Books to Look Out for In March 2015

The Faithful CoupleSuch are the many temptations in March’s publishing schedules that this is going to be a long post, I’m afraid. I’ll begin with A. D. Miller’s The Faithful Couple as it’s the one I’m looking forward to most. That name may ring a few bells for some readers – he’s the author of Snowdrops a hugely successful literary thriller set in Moscow in the 1990s published back in 2010. This one sounds entirely different. It begins in 1993 with two British men, Neil and Adam, who meet on holiday in California and go on a camping trip together which will throw a shadow over both of them. The novel follows them over the next two decades reflecting and refracting London through their lives and friendship until the truth of that trip emerges. I always find this kind of structure particularly attractive and I enjoyed Snowdrops very much.

Patrick Gale needs no introduction after the rip-roaring success of the Richard and Judy (remember all that?) bestseller Notes from an Exhibition. A Place Called Winter is based on his own family history, telling the story of Henry Cane, forced by scandal to emigrate to the Canadian prairies where he sets up as a farmer in the eponymous settlement. According to the publisher it’s ‘an epic, intimate human drama, both brutal and breathtaking. It is a novel of secrets, sexuality and, ultimately, of great love’. A grand claim but I’ve yet to read a Gale that I didn’t enjoy.

I have to say that the publisher’s blurb for Polly Samson’s The Kindness is a tad overblown but it boils down to this – Julian falls passionately in love with Julia, married and eight years his senior. Against all advice they throw up everything to be together enjoying their happiness until their daughter Mira becomes seriously ill forcing Julia to reveal a terrible secret. This may not sound too inspiring but the prose is ‘lyrical’, apparently, and the plotting ‘masterful – I enjoyed her previous books, Out of the Picture and Perfect Lives, very much

Sara Taylor’s debut The Shore is more a set of interconnecting stories than a novel. It spans a The Shorecentury and a half in the lives of the inhabitants of a group of small islands off the coast of Virginia. I’m not a short story fan, I’m afraid – I prefer something to get my teeth into – but when they’re linked in this way they can work extraordinarily well, as the aforementioned Perfect Lives did for me, and I like the sound of the setting very much. Lots of comparisons in the blurb, including one to Cloud Atlas, but I’m not letting that put me off.

I have to confess I don’t remember Judith Claire Mitchell’s The Last Days of Winter which was published ten years ago but A Reunion of Ghosts sounds right up my street. Three sisters living together in a New York apartment at the end of the last century have decided to kill themselves. It’s something of a family tradition, so it seems, beginning with their great-grandmother, the wife of a Jewish Nobel Prize-winning chemist who developed the poison gas used in both world wars. A little on the dark side, admittedly, but it sounds fascinating.

Jill Alexander Essbaum’s debut Hausfrau takes us to a wealthy Zurich suburb where American ex-pat Anna Benz lives with her husband and three young children. Disconnected and isolated, Anna plunges into a series of passionate affairs which will eventually end in tragedy as her life unravels. Billed as a ‘literary page-turner’ it sounds as if it has more than a touch of the Emma Bovarys but nevertheless has the makings of an absorbing read

Cover imageI spotted the jacket of Molly McGrann’s The Ladies of the House on Twitter and couldn’t resist it. Reading the blurb it seemed even better: One hot July day three elderly people are found dead in a rundown house in Primrose Hill. Spotting the story in the paper Marie Gillies feels she is somehow to blame. McGrann’s novel pieces together what has happened, entering the secret world of the ladies of the house. It comes from the editor who brought us two of my books of 2014: The Miniaturist and Shotgun Lovesongs. Enough said, for me, anyway.

And finally, Anna Gavalda’s Billie has already been a huge seller in France. It’s the story of two unlikely friends: Franck, a bright, sensitive young boy with a bigoted father and a depressed mother, and Bille, desperate to escape her abusive family. Billie tells Franck her story when they find themselves trapped in a mountain gorge on holiday. I loved Gavalda’s Consolation and her Hunting and Gathering – she has a light touch with storytelling which I’m hoping to see more of in Billie.

Phew! That’s it for March, and if you’ve yet to catch up with February here are the hardbacks and here are the paperbacks.

26 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for In March 2015

    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you – I think my favourites are The Faithful Couple for its structure and The Ladies of the House because its editor seems to have such a good eye.

      Reply
  1. naomifrisby

    Some great choices here (by which I mean I agree with them, of course). I’ve read The Shore and think it’s fantastic – don’t be put off by the David Mitchell reference, I can see why it’s been used but it’s not that helpful. I’ve already read Hausfrau too which is superb – it’s going to divide people I think as Anna’s not very likeable at all but there’s so much discussion to be had around the book.

    The other three you mention by women I have on my TBR, looking forward to them all.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It looks very different, Helen, but Snowdrops was such an accomplished book I’m sure he’ll pull it off.

      Reply
  2. Alex

    The Gale is very high on my list of must reads as well. Apart from being a superb writer he is also a very personable gentleman. What more can you ask? I looked at the Miller but put a question mark by it. It was the subject of the first meeting I went to at my third reading group and I almost despaired at the discussion. I’ve worked hard on them since then!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve read Gale since The Aerodynamics of Pork and was absolutely delighted when Richard and Judy sent Notes From an Exhibition into the stratosphere. I hope the Miller lives up to expectations. Lovely to have you commenting again, Alex!

      Reply
  3. JacquiWine

    As you probably know, I’m trying to focus on my TBR at the moment but it’s always interesting to see what’s on the horizon (especially for the library stuff I’m involved with). Thanks for the update.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I think it sounds great, Cleo, and given that the editor worked on two of my favourite books last year I’m hoping for a treat.

      Reply
  4. MarinaSofia

    Look forward to reading your thoughts on all of these, even though I am trying to refrain from rushing out and getting something new for the moment. I have read Hausfrau (because it’s so similar to my situation of expat living in/near Switzerland) and the Emma Bovary comparison is quite apt, although so is Anna Karenina. The Faithful Couple has caught my eye already, so it’s on my wishlist. And Billie is a charming story, though not the lightest of reads.

    Reply
  5. crimeworm

    The Faithful Couple I already have (I adored Snowdrops, such a terrible thing they did!) Also have Hausfrau. Ladies of the House appeals, as does A Reunion of Ghosts. Although there’s nothing very cheery in my picks…!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Snowdrops was such a chilling book, wasn’t it, particularly in view of Miller’s time as a foreign correspondent in Russia. I’m not sure I’ve offered a very cheery choice, I’m afraid!

      Reply
  6. litlove

    As ever, you provide such interesting and enticing lists. I’ve just got a copy of the A D Miller and am looking forward to that. Patrick Gale and Polly Samson are both authors I’ve seen around a lot and mean to try – so maybe I’ll finally get there! I’m also curious about the Sara Taylor.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      A.D. Miller’s top of my list but it’s a close run thing. Lots of goodies on offer this month.

      Reply
  7. Gemma

    These all sound great, I’ve just added quite a few to my to-read list! I’m particularly interested in The Faithful Couple – both the plot and the structure sound intriguing

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Glad you found a few things to take your fancy, Gemma. I know what you mean about The Faithful Couple. Let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

      Reply

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