There are few new titles to get excited about in December with publishers’ Christmas wares long put out on display. Just enough to make a single preview post worthwhile, beginning with Laura Elizabeth Woollett’s The Newcomer set on a Pacific island where Paulina has disappeared. Given her daughter’s past, her mother is prepared for the news that Paulina has killed herself but when her body does turn up, it’s clear she’s been murdered. ‘So begins a thorny investigation, wherein every man on the island is a suspect yet none are as maligned as Paulina’ say the publishers. Based on an infamous murder, this one’s a step outside my usual reading territory but it’s published by Scribe who have an interesting list.
My heart sinks when a dog appears in fiction. They rarely meet a happy end with the honourable exception of Maude in Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground. At least we know right from the start that a dog has died in Josephine Rowe’s A Loving, Faithful Animal, a loss which results in an Australian Vietnam vet disappearing yet again, leaving behind his family and a wife who decides to let him stay missing this time. ‘A Loving, Faithful Animal is an unforgettable interrogation of ruins, redemption and reasons why. This haunting and vivid novel excavates an Australia rarely seen in literature’ promise the publishers. Any Australian readers have a view on this one?
Two short story collections for December, the first of which is The Imposter by Silvina Ocampo. Ocampo was a twentieth-century Argentinean writer whose work sounds distinctly unusual. ‘Here are tales of doubles and living dolls, angels and demons, a beautiful seer who writes the autobiography of her own death, and much else that is mad, sublime, and delicious’ say the publishers of a collection introduced by Helen Oyeyemi. Sounds well worth investigating.
December’s second collection, Ferdinand Dennis’ The Black and White Museum, explores post-Windrush scandal London through the experiences of those most affected by its fallout, portraying a city whose inexorable gentrification ignores the grubby reality of racism. ‘Ferdinand’s characters gain wisdom and maturity with age but become powerless, as they are less able to change the course of their lives. For some there is the temptation of a return “home” but home, like London, has also moved on and is not the paradise of their memories’ say the publishers of a set of stories which sounds intensely personal given that Dennis arrived in the UK aged eight in the late ’50s.
That’s it for the slim pickings of December. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis.