Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 1

Cover imageJanuary gets off to a stonking start with enough paperbacks to keep you oblivious to the dismal British winter. Pride of place has to go to Kate Atkinson’s fabulous A God in Ruins. By now, anyone who’s interested knows that this is the story of Teddy, brother of Ursula Todd whose many lives were lived in Life After Life. In her author’s note Atkinson says she likes ‘to think of it as a “companion” piece rather than a sequel’ and indeed that’s how it reads. I can’t speak highly enough of this novel. Just as with Life after Life, it’s an absolute mystery to me as to why Atkinson hasn’t swept the literary prize board with these two strikingly original books.

Another novel I would have liked to see at least longlisted for the Baileys, if nothing else, is Lucy Wood’s debut, Weathering. Ada and six-year-old Pepper are renovating her estranged mother’s cottage after she drowned. As Ada sets about putting distance between herself and the rest of the village Pepper becomes fascinated by her grandmother and her new surroundings. Put like that, Weathering sounds like a fairly prosaic tale but what singles it out is the vivid word pictures Wood sketches, often poetic but sometimes pithy and very funny. One of my favourite books of 2015.

One book that did make it on to a shortlist is Sean Michael’s Us Conductors which was already up for the Giller Prize when it was published here in the UK. It’s about, Leon Theremin, a Russian inventor born in 1896, and if that name seems familiar you may have come across the musical instrument he devised. Once heard its strange haunting sound is hard to forget. The bare bones of the novel are based on Theremin’s life but as Michaels is careful to point out at the very beginning ‘This book is mostly inventions’, a nice little pun on Leon’s activities which gives you a flavour of Michaels’ writing. Those inventions are spun out into an absorbing story, beautifully told.Cover image

I’m particularly eager to read the first of the three novels I haven’t reviewed: Lena Andersson’s Wilful Disregard. It’s about a coup de foudre that strikes Ester Nilsson when she meets artist Hugo Rask. She turns her back on her settled life, heedless of what anyone else says or thinks about her uncharacteristic behaviour. ‘A story of the heart written with bracing intellectual vigour’ says Alice Sebold. That title sounds particularly promising, I think.

Elyria in Catherine Lacey’s Nobody is Ever Missing seems to show a similar disregard when she abruptly leaves Manhattan on a one-way flight to New Zealand abandoning her career and loving husband. Elyria hitchhikes her way around the country, regardless of the risk.  ‘Full of mordant humour and uncanny insights, Nobody Is Ever Missing is a startling tale of love, loss, and the dangers encountered in the search for self-knowledge’ say the publishers. Sounds well worth investigating.

Cover imageThis first selection ends with Noah Hawley’s The Punch. Scott spends his time in seedy San Francisco joints when not at his dull job while David is a successful salesman with two families, one on each coast. These two are brought together when their father dies and their mother lets out a long-held secret as they travel across the country to New York. I like the idea of an American road trip and deep dark secrets are always a winner if well-handled. We’ll see.

That’s it for the first batch. If you’d like a fuller synopsis a click on a link will take you to my reviews for the first three titles and to Waterstones website for the others. And if you’d like to catch up with January hardbacks, they’re here and here. More shortly.

15 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 1”

  1. Exciting selection. I nearly borrowed Us Conductors from the library the other day, I’ll definitely be going back for it later.

    Hadn’t heard of Wilful Disregard but it sounds interesting so I’ll look out for your review.

    Glad you mentioned the Catherine Lacey, I’ve had the US edition on my shelf for over a year…one of those books that sounds just my thing and I don’t know why I haven’t got to it yet.

    1. Us, Conductors was such a treat. I hope you get around to it, Naomi. Both January and February are brilliant months for paperbacks – second batch of January titles on Wednesday.

      1. It fits with my musical background and I think the theremin’s a fascinating instrument so I’ll definitely get to it.

        Now you’ve got me excited for Wednesday’s post too!

        1. Excellent! Do you know about The Lifes and Loves of Lena Gaunt, also due out in January and also features a theremin!

  2. I still haven’t got around to reading Life After Life yet, though I DO mean to do it soon! And then I can read A God in Ruins. I’ve also got a cheap copy of Weathering that I’m looking forward to. And plenty more on your list, I can see, to look into!

  3. I have a self-imposed book-buying-ban in place for 2016… luckily there is still a few shopping days left in 2015 🙂 Adding Wilful Disregard to my shelves.

  4. So glad you’re reading Wilful Disregard! I thought it was superb; can’t understand why more people aren’t raving about it. Incisive, psychologically acute, wryly and painfully funny at times, and whistlingly close to the bone, in a lovely, crisp translation by Sarah Death. Certainly the cleverest dissection of misguided obsession that I’ve ever read. I do hope you enjoy it.

    1. Thank you – I’m sure I will. I haven’t yet laid my hands on a copy but I’m looking forward to reading it very much. And now’s my chance to congratulate you on your translation of A Whole Life which I loved, one of my books of 2015!

  5. Pingback: Books to Look Out For in February 2016: Part 1 | A life in books

  6. Pingback: Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 2 | A life in books

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