Books to Look Out for in March 2022: Part Two

Cover image for Booth by Karen Joy Fowler There was a definite family theme running through much of the first part of March’s fiction preview; this second part is more of a mixed bag although it does start with a novel about a family, and an infamous one at that.

As I say all too often on here, then promptly read the exception that proves the rule, I’m not a fan of historical fiction but Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth certainly appeals. The children of a celebrated but unstable Shakespearean actor, the six Booth siblings grow up in rural Baltimore in the 1820s. One of them will be responsible for changing the course of history by assassinating Abraham Lincoln. ‘Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family’ say the publishers. Sounds worth venturing outside of my usual reading territory. Covr image for The Slowworm's Song by Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller’s historical fiction falls into that exception/rule category. I much prefer it to his more contemporary novels so am a little wary about The Slowworm’s Song in which an ex-soldier’s past comes back to haunt him. Recovering alcoholic Stephen Rose is just getting to know his daughter when he’s summoned to an inquiry into an incident in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and fears that his testimony may destroy their relationship before it’s established. Instead, he decides to write a confessional addressed to her. I’m sure I’ll read this but I’m wondering whether it will match my enjoyment of Ingenious Pain, Pure or Now We Shall Be Entirely Free

Cover image for Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall Heather Marshall’s Looking for Jane spans the years from 1960 to 2020 following three women. Evelyn Taylor and Nancy Mitchell were both members of the Jane Network, set up to provide safe but illegal abortions; the third, Angela Creighton, finds a letter leading her to a book by Evelyn about the Janes. It seems Angela’s letter may finally offer closure for Evelyn. Very much like the sound of that. I’m a sucker for this kind of structure if done well and the subject appeals.

This one has been popping up on my Twitter timeline since last year. Julia Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea sees Miri Cover image for Our Wives Under the Seaa by Julia Armfield relieved when her wife returns after a deep sea mission but it soon becomes clear that Leah has changed and a distance opens up between them. ‘Our Wives Under the Sea is the debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep, deep sea’ says the blurb. I really should get around to reading salt slow.

Cover image for Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson The premise of Antoine Wilson’s Mouth to Mouth is a brilliant one. Killing time at the airport, an author bumps into a former classmate who invites him for drinks then regales him with a story which sounds the stuff of fiction involving the rescue of a drowning man. Jeff becomes obsessed with the man he saved eventually working for him. Francis appears not to recognize his rescuer but welcomes him into a world of power and influence. Very much enjoyed this one. Review to follow… Cover image for Exactly What You Mean by Ben Hinshaw

Ben Hinshaw’s Exactly What You Mean sounds as if it has a foot in coming-of-age territory as a teenager stumbles on a secret which has the power to destroy adult lives. ‘In this extraordinary debut, a cast of characters grapple with unexpected betrayal, the loss of innocence and the lies we tell. With sharp insight, Ben Hinshaw illuminates the unnerving nature of what it means to grow up, to be a teenager playing at adulthood and an adult playing games’ say the publishers promisingly.

Cover image for The Boy Who Ran Away to Sea by Barry Gifford That coming-of-age theme runs through American writer Barry Gifford’s The Boy Who Ran Away to Sea by the sound of it. It’s a collection of short stories linked by Roy, the titular character, growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, travelling the country with his mother, surrounded by a dubious bunch of people, from grifters to mob enforcers. ‘Roy is the muse of Gifford’s hardboiled style, a precocious child, watching the grown-ups try hard to save themselves, only to screw up again and again’ says the blurb of a collection which sounds well worth investigating

That’s it for March’s new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis and if you’d like to catch up with the first part it’s here. Paperbacks soon…

24 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in March 2022: Part Two”

  1. I would highly recommend both of Armfield’s books. I’m working my way through Booth right now and enjoying it, though I would say it’s low on scenes and dialogue and heavy on information. I’ll wait for your assessment of the new Andrew Miller.

  2. I can recommend Julia Armfield’s short story collection Salt Slow, Susan. It’s excellent with some stories that have stayed with me and, as a result, I’m very much looking forward to her novel. I have my eye on Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth as well but hadn’t heard of The Boy Who Ran Away to Sea, so thanks for flagging that up. I am off to go and check it out.

  3. A real variety here Susan, such an interesting mix! I really must catch up with Andrew Miller, I enjoyed his early novels so much and then totally lost track of him. I remember you saying how much you enjoyed Pure and it’s in the TBR…

  4. A really interesting selection again. I haven’t read any of these authors before, though I remember a lot of hype about a Karen Joy Fowler novel several years ago, I might be the only one who didn’t read it.

  5. That’s an interesting departure for Andrew Miller; like you I’d be curious how it compares to the books I’ve loved because of his ability to convey the essence of a time and place

    Fowler is a no for me – I read We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves some years ago and while the premise was fascinating, I thought she spent far too long explaining the different psychological theories

    1. I’ve been told by Bookish Beck that Booth is very fact heavy. Happy to have accuracy in historical fiction, of course, but including too much research can weigh a novel down. Something which Miller manags to avoid!

  6. The Jane Collective looks set to be a hot topic this year as there are two films on the horizon as well – one documentary and one fictional story. Both screened at last month’s Sundance, so it might be a while before they’re released. Call Jane (the fictional one) looks particularly promising. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/movies/sundance-abortion-films-jane-collective.html

    In the meantime, I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Heather Marshall’s novel…

  7. I have a copy of Booth from NetGalley and am looking forward to it, having read a bio of John Wilkes Booth some years ago and thinking then that actually his family sounded far more interesting than he did! Mouth to Mouth appeals but I shall await your review…

  8. Looking for Jane reminds me of We, Jane by Aimee Wall, which was nominated for the Giller this year and the title would suggest that it fits with the second-person plural convo we were having the other day. (But it’s more about the community than the voice of the novel.) All these sound very appealing to me, in different ways!

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