Nearly spring here in looking forward land, and the days are getting longer but there’s still plenty to keep you comfortably curled up on the sofa. Let’s start with a bit of non-fiction which will get you out and about if only in your head. The subtitle of cookery writer Mina Holland’s The Edible Atlas promises to take her readers around the world in thirty-nine cuisines and looks like one of those pleasing books which blend recipes with anecdote, history and literature. I’m sure the publishers are delighted with the Yotam Ottolenghi endorsement prominently displayed on the front cover.
Back to the serious business of fiction with Nicholas Butler’s debut Shotgun Lovesongs about which there’s been quite a Twitter storm of approval, at least in my neck of the woods. It follows a fairly well-worn literary path but one of which I’m very fond: a group of childhood friends from small town America, long since gone their separate ways, meet up for a wedding. Rivalries and a long-buried secret rise to the surface amidst the celebration. Those who’ve read it seem to fall in love with it so my hopes are high. Darragh McKeon’s All That is Solid Melts into Air has also been causing quite a stir in the UK book world ahead of publication. Ten years in the writing, it looks at the end of the Soviet Union through the lens of the Chernobyl disaster and its effects on four people: a nine-year-old piano prodigy, his dissident aunt, a surgeon and a teenage boy in the Ukraine. An ambitious undertaking for a first novel but it’s much praised by the likes of Colm Tóibín. Two authors whose novels I’ve enjoyed very much in the past but whose more recent work has disappointed have books out this month so I’m giving them one last try: Louise Welsh – who’s never quite matched the superb The Cutting Room for me – and Tobias Hill – whose Underground and The Love of Stones both had me gripped. Welsh begins what looks like a dystopian trilogy with A Lovely Way to Burn while Hill’s What Was Promised looks at three families – two of them immigrant – over forty years beginning in post-war London which I find more appealing. Saving what I hope will be the best till last, the incomparable Siri Hustvedt has a new novel out – The Blazing World – which takes us into the New York art world through the diaries, notebooks, reviews and articles of a female artist, now dead, who challenged the art establishment’s seeming misogyny. What I Loved is one of the best modern novels I’ve read so the bar is set very high.
As with the previous two posts, just click on any book title if you want more info. My next post, which will cover April, will be the last on the books I’m looking forward to next year, and my last before Christmas.