Books to Look Out for in February 2021: Part One

February’s always been the gloomiest month in my seasonal calendar, not much colour around often coupled with grey skies and rain. A hard one to get through and this one is likely to be harder than usual. As ever, the prospect of potential bookish treats keeps me going beginning with one whose blurb comes with a glowing puff from Anne Tyler with which, I’m sure, the publishers were delighted.

Set in 1972, Mary Lawson’s A Town Called Solace explores the disappearance of a little girl through three people: her eight-year-old sister, the family’s new neighbor who comes under suspicion and a dying woman who needs to make amends for a long ago crime. ‘By turns gripping and darkly funny, it uncovers the layers of grief and remorse and love that connect us, but shows that sometimes a new life is possible’ promises the blurb. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Lawson’s novels which makes me hopeful.

I reviewed Austin Duffy’s compassionate debut This Living and Immortal Thing over four years ago, noting how surprising it was that hospitals were such an unusual setting for fiction given their potential for drama. His second novel, Ten Days, explores the relationship between a father and his daughter in the immediate aftermath of his recently estranged wife’s death, both determined to carry out her wishes for her ashes to be scattered in the Hudson River despite her Jewish family’s adamant opposition. ‘A tenderly written story of time, grief and memory, Ten Days delves deep into the complicated love between a father and daughter and the bonds of marriage over older family ties’ according to the blurb. Cover image

I’ve already read Conor O’Callaghan’s We Are Not in the World, one of those books that fell foul of the many Covid-induced changes to last year’s publishing schedules. It follows a heartbroken truck-driver travelling through France with his daughter in a desperate attempt to repair their fractured relationship, deliberately ignoring the many, increasingly frantic texts from his brother, ex-lover and best friend. I’m glad that this powerful, disorientating novel is finally to be published. Review to follow soon…

In Niven Govinden’s Diary of a Film, a moviemaker meets a woman in a café in the backstreets of a European city hosting a prestigious festival. She takes him for a walk, showing him her city, while telling him a story of love and tragedy which he sees in his mind’s eye translated to the screen in his next film. ‘This is a novel about cinema, flaneurs, and queer love – it is about the sometimes troubled, sometimes ecstatic creative process, and the toll it takes on its makers. But it is also a novel about stories, and the ongoing question of who has the right to tell them’ say the publishers. It’s that last sentence that makes me want to read it this one. I remember enjoying Govinden’s All the Days and Nights which I reviewed in the early days of this blog.

Francis Spufford’s Light Perpetual spins stories from tragic circumstances, imagining the lives five children might have lived had they not been killed by a German rocket in South London in 1944. Through these working-class children, Spufford charts the social changes of the twentieth century. ‘Ingenious and profound, full of warmth and beauty, Light Perpetual is a story of the everyday, the miraculous and the everlasting – a sweeping and intimate celebration of the gift of life’ say the publishers landing it straight on my list. I was one of the few people who didn’t get on with Spufford’s Golden Hill, possibly because I tend not to be drawn to historical fiction but I can’t resist the premise of this one.

Cover image for A Net for Amall Fishes by Lucy JagoHaving just proclaimed myself not a fan of historical fiction, I often enjoy it when give it a try as I did with Lucy Jago’s A Net For Small Fishes based on the story of Frances Turner and Ann Howard whose friendship provoked a scandal which rocked the court of King James. Thrown on hard times, the shrewd, opportunistic Anne inveigles herself into the favour of Frances’ mother opening the way for an advantageous friendship with her daughter which soon becomes an obsession with this young woman forced to marry the king in a powerplay by her family. It’s a wonderfully atmospheric novel which evokes all the stinking sumptuousness of the seventeenth-century court. Review to follow…

That’s it for the first part of February’s fiction preview. A click on any title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should any have taken your fancy. Part two soon…

30 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in February 2021: Part One”

  1. If you’ve never come across it before, I recommend John Finnemore’s 5th of February. It’s a song (of sorts) that will make you smile, even in February.

    I love a good historical novel, so I’m looking forward to your review of A Net for Small Fishes.

  2. Several of these look very tempting. I’ve had Niven Govinden’s All the Days and Nights on my shelf forever; this is a reminder to finally read it or the new one. Like you, I avoided Spufford’s Golden Hill; Light Perpetual sounds much more to my taste. Jago’s Net of Little Fishes really does sound intriguing; I’m pretty picky about historical fiction but this one sounds well done.

    1. I like the govinden’s idea of exploring using other people’s stories, something I’m sure happens a great deal both consciously and unconsciously. As a fellow historical fiction sceptic, I can recommend the Jago!

      1. Yes, I received a proof this time last year and Conor was due to read at HomePlace in May. I just got the actual hardback over Christmas. I look forward to seeing the response to it. I think he’s a gorgeous writer.

  3. I’m intrigued by “A Net for Small Fishes,” despite also being one who doesn’t tend toward historical fiction. Being it’s published by Bloomsbury, one of my favorite publishing houses, makes me think it could be a good one not to miss. I’ll put this one on my list.

  4. I’m adding A Town Called Solace to my list of books to look out for in the library (whenever they open!). So far I have two other books to keep an eye out for that month – I wonder if either will make it to part 2 of your look at the future

  5. Lawson’s Crow Lake was excellent. Really looking forward to reading Solace now. I’m a big historical fiction (+ historical mystery) buff, so really looking forward to your review of Fishes.
    Happy reading!

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