I’m sure there’ll be at least one more look back over my shoulder at 2022 but I’m happily setting my sights on next year’s goodies beginning with one that first started popping up on Twitter around August this year. Rather like the appearance of mince pies in the shops, I’m sure pre-publication publicity gets earlier and earlier.
Schitt’s Creek screenwriter Monica Heisey’s Really Good, Actually is the story of a young woman who’s lurching from crisis to crisis, heading into divorced life after less than two years married. ‘Laugh-out-loud funny, razor sharp and painfully relatable, Really Good, Actually is an irresistible debut novel about the uncertainties of modern love, friendship and happiness from a stunning new voice in fiction’ says the blurb. Hoping for some amusement to brighten up January’s dark days.
Nora Ephron’s mentioned in the puffs for Catherine Newman’s We All Want Impossible Things which made me think twice about this novel which follows Ash and Edie, best friends for over forty years, one of whom steps into the role of carer when the other is diagnosed with terminal cancer. ‘Life is about squeezing the joy out of every moment, about building a powerhouse of memories, about learning when to hold on, and when to let go’ says the blurb wisely. A very different approach from Helen Garner’s The Spare Room which explores a similar theme.
Elizabeth McCraken’s The Hero of This Book sounds like something of a departure from her previous lengthy, immersive novels, following a writer on a trip to London ten months after her mother’s death, visiting the sights her mother loved before returning to New England where the family home is for sale. ‘The Hero of This Book is a searing examination of grief and renewal, and of a deeply felt relationship between a child and her parents. What begins as a question of filial devotion ultimately becomes a lesson in what it means to write. At once comic and heartbreaking, with prose that delights at every turn, this is a novel of piercing love and tenderness’ say the publishers. Rebecca’s moving review of the American edition is a particularly personal one for her.
Tom Crewe’s The New Life follows two love affairs – one gay, one lesbian – at a time when such relationships had to be kept firmly under wraps. In 1884, John Addington and Henry Ellis embark on writing a book together that will challenge convention and law regarding same sex relationships. ‘Their daring book threatens to throw John and Henry, and all those around them, into danger. How far should they go to win personal freedoms? And how high a price are they willing to pay for a new way of living?’ asks the blurb making me want to read it.
Toby Litt’s A Writer’s Diary is billed as a mix of fact and fiction as its author records his day-to-day life, his thoughts about mortality, literature, writing, family, teaching and anything else that snags his attention. ‘But as it progresses, questions start to arise. Is this fact? Or is it fiction? (And if it’s both, which is which?) Is this a book about quotidian daily routines – one person’s days as they unspool – or is something more going on? Is there something even larger taking shape?’ asks the blurb. It’s a premise that intrigues me although I know it might well have some readers running and screaming for the exit.
That’s it for the 2023’s first batch of new fiction. A nicely varied start to the year, I think. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take you fancy. Part Two soon…