Paperbacks to Look Out For in June 2023: Part One

Cover iamge for Fight Night by Miriam Toews June’s first instalment of paperbacks begins with three novels about which I had my doubts although after reading the first, it ended up on my books of 2022 list. I should have had more faith in Miriam Toews’ ability to overcome the pitfalls of child narration, something I usually avoid like the plague. Fight Night takes the form of a letter written by nine-year-old Swiv to her father who her grandmother has told her is off fighting fascists. Swiv’s currently following an eccentric home-schooling curriculum overseen by Grandma with whom she and her mother live. Grandma regales Swiv with tales of her family, fighters all of them, then decides it’s time to see her nephews in California, taking Swiv with her. Toews’ novel fizzes with energy and wit but there’s a soberness underpinning it. Cover image for Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow didn’t initially appeal but so many readers on social media whose opinions I trust have sung its praises I think I may have to investigate. Sam and Sadie are gamers who first meet in 1987, forming a collaboration eight years later which leads them to gaming stardom, plunging them into the usual trappings of success. ‘Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow takes us on a dazzling imaginative quest, examining identity, creativity and our need to connect’ says the blurb. Not my usual cup of tea but I’m willing to give it a try.

Cover image for This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub I’m tad perturbed by the time travel element in Emma Straub’s This Time Tomorrow in which a woman on the cusp of forty is on her way to see her father in hospital. Alice falls asleep outside the old family apartment to be greeted early the next morning by a much younger version of her father bearing a sixteenth birthday card for her. Somehow, she’s found herself back in 1996. ‘With her celebrated humour, insight, and heart, Emma Straub cleverly turns all the traditional time travel tropes on their head and delivers a different kind of love story – about the lifelong, reverberating relationship between a parent and child’ say the blurb which makes me a little apprehensive but given how much I’ve enjoyed Straub’s previous novels, I’m sure I’ll read it. Cover image for Milk Teeth by Jessica Andrews

Jessica Andrews’ Milk Teeth follows a restless young woman who meets a man at a party for the opening of her friend’s exhibition, sparking a passion that consumes them both. When he’s offered a research position in Barcelona, she’s bereft, visiting him for a month which she finds both liberating and constraining. A second visit brings about a crisis and a choice must be made. Shot through with an aching sadness for this young woman – lost, self-destructive, longing to understand what she wants and needs from life and to be able to take it – this is an impressive piece of fiction, accomplished and insightful.

Cover image for Berlin by Bea Setton Obviously, I couldn’t resist Bea Setton’s Berlin, set in one of my favourite European cities. Setton’s debut is about a young woman who’s fled London leaving a trail of emotional fallout behind her, planning a fresh start in this city that seems to promise so much. Daphne tells her story in her own slightly snarky, superior, increasingly paranoid voice. There’s some sly humour to enjoy and it’s clear before too long that Daphne’s a deeply unreliable narrator, unhealthily obsessed with her ex. Things become increasingly dark as small details gradually emerge to reveal the extent of her problems.

I’m finishing this first batch of June’s paperbacks with Yiyun Li’s The Book of Goose, the story of two young girls Cover image for The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li in 1950s rural France, one of whom will briefly find fame as a literary prodigy. Fabienne is the storyteller who inveigles the postman into helping them write a book which she passes off as the work of Agnés, resulting in her departure from the village. Li tells the story of this intense, obsessive friendship through Agnés’ voice as she looks back at a relationship that led her down a path that seems almost fantastical for a peasant girl. Li’s storytelling is immersive, her writing incisive but it’s the characterisation that really impresses.

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…


42 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in June 2023: Part One”

  1. The only one of these I’ve read so far is Berlin. I say ‘read’, but I didn’t finish it, and neither did my husband. Couldn’t be doing with Daphne one little bit!

  2. The Book of Goose is certainly going on my list. Like you, I’ve heard only good things (in fact very good) about Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow.

  3. Though I enjoyed a couple of Toews’s earlier books, I was dithering over Fight Night, but will definitely give it a try. The Li has been on the wishlist since it first came out, but haven’t read it yet.

  4. So much hype about Tomorrow but it simply doesn’t grab me! (a few friends have read it and raved!). I’ve read Berlin (it was okay – the bits about the city were the highlight); I have Book of Goose in my reading stack; and Milk Teeth looks interesting – will check it out.

    1. I think I’ll probably read Tomorrow… mainly due to Cathy’s heartfelt recommendation but it won’t be at the top of my pile. I think you’d enjoy Milk Teeth.

  5. I have seen Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow talked about on social media a lot, and I have to say it doesn’t appeal really because of the gaming element. However I do like the sound of The Book of Goose.

  6. I thought This Time Tomorrow was wonderful and I think she handled the time travel element well. It’s a beautiful story about a father and daughter relationship – and their life choices. I hope you give it a go.

  7. I loved the first half of The Book of Goose but was less gripped when the narrative shifted to the school setting. The story just lost some of its intensity for me with that change of location… Nevertheless, the writing was terrific, so I definitely want to read more of Li in the future. And Miriam T is a writer I keep meaning to try, especially given all the positive reviews.

    1. It went off a bit for me when Agnes went to the English boarding school. I’d recommend Miriam Toews. The film version of Women Talking is excellent, too.

  8. I’m not at all sure about Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow – gaming doesn’t interest me at all so a narrative about two gamers wouldn’t be high on my list…

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