I began the first part of January’s preview with a much-trailed novel I’d already read. This one kicks off with a similarly hyped book I’ve yet to peruse. Nikki May’s Wahala sees three thirtysomething friends of Nigerian-British heritage living in London, each on very different paths. When a mutual friend arrives in town all hell breaks loose. ‘A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on love, race and family, Wahala will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Boldly political about class, colorism and cooking, here is a truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms’ say the publishers. Not sure about the ‘gasping in horror’ but this one sounds worth investigating.
Aysegül Savas’ first novel White on White charts the uncomfortable friendship between a student who’s moved to a city to study art and the painter from whom she’s rented her apartment. Agnes lives with her husband in a nearby town but moves into the upstairs apartment one day without explanation. Over the next few months the student comes to understand that Agnes’ mental health is disintegrating. ‘Alongside the research into human figures, the student is learning, from a cool distance, about the narrow divide between happiness and resentment, creativity and madness, contentment and chaos’ according to the blurb. I’m intrigued by this one. Marina Abramovic’s a fan, apparently, which bodes well.
Sara Freeman’s Tides sees Mara, grief-stricken and alone, adrift in a wealthy coastal town with barely enough money to survive. She picks up a job in a wine store where she meets Simon who seems as desolate as she is and finds herself attracted to him. ‘Tides is a spare, visceral portrait of a woman nearly pulled under by loss and desire. It is an unforgettable introduction to a debut writer of uncommon literary power’ say the publishers who’ve hooked me with that ‘spare’ reference. Always my favourite kind of writing.
Another woman is on the run from her life in Dana Spiotta’s Wayward which I suspect will have me looking over my shoulder, relieved that the period in which the novel is set is behind us. Fifty-two-year-old Samantha is caught between caring for her elderly mother and the sullen withdrawal of her adolescent daughter, waking in the middle of the night fretting about her own problems and the state of the nation now that Trump is in power. Her solution is to turn her back on it all, buying a dilapidated but beautiful house with which she’s become entranced. I like the sound of this one and Jenny Offill is a big fan.
Jakob Guanzon’s Abundance sounds as if it also has more than a dash of state of the nation about it, following Henry, living with his son in their pick-up truck after being evicted from their trailer, beginning a spiral into criminality and destitution. A possible turn in their fortunes is scuppered after a disastrous encounter in a car park and Junior becomes sick. ‘Each chapter of this deeply emotional and compassionate novel begins with amount of cash in Henry’s pocket, showing how literally father and son’s fortunes can turn on a dime. Can they make it through tomorrow?’ according to the blurb. I may have to steel myself to read this one.
I’ve been meaning to read Donatella di Pietrantonio’s A Girl, Returned for at least a couple of years now. Perhaps the publication of A Sister’s Story, which sounds like a sequel, will finally kick me into action. Years after Adriana knocked on her door seeking shelter, a baby in her arms, her sister is urgently called back to their childhood home, remembering all that’s between them. ‘Donatella Di Pietrantonio, expert chronicler of the bonds between mothers and daughters, revisits the places and characters of A Girl Returned with a novel focused on the ambivalent, ambiguous, wavering but steadfast relationship between sisters’ say the publishers of a novel that sounds as if it might have a foot in Ferrante territory.
That’s it for January’s new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take your fancy, and if you’d like to catch up with past one, it’s here. Paperbacks next week just in case you’re stuck for what to buy with any book tokens that may come you way in the next few days. In the meantime, a very happy Christmas to you, and stay safe!