge read her books after reading My Year Of Rest And Relaxation. I am very excited for this one!
The Sin Eater by Megan Campisi – Mantle
A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town.
Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.
It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors.
This blurb really gets my juices flowing! I’d never heard of the concept of sin eaters before but since receiving a proof copy of this book I’ve done a fair bit of Googling! Which has only served to get my juices flowing even more!
What Have I Done? by Laura Dockrill – Square Peg
Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy and couldn’t wait to meet her new baby. But as she went into labour things began to go wrong and Laura started to struggle. A traumatic birth, anxiety about the baby, sleep deprivation, a slow recovery – all these things piled up until Laura (like any new mum) felt overwhelmed.
As many as 8 out of 10 new mums struggle in the weeks after birth. In Laura’s case these feelings escalated scarily quickly into post-partum psychosis. She became paranoid and delusional and had to be institutionalised for a fortnight without her baby. Throughout this time she was haunted by a sense of: ‘What have I done?’, at first as she wondered if she could cope with her baby, and later because she was trying to grasp at reality as she slipped into nightmarish delusion.
Laura’s experience was devastating but this is a hopeful book. Not only has Laura slowly recovered she has come out the other side stronger and more assured about parenting on her own terms. Now she is determined to break the silence around post-natal mental health and with her story tell new parents: you are not alone.
I’ve mentioned lots of times that I enjoy reading books (be they fiction or non-fiction) which tell if struggling new mothers. I was once a struggling new mother myself and so can see myself a lot in these kinds of books. They are sometimes hard to read but I find them cathartic.
Blasted Things by Lesley Glaister – Sandstone Press
WW1 is over. As a nurse at the front, Clementine has found and lost love, but has settled for middle class marriage. Vincent had half his face blown off, and wants more than life offers now. Drawn together by their shared experiences at the Front, they have a compulsive relationship, magnetic and parasitic, played out with blackmail and ending in disaster for one of them.
I absolutely LOVE Lesley Glaister! I think she doesn’t get talked about it appreciated enough. She writes some absolute gems (Honour Thy Father being my all time favourite) and she makes the ordinary extraordinary in quite often a very dark way.
The Harpy by Megan Hunter – Picador
Lucy and Jake live in a house by a field where the sun burns like a ball of fire. Lucy works from home but devotes her life to the children, to their finely tuned routine, and to the house itself, which comforts her like an old, sly friend. But then a man calls one afternoon with a shattering message: his wife has been having an affair with Lucy’s husband, he wants her to know.
The revelation marks a turning point: Lucy and Jake decide to stay together, but in a special arrangement designed to even the score and save their marriage, she will hurt him three times. Jake will not know when the hurt is coming, nor what form it will take.
As the couple submit to a delicate game of crime and punishment, Lucy herself begins to change, surrendering to a transformation of both mind and body from which there is no return.
I have seen The Harpy being talked about on social media and I have only heard good things. Thats all I need. I just want to read it!
I Had A Wolf By The Ears by Laura Van Den Berg – Farrar Straus and Giroux
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Laura van den Berg’s first story collection since her acclaimed and prizewinning Isle of Youth, draws readers into a world of wholly original, sideways ghost stories that linger in the mouth and mind like rotten, fragrant fruit. Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg’s trademark spiky humor and surreal eye. Moving from the peculiarities of Florida to liminal spaces of travel in Mexico City, Sicily, and Spain, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is uncannily attuned to our current moment, and to the thoughts we reveal to no one but ourselves.
In “Lizards,” a man mutes his wife’s anxieties by giving her a La Croix-like seltzer laced with sedatives. In the title story, a woman poses as her more successful sister during a botched Italian holiday, a choice that brings about strange and violent consequences, while in “Karolina,” a woman discovers her prickly ex-sister-in-law in the aftermath of an earthquake and is forced to face the truth about her violent brother.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.
I cannot take the credit for this one. The lovely Siobhain @thelitaddict_ gave me a nudge when she saw this one. It’s quite well known that I enjoy a short story collection! All I needed to see were the words ‘sideways ghost stories’…..I’m sold!
Sisters by Daisy Johnson – Jonathan Cape
Something unspeakable has happened to sisters July and September.
Desperate for a fresh start, their mother Sheela moves them across the country to an old family house that has a troubled life of its own. Noises come from behind the walls. Lights flicker of their own accord. The dank basement, where July and September once made a blood promise to each other, is deeply disquieting.
In their new, unsettling surroundings, July finds that the fierce bond she’s always had with September is beginning to change in ways she cannot understand.
You all know that I adored Fen and Everything Under by Daisy Johnson. There was no way I was going to be anything other than beside myself with excitement for this beauty!
The Quickening by Rhiannon Ward – Trapeze
England, 1925. Louisa Drew lost her husband in the First World War and her six-year-old twin sons in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918. Newly re-married to a war-traumatised husband and seven months pregnant, Louisa is asked by her employer to travel to Clewer Hall in Sussex where she is to photograph the contents of the house for auction.
She learns Clewer Hall was host to an infamous séance in 1896, and that the lady of the house has asked those who gathered back then to come together once more to recreate the evening. When a mysterious child appears on the grounds, Louisa finds herself compelled to investigate and becomes embroiled in the strange happenings of the house. Gradually, she unravels the long-held secrets of the inhabitants and what really happened thirty years before… and discovers her own fate is entwined with that of Clewer Hall’s.
A hall……..a seance. SIGN. ME. UP.
Famished by Anna Vaught – Influx Press
In this dark and toothsome collection, Anna Vaught enters a strange world of apocryphal feasts and disturbing banquets. Famished explores the perils of selfish sensuality and trifle while child rearing, phantom sweetshop owners, the revolting use of sherbet in occult rituals, homicide by seaside rock, and the perversion of Thai Tapas. Once, that is, you’ve been bled dry from fluted cups by pretty incorporeals and learned about consuming pride in the hungriest of stately homes. Famished: eighteen stories to whet your appetite and ruin your dinner.
Here I am again with the short story love! This time surrounding food and eating. My other loves! What’s not to like?!?
So there we have it! I hope some of these books will now be on your Bookish radar if they weren’t already.
Just re-reading all those blurbs has stoked up my excitement again!
I can barely contain myself! It’s going to be a bloody good year my bookish pals!
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx