Paperbacks to Look Out For in April 2024: Part One

Cover image for Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah NelsonSome very tempting paperbacks to look out for as we head into proper spring in my part of the world, beginning with one of my books of last year. Caleb Azumah Nelson’s achingly beautiful Small Worlds proved to be even better than his Costa First Novel Prize-winning Open Water. Beginning in 2010, it follows Stephen, the youngest son of a Ghanaian couple living in Peckham, whose ambitions to study music are stymied resulting in dashed hopes of love and a chasm opening up between him and his father. Still puzzled at its non-appearance on last year’s Booker shortlist.Cover image for Second Slef by Chloe Ashby

I thoroughly enjoyed Chloë Ashby’s funny, insightful Wet Paint, so hopes are high for Second Self. Cathy works as a conservator at the National Gallery, preoccupied with thoughts about whether or not to have a child, something neither she nor her husband considered as part of their future. ‘Second Self is a novel about confronting expectations, and learning to cope with the nagging, complex questions that shape a life. It’s about minds and bodies at the mercy of natural forces and social pressure. Above all, it’s an ode to big decisions, small, tender moments, and how we choose to be’ says the blurb, promisingly.

Cover image for Biography of X by Catherine LaceyI dithered over reviewing Catherine Lacey’s Biography of X in hardback having enjoyed The Answers but somehow didn’t get around to it. The widow of the eponymous artist X sets about writing her biography shortly after her beloved dies, leading her to the Southern Territory, a fascist theocracy that split from the rest of the US after the Second World War. What she finds is devastating. I’m still not entirely sure if this one’s for me but the Financial Times describes it persuasively as a ‘thriller set against a backdrop of political intrigue, an elegy, an art world satire and a thought experiment too…’ We’ll see.Cover image for The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan

In Naoise Dolan’s The Happy Couple. Luke and Celine are to marry in a year’s time. Luke’s best man seems to be in love with him, Celine’s sister is fretful about Luke’s habitual disappearance act while Vivian is the dispassionate observer. All five are hoping for a happy ending of some sort or other. That may not sound a particularly inspiring premise but I’m hoping for some of the sharp, snarky narrative which made me love Dolan’s debut Exciting Times.

Cover iamge for The Short End of Sonnenalle by Thomas BrussigFirst published in 1999, Thomas Brussig’s satire The Short End of the Sonnenalle is set in East Berlin before the fall of the Wall. It follows Michael who’s besotted with a girl who has eyes only for the Western boys who come and go as they please and faces a daily mocking from the guards stationed on the observation platform overlooking his street.Laugh-out-loud funny and unabashedly silly, Brussig’s novel follows the bizarre, grotesque quotidian details of life in the German Democratic Republic. As this new translation shows, the ideas at its heart – freedom, democracy and life’s fundamental hilarity – hold great relevance for today’ say the publishers which sounds right up my street so to speak.

That’s it for April’s first batch of paperbacks. A click on a title will take you either to my review or to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more, and if you’d like to catch up with new fiction it’s here and here. Part two soon…


27 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in April 2024: Part One”

  1. I absolutely loved Small Worlds. Yes, why didn’t it get more recognition? And I hope you’ll enjoy the Thomas Brussig as much as I did. Your other mentions? Treats in store?

  2. Biography of X has been on my radar. I need to get around to reading Catherine Lacey, she’s been on my to read list since Nobody is Ever Missing but somehow I’ve never got around to it. Also heard only good things about Small Worlds. Always an intriguing list

  3. I did make note of Small Worlds when you’d reviewed it but still haven’t got down to reading. The Short End of the Sonnenalle sounds interesting too, especially after reading Brigitte Reimann’s Siblings last year.

  4. I loved the Azumah Nelson’s prose in Small Worlds at the time (he has a gorgeous, poetic way with words), but the central story has faded since then. It’s good to see it in paperback, though, especially as the h/b was quite a while ago!

    1. He writes beautifully, doesn’t he. There’s a musicality about the rhythmic repetition of phrases that fit so well with his theme for me. I still remember it well, perhaps because I wrote about it.

  5. I loved Biography of X although it is very much my thing. I didn’t really care for Open Water so haven’t been tempted by Small Worlds, but maybe I should give it a go.

  6. I enjoyed Open Water more than you did, so I am definitely looking forward to his follow-up. Also, that blurb on the Ashby sounds appealing to me too. The Happy Couple looks fun as well.

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