Paperbacks to Look Out For in February 2023: Part One

Cover image for The Second Cut by Louise WelshLots of paperback goodies to look out for this February, several tried and tested by me beginning with Louise Welsh’s The Second Cut, published twenty years after her brilliant debut, The Cutting Room, starred the unforgettable Rilke, given to dicey sexual encounters in Glasgow parks by night, mixing with morally dubious individuals in his job as an antiquities auctioneer by day. This second outing sees him trying to get to the bottom of a friend’s murder while the Bowrey Auctions Rooms struggles to get back on its feet post-lockdown. Just as snarky as I remember him, he’s a pleasingly complex character, inhabiting the shadowy territory that both his risky predilections and his work thrust him into yet troubled by a conscience that won’t let up. I raced through this one.Cover image for Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson

The same could be said of Antoine Wilson’s Mouth to Mouth with its wonderfully unreliable narrator. The premise is a clever one: two men, barely acquainted in college, are stranded by a delayed flight – one a struggling writer on his way to Berlin on a speculative visit to his publisher, the other an urbane art dealer with a story to tell which may or may not be a confession. I particularly enjoyed Wilson’s biting depiction of the art world, the market rather than the art taking centre stage. Properly unputdownable.

Cover image for A Little Hope by Ethan JoellaEthan Joella’s A Little Hope comes billed as a series of interlinked stories set in small town Connecticut which revolve around the Tylers who are dealing with a grim cancer diagnosis. ‘Celebrating the grace in everyday life, this powerful debut immerses the reader in a community of friends, family, and neighbours and identifies the ways that love and forgiveness can help us survive even the most difficult of life’s challenges’ say the publishers, boldly comparing the novel to Olive Kitteridge and A Spool of Blue Thread. A little sceptical about that but it certainly sounds worth investigating. Cover image for The Amusements by Aingeala Flannery

Set in County Waterford, Aingeala Flannery’s The Amusements follows Helen and Stella, their sights set on art college, desperate to escape the small seaside town that attracts tourists nostalgic for happy childhood holidays. ’Following the Grant and Swaine families and their neighbours over three decades, The Amusements is a luminous and unforgettable story about roads taken and not taken – and a brilliantly observed portrait of a small-town community’ says the blurb which sounds right up my alley. I had such an excellent run of Irish women writers last year and I’m hoping for more in 2023.

Cover image for The Colony by Audrey MageeOne of those writers was Audrey Magee whose novel, The Colony, follows two men who make their way to an island, planning to spend the summer there, each with their own very different agenda. Both are caught up in their own concerns, oblivious to their effect on the islanders. Meanwhile, far away in the North, sectarian murders make widows and orphans every day. A powerful novel beautifully expressed, it was longlisted for last year’s Booker, one of only two on my wishlist to make it. The other one was Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan, another brilliant Irish writer.Cover image for Dance Move by Wendy Erskine

Two paperback short story collections for February, both also by Irish women, the first of which is Wendy Erskine’s Dance Move. Often shot through with a humour that raises a wry smile, Erskine’s stories are snapshots of everyday lives in which characters are faced with a crisis or decision that jolts them, sometimes leaving them irrevocably changed. Quiet and unflashy in their brilliance, they make an impression that deepens as they sink in. I found myself thinking about several of them days after I’d read them.

Cover image for How to Gut a Fish by Sheila KennedyFebruary’s second paperback collection is Sheila Armstrong’s debut How to Gut a Fish comprising fourteen stories, none more than twenty pages long, each very different from the other. Some are surreal, most are disquieting, all are beautifully expressed. Armstrong’s debut novel is published in May and more than lives up to the promise shown in these stories.

That’s it for February’s first instalment of paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to either to my review or to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more, and if you’d like to catch up with new fiction it’s here and here. Part two soon…

29 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in February 2023: Part One”

  1. A very interesting selection of books 🙂 The Colony is excellent, a book that leaves you much to think about afterwards. I would like to read Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These, just waiting for it to become available in audiobook form from my library.
    Resistence is….necessary!

  2. Ooh, I’ve actually read one! I’m never up to date, but I found a hardback of The Second Cut in the charity shop – agree it was great. If A Little Hope lives up to the hype it will be unmissable!

  3. Great selection. I read The Cutting Room when it came out and enjoyed it but wasn’t sure about the next one (thought it was too much of a coincidence that he’d been connected to another murder and I don’t read much crime/thriller fiction). Tempted now though and will also add The Colony as I love Irish fiction. Also like the sound of Mouth to Mouth and the premise of The Amusements which has similar themes to my own debut. So that’s my tbr wish list boosted!

    1. Delighted to hear that, Helen. Rilke was the lure for me with The Second Cut. I’ll be thinking of him when I’m on holiday in Glasgow later this year! Both The Colony and Mouth to Mouth are great. Very much like the sound of The Amusements, too.

  4. Mouth to Mouth does sound intriguing, and I really must get to Magee who has been on my shopping list since I read reviews of the Colony from a few fellow bloggers last year.

  5. I have previously read good things about The Colony, that really sounds fascinating. I also like the sound of The Amusements, I am often drawn to narratives set in small towns.

  6. Great to see The Colony coming through in paperback, one of my books of 2022. I really hope it gains a wide readership with this release. And the Louise Welch series might suit some of the subscription readers I look after, so I’ll keep that in mind.

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