Books to Look Out For Out for in April 2023: Part One

This first instalment of April goodies includes several I’ve already read, one of which had me remembering my old bookselling days. I’m starting with the Cover image for The Sleep Watcher by Rowan Hisayo Buchanannew one from an author whose novels I would’ve been happily recommending to all and sundry had they been published back then.

I’d enjoyed both Harmless Like You and Starling Days so much I needed no persuasion to read Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s The Sleep Watcher which follows a young woman looking back to the summer in which she discovered her beloved father was not the man she thought he was. The family has settled by the seaside where Kit’s mother is a therapist and her father does a little freelance IT work. Towards the end of her GCSE year, Kit finds herself having strange nocturnal experiences. It’s a time that’s shaped her adult relationships and she knows she must explain herself before she asks her lover to live with her. I was a little wary of the out-of-body device, but it works well; Kit’s story is so immersive that it never feels strained. Review shortly…Cover image for Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson

From one dysfunctional family to another, flawed in an entirely different way. Jenny Jackson’s Pineapple Street was one of those titles surrounded by so much brouhaha that it very nearly put me off but I liked the premise. It’s about two generations of the Stocktons, old money and proud of it. Chip and Tilda have passed the baton on, giving their Brooklyn family home to their son and daughter-in-law who is from a background very different from their own convincing her sisters-in-law that she’s a gold digger which couldn’t be further from the truth. By the end of this entertaining novel, the older generation will be left staring in wonder and puzzlement at their children’s decisions before shrugging their shoulders and carrying on as usual. Review soon…

Cover image for Death of a Bookseller by Alice SlaterImpossible to resist Alice Slater’s Death of a Bookseller given that she’s an ex-bookseller and it’s set in a bookshop. It follows Roach who’s worked in the dingy Walthamstow branch of Spines for nine years, and Laura, one of three seasoned booksellers parachuted in with the aim of saving it from closure. Roach’s fascination with serial killers is at odds with Laura’s antipathy to true crime but Roach is increasingly sure Laura’s hiding something. I raced through Slater’s novel which is steeped in the sort of detail any bookseller, past or present, will recognise. Despite having left the trade quite some time ago, I felt as if it was just yesterday that I’d been behind the till. Review to follow…Cover image for Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon

In Dan Chaon’s Sleepwalk, fifty-year-old Will Bear spends his life travelling in his campervan running errands for an organization he chooses not to examine too closely. When he’s called by a woman claiming to be his biological daughter, a result of one of his many sperm donations, he finds himself in a tricky situation given her involvement with his employers and their dodgy goings-on. ‘With his signature blend of haunting emotional realism and fast-paced intrigue, Dan Chaon populates his fractured America with characters who ring all too true’ say the publishers of a novel much praised by Rebecca Makkai.

Cover image for Close to Home by Michael MageeMore troubled men in Michael Magee’s debut, Close to Home which follows Sean from the morning after a bender has seen him assault a guy at a party he’s gate-crashed, through his two hundred-hour-community service sentence. He and his flatmate Ryan have known each other since they were children but while Ryan has stayed put, Sean left for three years at university in Liverpool. Sean tells us his story with deadpan humour beginning with the assault. Always in the background is the damage done to those who went through the Troubles which has trickled down through generations. Bleak at times, it’s an impressive debut which offers the possibility of hope. Review shortly…

Claire Fuller’s The Memory of Animals sounds as if it may have a foot in speculative fiction territory to me. A young woman Cover image for The Memory of Animals by Claire Fullervolunteers for a vaccine trial, finding herself with just four others in isolation as London shuts down. Unsure what to do, Neffy becomes involved in a pioneering technology which helps her revisit childhood memories offering what may be a dangerous escape from her difficult present. ‘The Memory of Animals is a taut and emotionally charged novel about freedom and captivity, survival and sacrifice and whether you can save anyone before you save yourself’ says the blurb. Fuller manages to deliver excellent novels with an amazing regularity.

First published in 1999, Thomas Brussig’s satire The Short End of the Sonnenalle is set in East Berlin before the fall of the Wall. It follows Michael who’s besotted with a girl who has eyes only for the Western boys who come and go as they please and faces a daily mocking from the guards stationed on the observation platform overlooking his street.Laugh-out-loud funny and unabashedly silly, Brussig’s novel follows the bizarre, grotesque quotidian details of life in the German Democratic Republic. As this new translation shows, the ideas at its heart – freedom, democracy and life’s fundamental hilarity – hold great relevance for today’ say the publishers which sounds right up my street so to speak.

That’s it for April’s first batch of new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take you fancy. Part two soon…

26 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in April 2023: Part One”

  1. Sleep Watcher, Sleepwalk and The Memory of Animals all sound very intriguing. All interesting choices, my future purchases list grows and grows!

  2. I have the Fuller to read soon and I’ll hope to get a few of the others from the library. Isn’t it odd that they illustrated ‘Pineapple’ Street with an orange?!

  3. Nice list, as always! I’ve read a little of the hype surrounding Pineapple Street, so I’ve been debating adding it to my list. The story sounds appealing for a lazy afternoon but — it has been so very much hyped! (I think some studio has already acquired rights to make a series). Drawn by the premise and a very entertaining opening, I’ve actually read a fair chunk of Chaon’s Sleepwalk before ultimately putting it aside. Nothing to do with the book, really, which seemed to be delivering what it promised (thrills, intrigue & entertaining dialogue) but it just didn’t suit my mood at the time.

    1. Thank you! Light entertainment smartly delivered is how I’d describe Pineapple Street. I’ll probably give the Chaon a try although it’s not top of my list.

  4. I like the sound of Death of a Bookseller, so I’ll be looking out for your review of that one. Coincidentally I read a book with the same title not so long ago – a vintage mystery. It must be almost impossible to find a book title these days that hasn’t been used before!

  5. I’ve just reserved the Thomas Brussig at the library, where it’s on order. In fact every one of these books is on order, though not necessarily at my branch, so I plan to try to get hold of them, eventually!

  6. The Thomas Brussig sounds promising, Susan, such a fascinating period of history. It sounds as though you’re planning to read it – if so, I’ll be interested to hear more.

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