Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2024: Part Two

Cover image for Hotel Milano by Tim ParksI’m starting this second instalment of January paperbacks with one I’m particularly looking forward to, if only for a vicarious trip to Milan. Tim Parks’ Hotel Milano sees a middle-aged recluse flying to Italy for the funeral of an old friend. Frank is hoping he can enjoy the comfort of his hotel and return to London without incident but he’s about to make a discovery that will upend his life in ways he can’t imagine. ‘Hotel Milano is a universal story from a unique moment in recent history: a book about the kindness of strangers, and about a complicated man who, faced with the possibility of saving a life, must also take stock of his own’ says the blurb which may sound a little cliched, but I’ve enjoyed Parks’ work before.Cover image for Big Swiss by Jen Beagin

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 imagre for Army Without Banners by Ann StaffordI was keen to read Ann Stafford’s Army Without Banners having loved Business as Usual, one of my pandemic comfort reads, which she wrote with Jane Oliver. Written nine years later, it draws heavily on Stafford’s own experiences as a volunteer ambulance driver. Mildred sleeps on a mattress in her cousin’s house along with other volunteers. Terrified but determined, she witnesses the darkest days of London’s war, helping casualties but very often retrieving corpses or what’s left of them, but finding solace in camaraderie and purpose. ‘Ann Stafford’s inimitable illustrations add authentic glimpses of life under fire on the Home Front’ says the blurb of a book which is surprisingly funny at times. Review to follow…Cover image for The New Life by Tom Crewe

Tom Crewe’s The New Life follows two love affairs – one gay, one lesbian – at a time when such relationships had to be kept firmly under wraps. In 1884, John Addington and Henry Ellis embark on a project together that will challenge both convention and law. ‘Their daring book threatens to throw John and Henry, and all those around them, into danger. How far should they go to win personal freedoms? And how high a price are they willing to pay for a new way of living?’ asks the blurb whetting my appetite nicely.

Cover image for Pet by Catherine ChidgeySet in New Zealand in the ‘80s, Catherine Chidgey’s Pet explores the painful territory of racism, misogyny and religious oppression through twelve-year-old Justine who longs to be her charismatic new teacher’s favourite as do all her classmates. When a thief targets the school, things take a dark turn deeply unsettling Justine who must decide where her loyalties lie. ‘Pet will take a rightful place next to other classic portraits of childhood betrayal: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Go-Between, Heavenly Creatures and Au Revoir Les Enfants among them’ claims the blurb rather ambitiously although it does sound well worth investigating.

That’s it for January. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. If you’d like to catch up with part one, it’s here, new fiction is here and here.

I’m signing off for Christmas hoping that all who celebrate have a lovely time, and that those who work to help the rest of us enjoy ourselves or keep us safe have a chance for some restorative rest.

20 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2024: Part Two”

  1. Hotel Milano has caught my attention. I wasn’t very impressed by Milan when I visited a few years ago – maybe this book will point out everything that I missed

  2. Have you read Sarah Waters’ The Night Watch. I expect you have, but if you haven’t, you might like it, given what you’ve said about Army Without Banners.

  3. Well it will be no surprise to you to know I really want Army without Banners, I also loved Business as Usual. I am hoping that Christmas book tokens will be coming my way.

  4. The New Life was very well reviewed when it came out in hardback, so I’m planning to allocate the p/b to some of my book subscription readers. The premise sounds really interesting…

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