Paperbacks to Look Out For in July 2023

Cover image for The Unfolding by A M HolmesSlim paperback pickings for July, as is often the case, with just one preview post which includes several books I’ve already read and enjoyed beginning with one with a particular appeal for political obsessives like me. Opening on the day of the 2008 American presidential election, A. M. Homes’ The Unfolding ends on Obama’s first inauguration day when a shadowy association is confirmed, bent on overthrowing the new order so alien to its members. Homes’ novel is very funny, making you wince through the laughter in the way that successful satire does. I found it riveting but I suspect it won’t appeal to everyone.Cover image for Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

Anthony Marra’s Mercury Pictures Presents plays out against a background of 1940s Hollywood full of European emigres fleeing the war just as America is about to enter it. The daughter of a man arrested under Mussolini’s regime, successful movie producer Maria Lagana finds herself faced with someone from her father’s past who may well demolish the careful persona she’s constructed since she left Italy. ‘Written with intelligence, wit, and an exhilarating sense of possibility, Mercury Pictures Presents is a love letter to life’s bit players, a panorama of an era that casts a long shadow over our own’ says the blurb whetting my appetite nicely.

Cover image for The Swimmers by Julie OtsukaI read Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic long enough ago not to remember it very well other than that I enjoyed her writing. Her new novel, The Swimmers, is about Alice, once a member of a group for whom their local swimming pool was the centre of their lives, now in a residential care home, lost and confused, as her family tries to find the best way to look after her. It’s a novel ‘about mothers and daughters, grief and memory, love and implacable loss, The Swimmers is spellbinding, incantatory and unforgettable’ according to the blurb which sounds both poignant and beautiful.Cover image for Love & Virtue by Diana Reid

 Diana Reid’s Love and Virtue sees two women form an unlikely friendship during their first year at university. Michaela and Eve live in adjacent rooms at their hall of residence – one confident and outgoing, the other unsure of herself and others’ opinion of her. One night a drunken encounter leads to questions about memory and consent straining the bond between these two sharp, intelligent women. ‘Written with a strikingly contemporary voice that is both wickedly clever and incisive, issues of consent, class and institutional privilege, and feminism become provocations for enduring philosophical questions we face today’ says the blurb promisingly.

Cover image for Common Decency by Susannah DickeyFriendship, or the lack of it, runs through Susannah Dickey’s Common Decency, which tells the story of Lily, who has sealed herself off after the death of her mother, and Siobhán, locked into an affair with a married man, who lives above Lily in the same apartment block. Caught up in her own world, Siobhán rebuffs Lily’s tentative attempts at friendship with distinctly unsettling results. Dickey alternates her narrative between Lily and Siobhán as she explores the very different emotional dysfunction of these two women. There’s a wry wit running through her novel which is often caustic and sometimes dark. Highly recommended.Cover image for The Trio by Johanna Hedmann

In Johanna Hedman’s The Trio, the lines between friendship and love affairs blur as they so often do. As you’ll have gathered from the title, Hedman’s novel is about three young people – two already the closest of friends – who form a bond when Hugo takes a room in Thora’s family home. He becomes obsessed by Thora and August, her sometimes lover, observing their intimacy with fascination and a tinge of envy, gradually drawn into it until he’s unsure whether it’s Thora or August he loves. Decades later, Thora and August’s daughter rings Hugo’s doorbell with questions to ask about her mother. I thoroughly enjoyed this accomplished debut which leaves much for readers to infer.

Cover image for Islanders by Cathy ThomasCathy Thomas’ Guernsey-set Islanders comprises twelve stories beginning in 2000, following a group of young people for whom ‘the rock’ is both home and a place to escape. It all hangs together beautifully as characters cross each other’s paths over two decades; some friends, others trying to turn their backs on a difficult past, all knowing far more about each other than is often comfortable. Thomas has a sharp eye for character backed up by a pithy wit and a compassionate understanding. A thoroughly enjoyable collection that reads more like a novel.

That’s it for July. 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 new fiction is here and here.

22 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in July 2023”

  1. This looks an appetising selection – I’ve bookmarked most of them. Not Common Decency however, which I read last year without ever fully engaging with it. I found both figures difficult to know or like.. Still, it takes all sorts …

  2. All very intriguing and some I’ve read reviews of on your blog before. Mercury Pictures Presents sounds wasn’t among those but is going onto my list, as is Common Decency which I think I might already have from your review/mention of it earlier.

  3. I’m afraid I abandoned Mercury Pictures Presents – it had an odd jokey, lighthearted tone which seemed completely out of synch with the rather heavyweight themes it promised to look at. It reminded me of Amor Towles, whose books also often seem to me too light for their subject matter. Mind you, given my record of abandoning new releases I am not a reliable guide!

    1. You’re the second reader who’s commented here to have given the Marra up so I’ll approach it with caution. I’m a Towles fan although not of everything he’s written.

  4. A good selection here, I already have a copy of The Trio, waiting for Witmonth. Perhaps that new paperback is a different publisher? I also really like the sound of The Swimmers .

    1. I think it was published originally as a trade paperback but will be published in mass market format next month. A good choice for Witmonth – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Very keen to read The Swimmers.

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