Paperbacks to Look Out For in March 2024: Part Two

Cover image for For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy on My Little PainPart two of March’s paperback preview begins with one of my books of 2023 although I suspect I wouldn’t have read Victoria MacKenzie’s For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain had I not been sent a copy. MacKenzie’s debut reimagines the lives of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, alternating the stories of these two very different women told through their own voices in simple but often beautiful language. I found it riveting: a celebration of the resilience and determination of women. Extraordinarily ambitious for a first novel but MacKenzie carries it off so well I included it on my Women’s Prize for Fiction wish list. Proof that stepping outside your comfort zone often reaps rewards. Cover image for The Sleep Watcher by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

I’d enjoyed both Harmless Like You and Starling Days so much that I needed no persuasion to pick up Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s The Sleep Watcher which follows a young woman looking back to the summer towards the end of her GCSE year when she found herself having strange nocturnal experiences, leaving her body and roaming the town, seeing how others live and understanding that her parents’ relationship wasn’t what she thought it was. I was a little wary of that out-of-body device, but it works well; Kit’s story is so immersive that it never feels strained. Writing from an adolescent’s perspective is a difficult trick to pull off but Buchanan does it with characteristic empathy and compassion, and her story compelling.

Cover image for Western Lane by Chtna Maroo Chetna Maroo’s Booker-shortlisted debut, Western Lane, follows eleven-year-old Gopi whose grief-stricken father introduces his daughters to the sport of squash when their mother dies. When Gopi shows promise, he focuses his attention on her leaving the managing of the household to his resentful eldest daughter. Like so much in this beautifully understated novel, much is left unsaid, echoing the silence of the father of this family who by the end of the novel may have found a way to cope with their loss.Cover image for Juno Loves Legs by Carl Geary

I didn’t get on with Irish writer Karl Geary’s Montpelier Parade as well as I’d expected but so many readers whose opinion I trust did that I’ll probably give Juno Loves Legs a try. The titular pair became childhood sweethearts when Juno came to Legs’ rescue, laying into the playground bullies on his behalf. They complement each other beautifully, facing the world together, but the blurb hints at trouble ahead. Still not entirely sure about this one but we’ll see.

Cover image for Soldier Sailor by Claire KilroyI turned down the offer of a review copy of Claire Kilroy’s Soldier Sailor but Jacqui from JacquiWine’s Journal wrote such a passionately persuasive review that I’ve since regretted it. Kilroy’s novel explores the first few months of motherhood and the strain it puts on her protagonist’s marriage with an unflinching honesty. ‘In one of the most acclaimed novels of the year, her first in over a decade, Claire Kilroy takes us deep into the mind of her unforgettable heroine’ says the blurb but Jacqui’s review will give you much more of an idea of the novel.

I loved Katherine Heiny’s Early Morning Riser which reminded me of Anne Tyler with its astute, funny observations and affectionate characterisation. HerCover image for Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny short story collection, Games and Rituals, is made up of eleven stories, each one a joy to read. Heiny draws her readers into her characters’ worlds, portraying domestic situations with a witty perception and intimacy. They think vengeful thoughts, regret their past relationships, are ambivalent about familial bonds, fall in and out of love, feel guilty and long for each other. They’re likeable but often deeply flawed just as so many of us are. A very satisfying set of stories, many read with a smile on my face. If you’re a Heiny fan who’s not so keen on short fiction, don’t let that put you off. Her collection has all the qualities that make her novels so appealing.

That’s it for March. 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 part one, it’s here, new fiction is here and here.

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

  1. Well, I’ve actually read (and enjoyed) three of these in hardback, but I’ve immediately bookmarked the Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and the Katherine Heiny. Maybe the Geary? Let’s see.

  2. Thanks so much for linking to my piece on Soldier Sailor, Susan, that’s very kind of you! A couple of colleagues at the bookshop second your enthusiasm for the Katherine Heiny, so it’s good to see it moving into paperback. And I’m quite tempted by Western lane, especially given all the positive reports last year…

  3. I’ve seen the Heiny on the “new” shelves on several occasions, and have been sorely tempted, but I keep leaving it there because there are too many “fall books” arriving all at once now. #niceproblemtohave

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