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

Cover image for James by Percival EverettWhile I’d read none of the titles previewed in April’s first instalment, three are tried and tested in the second batch beginning with the first. I’ve long been a fan of Percival Everett so jumped at the chance to read James, a reimagining of Mark Twain’s American classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Everett’s novel turns the narrative around, unfolding the story through Jim, the slave Huck grew up with, sticking to much of the original plot, narrated at a page-turning pace, including Twain’s set pieces while adding some of his own. As you would expect, there’s a great deal of satirical humour in this characteristically smart, funny, thought-provoking novel. Review soon…Cover image for Real Americans by Rachel Khong

Rachel Khong’s Real Americans takes us back to late 1999 when the world was in the grips of Y2K anxiety. Chinese American Lily Chen is an unpaid media intern in New York City when she falls in love with a young banker who can offer her a life of luxury. Fast forward to her son in high school in Washington State, eager to break out of his isolated community and away from his secretive mother to track down his absent father. ‘Real Americans is a family epic about identity, sacrifice, choices and fate. It is a wildly imaginative and profound story of betrayal and forgiveness that asks us how far we should go for those we love’ says the blurb which sounds like something to get your teeth into.

Cover image for How to Make a Bomb by Rupert ThomsonI’ve read and enjoyed several books by Rupert Thomson, each very different from the others. He’s an inventive writer which is what makes me keen to read How to Make a Bomb which sees an academic returning from a conference finding it hard to settle back into his normal routine after an odd occurrence. Hoping to find answers he flies first to Cadiz to visit a fellow academic then to Crete after a chance encounter. ‘Is he thinking of leaving his wife, whom he claims he still loves, or is he trying to change a reality that has become impossible to bear? Is he on a quest for a simpler and more authentic existence, or is he utterly self-deluded?’ asks the blurb intriguingly.Cover image for The Amendments by Niamh Mulvey

Niamh Mulvey’s The Amendments follows three generations of Irish women, from the 1970s to 2018 when Nell and her partner Adrienne are expecting their first child, a prospect that terrifies Nell. Mulvey’s intricately plotted novel shifts perspectives between Nell and her mother Dolores. Through the experience of Brigid, Dolores and Nell, a carefully nuanced picture emerges of a country which has changed beyond recognition, from the 1970s, when Brigid had no choice but to carry seven children, to her granddaughter’s marriage to the biological mother of their son. I thoroughly enjoyed this deeply immersive, compassionate novel. Review shortly…

Cover image for One Girl Began by Kate Murray-BrowneKate Murray-Browne’s One Girl Began has a very pleasing structure. It tells the stories of three women all of whom have lived in the same building. In 1909 Ellen works in a box factory where she forms a close circle of friends. By 1984 the house is a ruin, occupied by a group of squatters including Frances. In 2020, Amanda has moved into a tiny flat in a gentrified conversion, trying to get to grips with motherhood as the pandemic kicks off. ‘Over the span of 111 years these three women will come to haunt one another backwards and forwards in time, each immersed in the ripples of the lives that came before, and each struggling with the same questions of who to be and how to live’ according to the blurb. Very much like the sound of that.

The Start of Something is Holly Williams’ second novel although some might call it a very closely linked set of short storiesCover image for The Start of Something or, perhaps, episodes which follow ten disparate characters over the course of a summer, beginning and ending with Will whose partner left him after persuading him to move with her to Sheffield. The overarching theme explores sexuality, gender and identity with empathy, compassion, and the occasional warm-hearted flash of humour. Each character has slept with the next in the chain providing a link between them but it’s their backstories and relationships which grab your attention. Many are lonely or sad, several are trying to please their partners at their own expense, others are heartbroken, but Williams chooses to end her book with a welcome episode of joy and hope. Review to come…

Cover image for This Is Why We Can't Have Nice ThingsApril’s short story collection is by Naomi Wood whose Mrs Hemingway and The Hiding Game I loved, although I think I’d want to read This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things for that title alone. According to the blurb Wood’s stories illuminate ‘the lives of malicious, subversive and untamed women. Exploring failed sisterhood, dubious parenting and the dark side of modern love, this powerful and funny collection exposes how society wants women to behave, and shows what happens when they refuse’ making me all the more keen to read them.

That’s it for April’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…

28 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in April 2024: Part Two”

  1. One Girl Began and Real Americans stand out most to me. I’d like to read James too at some point but would like to revisit Huck Finn first, too long since I read it.

  2. This is an altogether appealing bunch. I love a linked collection of stories, so the Wood’s on the list. Niamh Mulvey’s generational saga looks good, as does the Kate Murray-Browne. Well, I don’t think I’d turn down any of them actually.

  3. My question is: Is the novel James too dark or brutal? I have just been revisiting Twain’s Huck Finn to get ready for Everett’s take. thx

    1. Inevitably, there is some darkness in it and some brutality, too, but it’s offset by Everett’s always brilliant use of humour. I’m very keen to know how this one goes down in the US when it’s published.

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.