There’s a timeline flowing neatly through this first batch of March titles, beginning with Helen Dunmore’s Birdcage Walk set in 1792 in her home town of Bristol with the French Revolution still playing out across the Channel. Recently married, Lizzie comes from a Radical background but her husband is a property developer whose future prosperity relies on stability rather than the prospect of war and social unrest. John believes not only that Lizzie is too independent and questioning but that she belongs to him by law and must live according to his wishes. A new Dunmore is always a joy and the scene seems set nicely here for an exploration of political and domestic tensions.
Over half a century later, the beginning of the American Civil War is the setting for George Saunders’ first novel Lincoln in the Bardo. The basis of Saunders’ story is the death of Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son and its effects on his father, rumoured to have frequently visited his son’s grave despite the war ravaging his country. ‘From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying’ according to the publisher. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that but it’s the novel’s central question – ‘how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?’ – together with Saunders’ reputation that makes this one attractive.
Sana Krasikov’s The Patriots moves us on to the 1930s where Florence is desperate to escape her Brooklyn family. A new job and relationship take her to Moscow but she later finds she has no way back. Florence’s actions have repercussions that reverberate down through the generations as her son will find when his own work forces him to investigate his mother’s past. ‘Epic in sweep and intimate in detail, The Patriots is both a compelling portrait of the entangled relationship between America and Russia, and a beautifully crafted story of three generations of one family caught between the forces of history and the consequences of past choices’ says the publisher which sounds much more interesting than your average family saga.
Ayòbámi Adébáyò‘s Stay with Me takes us to Nigeria in the turbulent 1980s where Yejide is desperate for a child. She’s tried everything she knows, from medical consultations to pilgrimage, with no success until finally her in-laws insist on a new wife for their son. ‘Stay with Me sings with the voices, colours, joys and fears of its surroundings. Ayòbámi Adébáyò weaves a devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood’ says the publisher which sounds almost too heartrending to bear. I spotted Naomi over at The Writes of Women raving about this on Twitter last December and so my hopes are high.
That’s it for the first tranche of March goodies. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Part two follows shortly…