Books to Look Out For in May 2020

Cover image Spare a thought for poor publishers who’ve been wrestling with the nightmare of rejigging their schedules to give their books the best possible exposure now that bookshops are shut thanks to the corona virus. Poor authors, too, left in limbo with all that nervous excitement at the prospect of the longed-for publication day now delayed. The result of all that is a much-depleted new title post, more like a December preview than May.

Unusually for me, I’ve already read three of the four remaining May novels beginning with Rebecca Dinnerstein Knight’s Hex, a six-cornered love story with a botanical twist. It takes the form of three notebooks written over six months by Nell Barber addressed to her advisor, Dr Joan Kallas, for whom she’s conceived a passion without entirely recognising its nature. Five years ago, I reviewed The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein, as she was known then, describing it as ‘a quirky bit of escapism’, a description which fits Hex nicely, too.

I’ve also already read Lily King’s Writers & Lovers, unable to resist Elizabeth Strout’s description of it as ‘Gorgeous’. This warm, witty novel is about a young woman, lost in grief and mired in debt, with one sure thing in her life: the novel she’s been working on for six years. I thoroughly enjoyed it – one of those satisfyingly absorbing books you can wrap yourself up in and forget about the world, much needed right now.

I’ve yet to read Catherine Lacey’s Pew in which the eponymous character wakes up in a church unsure of their identity, gender or otherwise. Pew won’t speak, unable or unwilling to answer the many increasingly strident questions put to them by the town’s people. ‘As the days pass, their insistent clamour will build from a murmur to a roar, as both the innocent and the guilty come undone in the face of Pew’s silence’ says the blurb of what sounds rather like a fable. I’m not at all sure about this one but I’ve enjoyed Lacey’s previous novels, Nobody is ever Missing and The Answers.

I’m finishing with the book which will launch what looks like an interesting collaboration between Walter Presents, All Cover image 4’s excellent subtitled TV stream, and Pushkin Press, publishers of very fine foreign fiction. David Foenkinos’ The Mystery of Henri Pick is set in a small Brittany town whose library is full of rejected manuscripts one of which is published by a young editor to great acclaim but it seems its author is dead causing a great deal of suspicion. ‘By turns farcical and moving, The Mystery of Henri Pick is a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them’ says the blurb. Having read it, I’d say it’s the perfect choice for the Walter Presents/Pushkin Press partnership.

That’s it for May’s new novels. The smallest handful, I’m afraid. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Reviews of Hex, Writers & Lovers, and The Mystery of Henri Pick to follow shortly. Paperbacks soon, and let’s hope there are more of them…

32 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in May 2020”

  1. The one that I’d go for in a heartbeat (Writers & Lovers), I’ve already read. Like you, I enjoyed it immensely – I’ll so far as to say that I think it might rate when I list my favourites at the end of the year.

  2. I have Hex (on my Kindle) and Writers & Lovers (in print) lined up to read soon. I’ve already read Pew for a BookBrowse review and I’d recommend it. It’s a mysterious fable with a Southern Gothic flavour. I raced through it. It doesn’t really give any answers, but I think you’ll be okay with the ambiguity 🙂

  3. Oh, yes, the publishing world, especially the small independents, are struggling. I thought Henri Pick was sweet and fun (and pokes holes in the pretentiousness of French literary world), but I was slightly disappointed with the latest Lily King. Perhaps because I enjoyed her previous work so much, this one felt like it was on a much smaller and self-absorbed canvas (although it too poked fun at the literary world).

    1. It’s grim for everyone, isn’t it. Some of the indies are still valiantly posting out. Looking forward to seeing more from the Walter Presents/Pushkin Press partnership.

      1. We’re having problems getting the books printed and distributed, as our printers are based in Romania and the lockdown there is much more severe than here. But I think everyone is having problems with distribution.

        1. That must be making life very difficult. I checked with the 20 I featured in my two posts on indies, the first two weeks ago now, and all were still able to get books out although I suspect delivery is slow. Luckily for me the lovely Handheld Press are a mere bike ride away which is how my order was delivered!

  4. I love books about notebooks, practically books about books aren’t they. Hee hee All of these sound quite satisfying. Like others here, I’ve heard many good things about Lily King’s book and, like you, the Strout recommendation does make me wriggle in my seat. I can’t recall, did you ever watch the miniseries made of Olive Kitteridge?

    1. I particularly liked the way the notebooks were addressed to the object of the narrator’s passion. I did and loved it! I’m hoping that Frances Mcdormand is already signed-up for Olive, Again.

  5. I have enjoyed Lacey’s The Answers too. I kept thinking what if such an amalgamation of girl friends become a reality, atleast for the super rich people. I Hope Pews is just as good. I’ve been hearing amazing things about Writers and Lovers. Everyone who read it seems to love it

    1. I enjoyed Hex, Cathy. It does have quite an idiosyncratic style, though. Absolutely stonking review of Pew over at The Opinionated Reader today if you’d like a more informed view.

    1. I know. I think publishers are worried that their lead titles will sink without trace thanks to bricks & mortars bookshops being closed coupled with no public gatherings but there’s a limit as to how long that can go on. I feel for all concerned but particularly the poor authors.

  6. Oh, how I feel for the authors and publishers right now.

    I’m so glad to hear you liked Lily King’s new novel! And Pew sounds intriguing… I’d like to try it!

    1. Hard to imagine how they must feel and trying not to feel it too much knowing that others are suffering so much more.

      Amalia at The Opinionated Reader gave Pew a resounding thumbs up on her blog yesterday.

  7. Pingback: Writers & Lovers ~ Lily King – Café Society

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