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

Cover image for Big Swiss by Jen BeaginI’m pleased to report May’s bursting at the seams with goodies, a few tried and tested although not the one I’m kicking off with. I was a huge fan of Jen Beagin’s idiosyncratic Pretend I’m Dead and enjoyed the follow up, Vacuum in the Dark. Her third novel,  Big Swiss, sees Greta entranced with the eponymous woman for whom she’s imagined a whole persona including her name. They’ve yet to meet in person but Greta has transcribed many of Big Swiss’ words while sitting at home at her desk. These two will meet shortly when ‘a new – and not entirely honest – relationship is going to be born. A relationship that will transform both of their lives’ says the blurb intriguingly. Not sure what to make of that but I’m expecting something darkly funny and wacky if Beagin’s previous two novels are anything to go by.Cover image for Falling Animals by Sheila Armstrong

Sheila Armstrong’s impressive collection How to Gut a Fish could be described as wacky or perhaps surreal would be a better word. There’s less of that in her first novel Falling Animals spanning a year in which the authorities try to trace the identity of a corpse found on an Irish beach. Armstrong’s novel is a mosaic of narratives written from the perspective of villagers, sailors, professionals and witnesses all of whom have some connection with the unidentified man. These threads are deftly woven into the story of the village and a shipwreck, one of many along this difficult coastline. A very fine debut which reminded me a little of Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 in both its structure and the quality of its writing. Review to follow…

Cover image for August Blue by Deborah LevyI’ve read only two novels by Deborah Levy – Hot Milk and The Man Who Saw Everything – both of which have stayed with me in the way that fiction often doesn’t. August Blue sounds similarly thought provoking: A classical pianist sees a woman in an Athens flea market she recognizes as her double and wonders if she is also looking for reasons to live. These two women criss-cross Europe, with a final encounter in a summer rainstorm. ‘A vivid portrait of a long-held identity coming apart, August Blue expands our understanding of the ways in which we seek to find ourselves in others and create ourselves anew’ says the blurb rather obliquely.

Anna Metcalfe’s Chrysalis sees a young woman assuming an identity by transforming herself into an influencer seen through Cover image for Chrysalis by Anna Metcalfethe eyes of three people: Eliot who is drawn to her dedication at the gym; her mother who watches her daughter becoming ever more distant and Susie who supports her through her transformation. ‘An oblique, intimate novel told in lucid, beguiling prose, Chrysalis a story about solitude and selfhood, and about the blurred line between self-care and narcissism. It is about controlling the body and the mind, about the place of the individual within society and what is means when someone choses to leave society behind. It is strikingly contemporary story about the search for answers and those we trust to give them to us’ according to the publishers. Not entirely sure about this one but it sounds worth investigating.

Cover image for The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-WilliamsThree people put different sides of a story in Ore Agbaje-Williams’ debut, The Three of Us, as a husband, wife and her best friend put their view of events that unfold over a single day. Ostensibly, the wife seems to be enjoying life to the full living in a nice house with an attentive husband and a best friend always there when she needs her but husband and friend detest each other. ‘Told in three parts, each voice as compelling as the next, three people’s lives, and their visions of themselves and each other begin to slowly unravel, until a startling discovery throws everyone’s integrity into question’ says the blurb whetting my appetite nicely.

I was somewhat put off Lucy Atkins’ Windmill Hill by that cover, although I can’t quite explain why, but the blurb is enticing and Claire Fuller’s a fan. Both Astrid’s stage career and her marriage were derailed in her youth by an ill-advised night spent with a Hollywood director. She retreated to a converted windmill in Sussex where she still lives, now 82, with the friend who was once her cleaner. Rumours of a deathbed tell-all memoir by her ex-husband has Astrid making her way to Scotland to put a stop to it. ‘Windmill Hill is the story of two very different women, both with painful pasts, and their eccentric friendship – deep, enduring, and loyal to the last’ says the blurb promisingly.

That’s it for May’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…

29 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in May 2023: Part One”

  1. a fascinating selection as always. I am so looking forward to the Deborah Levy. I know I can’t buy it but my library is sure to get hold of a copy. I’ve loved everything I’ve read of hers (which I think is almost everything). Such a powerful writer.

  2. A very enjoyable read, as always. I’m less of a Levy fan than many, but she IS an interesting writer, so I’ll definitely check out August Blue. Falling Animals also sounds intriguing. I loved Reservoir 13; if Animals is half as good it will be a “must read” for me!

  3. A new Deborah Levy and one which kicks off in Athens appeals but I wanted to thank you for flagging up the Sheila Armstrong novel. It wasn’t on my radar and sounds exactly my kind of book, so I’m grateful to you. I enjoyed her short story very much and look forward to reading more of her writing. Sooner than anticipated!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the Sheila Armstrong collection, Kath. Falling Animals is more straightforward but the writing is gorgeous. Hope you love it as much as I did.

  4. Definitely a few temptations in this lovely list! Falling Animals and Windmill Hill are good candidates to end up on my wishlist and I wouldn’t be surprised to see August Blue there too.

  5. Funnily enough, I was thinking that Falling Animals sounded a bit like Reservoir 13 as I was reading your description and then you mentioned that very book! I have a proof of the new Deborah Levy, so hopefully can squeeze that into my May reading.

  6. Anything which is comparable to Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 will get my attention! Agree with you about the cover of Windmill Hill – it looks like one of the cheap paperbacks you get from The Works. The blurb makes it far more appealing

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