Books to Look Out for in February 2019: Part One

Cover image February’s surely the dullest month of the year in my part of the world although, thankfully, not in the publishing schedules, as I hope you’ll agree. Lots of promising titles to look forward to beginning with Tessa Hadley’s Late in the Day which is about two couples who meet in their twenties. Thirty years later Alex and Christine’s evening is interrupted by a phone call: Zach has died and Lydia is distraught. Instead of uniting them in grief, Zach’s loss opens up a well of anger and bitterness between the remaining three, apparently. Hadley’s narrative moves back and forth between past and present, always an attractive structure for me.

In Steve Sem-Sanberg’s The Tempest, the past is also revisited thanks to a bereavement. Andreas returns to the house in which he grew up on an island just off the Norwegian coast. Memories surface and secrets are uncovered as he sorts through his late foster father’s belongings. ‘Rich in shimmering echoes from Shakespeare’s play, Steve Sem-Sandberg’s The Tempest is a hypnotic portrayal of the inherited guilt that seeps through generations, haunting an island overgrown with myths’ say the publishers which sounds ambitious but intriguing.

I’ve managed to get ahead of myself and have already read Frances Liardet’s We Must Be Brave which carries on the pleasing theme of flitting between past and present revealing secrets. It opens in 1940 with the discovery of a child fast asleep at the back of a coach full of Cover image frightened women fleeing the bombing of Southampton. Ellen, the childless wife of a first world war veteran, takes Pamela home, surprised at the love awakened by this five-year-old girl whose loss reminds her of her own past. It would have been easy to descend into schmaltziness with this kind of story but Liardet steers well clear of that while still conveying its poignancy. I’ll be posting my review next month.

As you can guess from its title, Yara Rodrigues-Fowler’s Stubborn Archivist also has one foot in the past. A young woman whose mother has left her homeland struggles to find a way to feel comfortable with herself by exploring her family history. ‘Our stubborn archivist tells her story through history, through family conversations, through the eyes of her mother, her grandmother and her aunt and slowly she begins to emerge into the world, defining her own sense of identity’ says the publisher, promisingly. I’m often drawn to the theme of immigration, inventively explored here by the sound of it.

There’s a promise of twists in Joan Silber’s Improvement which sees Kiki, settled in New York after travelling the world, worried about her niece’s relationship with her partner. When Reyna decides to put her four-year-old first, the repercussions are more profound that she might have expected.’ A novel that examines conviction, connection and the possibility of generosity in the face of loss, Improvement is as intricately woven together as Kiki’s beloved Turkish rugs and as colourful as the tattoos decorating Reyna’s body, with narrative twists and turns as surprising Cover image and unexpected as the lives all around us’ say the publishers.

I’m winding up this preview with a book that was first published in 2015: Janice Galloway’s short story collection, Jellyfish, comprising sixteen stories which explore sex, parenthood, death, ambition and loss. Stuff of life, then. After reading Galloway’s memoirs and her novel, The Trick is to Keep Breathing, I’m eager to get my hands on this one.

That’s it for the first part of February’s preview. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Part two soon…

18 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in February 2019: Part One”

  1. I have a copy of the new Hadley and I’m very much looking forward to it. You have several other tempting options here too! Improvement was very well received in America a couple of years ago.

  2. I read Jelly Fish when it was first published. I’m not a big reader of short story collections but I’m a big fan of Janice Galloway. Like most collections, I didn’t love all of the stories but overall it was excellent.

  3. You know, I’ve never read anything by Tessa Hadley, even though several people seem to rate her very highly. For some reason, I always confuse her with Rose Tremain, possibly because they both write short stories as well as novels!

  4. Thank you for telling us about these books. I have read short-story collections by Tessa Hadley (three in 2018) and will begin reading her novels, beginning with this one. Have you read others by Hadley, and if so, which would you recommend?

    Thanks so much,

    1. You’re welcome, Karen. I’d recommend Accidents in the Home and The Master Bedroom. I’ve yet to read any of her short stories. Is there a collection you particularly liked?

  5. I really enjoy Tessa Hadley so a new novel is exciting news! The Tempest is my favourite Shakespeare play and I usually avoid retellings but this one sounds a interesting story in its own right so I’m tempted to give it a go.

    1. I have hopes for the Hadley, although I haven’t enjoyed everything I’ve read by her. Rewrites are always tricky, aren’t they, particularly when it’s a favourite but this one does sound intriguing.

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