Paperbacks to Look Out For in March 2023: Part Two

Cover image for The Candy House by Jennifer EganThe second batch of March’s paperbacks kicks off with one that demands a bit of concentration. Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House explores the fallout from a technology that captures our very consciousness through a series of narratives connected by characters all linked to Bix Boulton, the software’s creator. No brief synopsis comes close to encapsulating this ambitious novel with its differing narrative styles that jump from character to character, pulling the threads of connection together, sometimes more obliquely than others. Although I wouldn’t call it a sequel, ardent fans of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad might want to refresh their memories given that several of its main protagonists and their children make an appearance. Cover image for Hourglass by Keiran Goddard

Keiran Goddard’s Hourglass is a love story, although not a conventional one according to the blurb which is more than a little opaque. Goddard’s novel follows a couple from love’s beginnings through its gradual flowering to its precipitate end. ‘Exquisitely crafted, wildly imaginative and as darkly funny as it is moving, Hourglass is a revolutionary love story. It turns time upside down, combs the intimate wreckage of heartbreak for something universal, and asks what it means to lose what you love’ says the publishers. Definitely sounds worth a try.

Cover image for Exactly What You Mean by Ben HinshawMore straightforwardly, 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. Very much like the sound of that.

Danny Denton’s road novel, All Along the Echo, sees a talk show host and his producer driving across Ireland in a Mazda which will be won by one lucky listener who must be a returning emigrant fleeing the spate of terror attacks which has recently struck London. What begins as a competition sponsored by a Cork car dealership turns into a personal quest for both Tony and Louise, each of them struggling with their own problems. ‘Funny, warm and in the wilding spirit of George Saunders or Samuel Beckett, Danny Denton’s novel is a bravura capturing of modern Ireland’ promises the blog.

Cover image for The Exhibitionist by Charlotte MendelsonRegular readers won’t be surprised to hear that it was the art theme that first drew me to Charlotte Mendelson’s The Exhibitionist but it’s a background note to the overriding one of dysfunctional families, another favourite, and they don’t come much more dysfunctional than the Hanrahans. Mendelson’s novel follows the family over a weekend when all are gathered to celebrate Ray’s first show for quite some time, each of them preparing themselves for the onslaught of his colossal ego and its demands. Thoroughly deserving of its Women’s Prize for Fiction longlisting, it’s an entertaining novel which deals with serious issues and it ends on a note of hope that made me want to cheer.

I still haven’t caught up with Anne Tyler’s last novel but that hasn’t stopped me casting my eye at French Braid which spansCover image for French Braid by Anne Tyler seven decades in the lives of the Garrett family, from the ‘50s to the present day. Robin and Mercy have three children whose care is left to their mother who longs to become a painter. As the years wear on, these five will continue to have an influence on each other’s lives in the way that family members do despite the best efforts of some to get away. ‘Full of heartbreak and hilarity, French Braid is classic Anne Tyler: a stirring, uncannily insightful novel bursting with warmth and humour that illuminates the kindnesses and cruelties of our daily lives, the impossibility of breaking free from those who love us, and how close – yet how unknowable – every family is to itself’ say the publishers. No surprises there, then, but a reliably good read for Tyler fans by the sound of it.

That’s it for March. 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. If you’d like to catch up with part one, it’s here, new fiction is here and here.

31 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in March 2023: Part Two”

  1. French Braid is the best from in quite a while. I also enjoyed the Mendelson. They’ve given The Candy House quite an appealing PB cover, but after not particularly enjoying my reread of A Visit from the Goon Squad I think I’ll pass. I have Hourglass on my e-reader and should give it a try.

  2. I’m hoping to get to the Denton for Reading Ireland Month, as I got it from the library last week. I’ve had the Egan on my ereader since it came out, but still haven’t managed to get to it!

  3. The Exhibitionist was great and French Braid was a really good Tyler, one of her better ones out of the whole oeuvre I think and definitely a solid return to form (although also feeling quite elegaic; I do wonder if we’ll see another from her now).

    1. It was excellent, wasn’t it. Lots of love on here for French Braid I’m pleased to say. I was surprised when it was published as I thought she’s said a while back that she was done but perhaps I’m misremembering.

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