Books to Look Out For in January 2020: Part One

Cover imageTime to look forward to another year of literary exploration with lots goodies in the offing for January by the look of it. I’m beginning with a title that’s been popping up in my Twitter feed for so long it feels as if it was published last summer and which I’ve already read. Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt is about the experience of immigrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border, a theme explored in Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, although Cummins’ novel is much more raw and immediate. ‘Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, AMERICAN DIRT is both a page turner and a literary achievement: a novel that will leave you utterly changed’ say the publishers. Suffice to say it made me cry. Review to follow next month.

Tim Murphy’s Correspondents continues the immigrant theme, spanning the twentieth-century and on into the twenty-first, through the story of Rita Khoury, an Irish-Lebanese woman whose parents immigrated to the US. Rita studies Arabic, becoming a journalist, and is posted to Iraq to cover the 2003 American invasion. It’s described by the publishers as ‘a powerful story about the legacy of immigration, the present-day world of refugeehood, the violence that America causes both abroad and at home, and the power of the individual and the family to bring good into a world that is often brutal’ which sounds excellent. I loved Christodora, Murphy’s previous novel.

Two families living in Los Angeles are linked by an event in their collective past in Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, apparently. Grace Park is the child of Korean immigrant parents, struggling with her elder sister’s increasing estrangement, while Shawn Mathews is helping his cousin Cover imageadjust to life outside prison. Both are from different backgrounds and generations but their paths are set to cross as violence threatens to engulf the city. ‘Beautifully written and marked by its aching humanity as much as its growing sense of dread, Your House Will Pay is a powerful and urgent novel for today’ say the publishers.

Sarah Blake’s The Guest Book is about a very different kind of family, old money sure of its own entitlement rather than immigrants making their way in a new country. The Miltons are the epitome of privilege in 1935 but even they’re not immune from tragedy, consoling themselves by buying a small island off the coast of Maine. By the beginning of the twenty-first century the island is up for sale causing their granddaughter to uncover some disturbing evidence about the source of the family wealth. Dark secret territory, then, and spread across New York and Maine, too. Irresistible for me.

Thomas Martin seems to be a decent version of privilege in Ani Katz’ A Good Man. Comfortably off, happily married with a loving daughter and his feet some way up the advertising career ladder, he appears set for a happy and successful future but things go horribly wrong when tragedy hits his family, the people he knows it’s his duty to protect. ‘A Good Man is a dark and gripping novel of psychological suspense about a family man, in the wake of a horrifying act, trying to work out where he went wrong. It is the debut of a bold and brilliant new talent’ say the publishers, and it does sound promising.

Cover imageI really should have read Emma Jane Unsworth’s Animals by now but I’m jumping in with Adults, her new novel, whose blurb puts me a little in mind of Fleabag. Thirty-five-year-old Jenny’s real life is pretty much the opposite of what she portrays on social media. Unloved and unemployable, even her friends are sick of her. Then her mum turns up unexpectedly. ‘A misadventure of maturity, a satire on our age of self-promotion, a tender look at the impossibility of womanhood, a love story, a riot.’ say the publishers ending this preview on an entirely different note from how it started.

That’s it for the first instalment of January’s new novels. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that takes your fancy. More soon…

14 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in January 2020: Part One

  1. naomifrisby

    I’m so pleased to have your (brief) thoughts on American Dirt. I was sent it ages ago but have been avoiding because of all the noise. Will definitely read now.

    I’ve already read Adults (I’m a big fan of EJW’s work, as you know) and it’s great. Much darker than the blurb suggests but also very funny and a tribute to/exploration of female friendship.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I hope you’re as moved by it as I was, Naomi. Films frequently reduce me to tears but books rarely do. American Dirt was an exception.

      Looking forward to Adults. I remember that you’re a fan.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It really does, Cathy. I’m deeply suspicious of all that but it’s a superb piece of fiction. As for The Guest Book, I can’t resist either a Maine or New York setting!

      Reply
  2. Rebecca Foster

    I agree American Dirt was excellent. I’ve recently reviewed it for Stylist magazine. It’s one of two 2020 titles I’m excited about getting others to read.

    I’m looking forward to Your House Will Pay — on my Kindle from NetGalley.

    Reply
  3. JacquiWine

    I’ve been hearing so many great things about American Dirt. (Is it Cumming’s debut novel? She’s not an author I’d ever heard of before this one appeared.) Anyway, I’m very pleased to hear that it gets your seal of approval. That’s definitely a good sign.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Thank you, Jacqui. I believe it’s her UK debut. She has written other novels and a memoir. So hard to judge when a title is so hyped, isn’t it, but this one is throughly deserving of all those superlatives.

      Reply

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