Paperbacks to Look Out for in February 2019: Part One

The looming dank dullness that is February here in the UK has been brightened by the prospect of some paperback goodies, beginning with Jen Beagin’s smart, funny debut, Pretend I’m Dead, one of my books of 2018. Twenty-four-year-old Mona cleans houses for a living and falls hard for a junkie, taking herself off to Taos, New Mexico when he disappears. Nothing much happens in Beagin’s novel: it’s all about the characters, not least Mona from whose sharply sardonic perspective the novel unfolds. Little bombs are dropped into the narrative revealing a childhood that has led her to jump to dark conclusions about her clients. There are some great slapstick moments and it’s stuffed with pithy one-liners. I loved this novel with its dark, witty and confident writing.

Whisper it, I’ve yet to read anything by John Boyne but so many people whose opinion I trust seem to rate him highly that it’s time I did and A Ladder to the Sky seems as good a place to start as any. An aspiring novelist’s chance encounter with a celebrated author in a Berlin hotel leads to an opportunity. The story that Erich tells him catapults Maurice to his own literary fame, but once there he needs another idea and he has no scruples about where it comes from or how he gets it. One critic described Maurice as ‘a bookish version of Patricia Highsmith’s psychopathic antihero Tom Ripley’ which sounds very promising to me

In Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil a bright young man, raised in Washington DC by his conservative Nigerian parents, keeps his sexuality secret from all but his dearest friend. When Niru’s father discovers the truth, Meredith is too caught up in her own troubles to support him. ‘As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding towards a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine’ say the publishers which sounds harrowing but the premise is an interesting one.

I’m hoping that Katy Mahood’s Entanglement will offer a little light relief after that. One day in Cover image 2007, Charlie locks eyes with Stella across a Paddington platform, and thinks he may know her. Mahood’s novel turns back the clock to the ‘70s tracing the thread that links the lives of four characters, seemingly unknown to each other. ‘In rhythmic and captivating prose, Katy Mahood effortlessly interweaves the stories of these two families who increasingly come to define one another in the most vital and astounding ways. With this soaring debut, she explores the choices and encounters that make up a lifetime, reminding us just how closely we are all connected’ say the publishers putting me in mind of David Nicholl’s One Day and Laura Barnett’s The Versions of Us.

That’s it for February’s first batch of paperbacks. A click on the first title will take you to my review or to a more detailed synopsis for the other three should you be interested. If you’d like to catch up with February’s new titles, they’re here and here. More soon…

32 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in February 2019: Part One”

  1. Like the sound of the villainous author… but was not at all impressed with Entanglement. Very forgettable.

  2. I have only read Stripped Pyjamas by John Boyne but my sister read something by him recently and rated it very highly. Definitely I should look out for his work.

  3. I am one of the few people, no scratch that, I am the only person I know who didn’t think much of The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas, so I have never gone back and read anymore John Boyne. Maybe I should get over myself and give this one a try.

  4. Funnily enough, one of the members of my book group has just picked Speak No Evil as our next read. (We have a rotating pick, and it was A’s turn to choose for Feb.) Do you think you’ll read it? If so, it’ll be interesting to compare notes.

  5. Entanglement looks like my kind of book.

    Now, in terms of John Boyne… I haven’t read Ladder yet (it’s in the TBR stack) BUT I urge you to begin with The Heart’s Invisible Furies (it was one of my two absolute favourite reads for 2018, the other being Life After Life).

  6. I’ve loved all of the Boyne books I’ve read – all very different – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Crippen and the wonderful The Heart’s Invisible Furies and I vow to read more in 2019! Thanks for the mention of Entanglement I’ll be looking out for that one.

      1. Oh goodie – I’ve put it on my list so its good to know it is a hit with you – loved The Versions of Us that was mentioned alongside this one.
        Enjoy Mr Boyne, I’m sure we’ll both have fun exploring his books.

  7. Love your posts!
    I’ve had a copy of ‘Versions’ sitting on the dresser in my reasing room for a year now. Thanks for reminding me that I really want to read this – heh heh.
    Entanglement sounds like another winner, so very glad you pointed me towards it.
    Happy reading!

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