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

Cover image for The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan The second instalment of May’s new fiction includes books by two novelists previously shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer award, which I shadow judged back in 2018, beginning with Naoise Dolan’s The Happy Couple. Luke and Celine are to marry in a year’s time. Luke’s best man seems to be in love with him, Celine’s sister is fretful about Luke’s habitual disappearance act while Vivian is the dispassionate observer. All five are hoping for a happy ending of some sort or other. That may not sound a particularly inspiring premise but I’m hoping for some of the sharp, snarky narrative which made me love Dolan’s Exciting Times. Cover image for Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

I put up my hand for Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson, the second Sunday Times shortlisted author, as soon as it popped up on NetGalley. Beginning in 2010, it follows Stephen, the youngest son of a Ghanaian couple living in Peckham, who spends a glorious summer dancing and playing music with friends while waiting for his A level results. Stephen’s future plans are thrown into disarray leading eventually to a chasm opening up between him and his father. Nelson’s moving, heartfelt novel explores themes of family, loss, grief and home with racism a constant background hum. This one’s heading straight for my books of the year list. Review soon…

Cover image for Western Lane by Chtna Maroo Grief and loss are themes running through Chetna Maroo’s poignant Western Lane which sees three sisters struggling to cope as their father, left poleaxed by the death of their mother, turn to his boyhood sport for solace. When eleven-year-old Gopi shows promise on the squash courts all his attention is on her leaving Mona, his oldest daughter, to run the house. As Gopi falls into a friendship with a similarly promising boy, her father is drawn to the boy’s mother, a relationship quickly denounced by gossips. Like so much in this beautifully understated novel, much is left unsaid, its ending left ambiguous enough for more optimistic readers to hope for a better future for Gopi and her family. Review soon…

I enjoyed Sarah Gilmartin’s exploration of grief, Dinner Party, back in 2021 so am keen to read Service which tells a story from Cover image for Service by Sarah Gilmartin three different points of view. Accusations of sexual assault levelled at celebrity chef Daniel Costello catapult Hannah back to the days of their affair when she was a waitress. Meanwhile Daniel hides out at home reflecting on the years of hard work spent building a reputation now shattered and his wife wonders if it was worth sacrificing herself for her husband’s glittering career. ‘Their three different voices reveal a story of power and abuse, victimhood and complicity. This is a novel about the facades that we maintain, the lies that we tell and the courage it takes to face the truth’ says the blurb, whetting my appetite nicely so to speak.

Cover image for The Mess We're in by Annie MacManus Annie MacManus’ second novel The Mess We’re In follows Orla who’s headed to London, eyes on a starry future, landing in a Kilburn flat with her best friend and a band called Shiva. While Orla struggles to get anywhere, Shiva appear about to make it with all the brouhaha that entails. ‘This is the story of a young woman thrashing through life, trying to find home in a strange new place. It’s also a story about music: how it can break you down and build you back up again, and how to find your rhythm when all you hear is noise’ says the blurb which doesn’t sound too promising but I enjoyed Mother Mother, MacManus’ debut, and this one’s set in a world she knows well.

That’s it for May’s new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more, and if you’d like to catch up with part one it’s here. Paperbacks soon…

22 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in May 2023: Part Two”

  1. I’ll be interested to read your review of Small Worlds as I really didn’t get on with Open Water. I often struggle with books written in the second person and I thought some of the prose was over elaborate. Interesting this new one has a very similar cover to Open Water. For a moment I thought it was just a retitled version of that.

  2. I have a review copy of Small Worlds waiting to be read, and to be honest felt a bit ambivalent about it, so I’m really pleased to hear that you thought so highly of it. My anticipation has gone up a few notches!

    1. I wasn’t quite as blown away by Open Water as other readers but I thought Small Worlds was a beautiful, heartrending piece of fiction. I hope you love it as much as I did.

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