Lots of tempting books to look out for in May before the summer reading bonanza begins when fewer books tend to snag my attention. I’ll begin with Benjamin Myers’ The Perfect Golden Circle, one I’m keen to read having enjoyed The Offing with its beautiful descriptive writing. Myers’ new novel is set in 1989 when two Falklands war veterans spend their summer marking out increasingly elaborate patterns in England’s crops as their friendship deepens. ‘Moving and exhilarating, tender and slyly witty, The Perfect Golden Circle is a captivating novel about the futility of war, the destruction of the English countryside, class inequality – and the power of beauty to heal trauma and fight power’ say the publishers promisingly. I remember those crop circles, the mystery of which has yet to be solved as far as I know.
Written by Daniel Birnbaum, the former director of Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art, and based on the life of his grandfather, Dr B is about a German Jewish journalist forced to flee his Warsaw home in the face of Hitler’s inexorable rise. Living as a refugee in Stockholm, Immanuel continues to write and publish the likes of Thomas Mann and Stephan Zweig but finds himself caught up in the operations of British intelligence agents. Described by the publishers as a ‘dramatic and riveting novel of book publishing, emigres, spies, and diplomats in World War II Sweden’ this sounds both intriguing and unmissable.
I remember Emilie Pine’s memoir, Notes to Self, popping up on my Twitter timeline a few years back but didn’t get around to reading it. Ruth & Pen, her debut novel, looks very tempting. Set in Dublin in 2019, it’s about the eponymous women, neither of whom know each other, both of whom are questioning their lives. Ruth’s marriage is in crisis while teenage Pen is about to take a crucial step in a friendship. ‘Deeply involving, poignant and radiantly intelligent, it is a portrait of the limits of grief and love, of how we navigate our inner and outer landscapes, and the tender courage demanded by the simple, daily quest of living’ says the blurb. Definitely like the sound of that.
I read several novels which took swipes at social media last year, my favourite of which was John Boyne’s The Echo Chamber. Hanna Bervoets’ We Had to Remove This Post comes at the issue from a different angle as a content moderator reviews offensive material, from videos to rants, deciding which should be taken down. Life seems to be improving for Kayleigh who may even have found a new girlfriend at work but the job begins to have alarming effects. ‘We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets is a chilling, powerful and gripping story about what – or who – determines how we see the world’ says the blurb of a novel whose theme sounds relevant to us all.
Paddy Crewe’s My Name is Yip opens in 1815 in small town Georgia where Yip Tolroy is born one October night, the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Friendless and mute, Yip is an outcast. In his fifteenth year when gold is discovered close to Heron’s Creek, he commits a heinous crime and flees along with Dud Carter. ‘As Yip and Dud’s odyssey takes them further into the unknown – via travelling shows, escaped slaves, and the greed of gold-hungry men – the pull of home only gets stronger’ say the publishers. I’ve enjoyed a couple of modern Westerns since reading Patrick deWitt’s wonderful The Sisters Brothers and rather like the sound of this one.
May’s short story collection is Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies all about Black women and girls enjoying a little time off from being good by the sound of it. ‘With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be’ say the publishers which sounds rather lovely.
That’s it for the first instalment of May’s fiction. A click on a title with take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Part two soon…