Books to Look Out For Out for in February 2024: Part Two

Cover image for Float Up, Sing Down byLaird Hunt I’m starting off the second instalment of February’s potential goodies with one that’s already earned a place on my books of the year list. Set over a single day in 1982, Laird Hunt’s Float Up, Sing Down tells the stories of fourteen inhabitants of the Indiana town where the eponymous star of his brilliant last novel, Zorrie, finally settled. It’s the day of the monthly Bright Creek Girls Gaming Club, always an enjoyable event, particularly when Candy’s famous devilled eggs are on the table. Meanwhile fifteen-year-old Della and Sugar have been caught kissing, earning the attention of Della’s grandfather. As the day draws to a close, his daughter tries to escape a baroque dream, unaware of the news that awaits her. I’m a little sceptical of comparisons made with bestselling authors but in this case the Elizabeth Strout reference in the blurb is spot on. Review shortly…Cover image for How I Won the Nobel Prize by Julius Taranto

I’m always up for a bit of academic satire which is why I said yes to a proof of Julius Taranto’s How I Won the Nobel Prize, whose central theme is cancel culture. It sees Helen, one of the brightest minds of her generation, join her Nobel laureate boss at a research institute on a small island in the North Atlantic, where he’s been banished along with many other academics and assorted other transgressors, persuading her partner to spend twelve months on the island with her. Helen tells us her story, so immersed in her work that she can’t see the wood for the trees but brought up short by both events and her husband’s increasing anger. Taranto’s novel is very funny at times and even-handed in its skewering of both sides, although subtlety is not his strong point. Review soon…

Cover image for How to Be Somebody Else by Miransa Poutney Set in 2015, Miranda Pountney’s How to Be Somebody Else follows a young British woman who’s established herself in New York, turning her back on her career, giving up her apartment and taking up a housesit for an artist she’s not met, all without telling either her boyfriend or her parents. Freshly liberated, she finds herself caught up in an affair with her neighbour’s husband further unsettling her. ‘As spring turns to summer, her experiments in living test loyalties and boundaries until an unexpected encounter between the two couples forces her to confront her future’ says the blurb. Not entirely sure about this one but, as usual, I’m tempted by the setting. Cover image for I'm New Hwere by Ian Russell-Hsieh

In Ian Russell-Hsieh’s I’m New Here, a Taiwanese-British photographer who’s lost both his job and his girlfriend takes off for Taipei where he feels horribly alienated. A tentative friendship with an older man leads to an unravelling which leaves Sean untethered in what the publishers are describing as ‘a thrilling, hallucinatory debut and masterclass in unreliable narration that positions Ian Russell-Hsieh as one of the most exciting new authors in the UK’. Always a fan of unreliable narrators which is what appeals here.

Cover image for Glorious People by Sasha Salzmann Sasha Salzmann’s Glorious People promises to be an enlightening read with its story of two women who live through the breakup of the Soviet Union. Elena was sent to Pioneer camp as a child, taught to love the USSR, but now her country is called Ukraine where the only way to get on is through corruption. Tatjana is amazed by the appearance of a MacDonalds when there’s barely any food to be found in the shops. Both women are faced with either staying or emigrating, their trauma inherited by daughters left unsure of their identities. ‘Engrossing and wide-reaching, rich in detail and unforgettable characters, Glorious People is a vivid feat of storytelling from a powerful talent’ says the blurb. Sounds like essential reading for many of us. Cover image for Where the Wind Calls Home by Safra Yazbek

Written in richly poetic language, Samar Yazbek’s Where the Wind Calls Home is a brief but powerful piece of fiction that follows Ali through the day in which his comrades have been killed by a bomb leaving him the sole survivor. From Ali’s hallucinatory reverie emerges the story of his life growing up in a Syrian village. Yazbek vividly evokes the visceral horrors of war together with the confusion and fear of people who do not understand its causes only the destruction of their own already impoverished lives. Not a book to enjoy, for obvious reasons, but certainly an impressive and memorable one. Review to follow…

That’s it for February’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…

26 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in February 2024: Part Two”

  1. Laird Hunt is a Hoosier two-ways and writes for the Glory of Old IU! [He is a Hoosier=from Indiana and also a graduate of Indiana University so a Hoosier again “For the Glory…” is part of the school song]. I, too, am both! I need to read this book. I enjoyed/reviewed How I Won a Nobel Prize in 2023.

    1. A new word for me! Thank you. I’d thoroughly recommend Zorrie, too. I read the Taranto because my partner’s an academic hence my liking for satire in that department. I enjoyed it but thought it was a little heavy handed.

  2. You spot the most amazing titles. I look forward to the longer reviews too. I’m intrigued by two in particular. But so much catching up to do as it is!

  3. I’ll keep some of these in mind for my subscription readers when they come out in p/b, especially the Laird Hunt. I’m guessing it can be read as a standalone, even though the setting carries through from Zorrie?

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