Paperbacks to Look Out For in July 2024: Part One

Cover image for Land of Milk and Honey by C Pam ZhangThis first, disappointingly thin, instalment of July paperbacks begins with one I’ve already read. C. Pam Zhang’s Land of Milk and Honey is a slice of dystopian fiction in which a chef recalls her year in an Italian mountain top restaurant sufficiently elevated to lift it above the smog that enveloped the world. While everyone else starves, our narrator is given unlimited supplies of the richest ingredients to feed the Sunday guests who must be convinced that her employer’s research project will save them. A dark novel – one that I admired rather than loved – but ultimately a hopeful one.Cover image for The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller

In Claire Fuller’s The Memory of Animals a young woman volunteers for a vaccine trial, finding herself with just four others in isolation as London shuts down. Unsure what to do, Neffy becomes involved in a pioneering technology which helps her revisit childhood memories offering what may be a dangerous escape from her difficult present. ‘The Memory of Animals is a taut and emotionally charged novel about freedom and captivity, survival and sacrifice and whether you can save anyone before you save yourself’ says the blurb. Fuller manages to deliver excellent novels with an amazing regularity.

Cover image for Julia by Sandra NewmanI’m not sure about Sandra Newman’s Julia which comes billed as a feminist reworking of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Well-liked, Julia Worthing fixes the novel-writing machines in the Ministry of Truth’s Fiction Department, a pragmatist as happy to work with the authorities as she is to break the rules. When she becomes intrigued with Winston Smith, she begins to take risks which may prove to be fatal. ‘For the millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, here, finally, is a provocative, vital and utterly satisfying companion novel’ promises the blurb, and it was very well reviewed when it was published last year.

Cover image for Trackers by Charles Frazier

It’s been many years since I read Charles Frazier’s bestselling Cold Mountain which I loved. Set against the backdrop of the Depression, Trackers sees artist Val Walsh heading to Wyoming to paint a mural for a new Post Office in the small town of Dawes, staying with a wealthy art lover and his wife around whom swirl a multitude of rumours. When his wife takes off with a valuable painting, John Long asks Val to help track her down. ‘Journeying from ramshackle Hoovervilles to San Francisco nightclubs to the swamps of Florida, Val’s search for Eve narrows, and he soon turns up secrets that could spark formidable changes for all of them’ says the blurb whetting my appetite for some atmospheric writing.

That’s it for July’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…

24 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in July 2024: Part One”

  1. So far, the only one of these I’ve read is the Claire Fuller. I read it shortly after Lockdown. I can’t find my review of it but I remember being hugely disappointed. It seemed to me that this dystopian novel hadn’t really worked out exactly how to extricate itself successfully from the storyline it had set itself. And yes, you’re right. Fuller nornally delivers. But not for me this time.

    1. Ah! I’ve just found my review. This is my last line. ‘Unsatisfactory, uninvolving, with too many plot-lurches, this is far from Fuller at her finest.’

  2. Oh Julia is so good – I was also extremely suspicious of it – but Newman really pulls it off. I also loved the Zhang, though I don’t love the paperback cover at all.

    I’m not usually a Fuller fan but I did enjoy her first novel and this one sounds more along those lines.

  3. Thanks for the round-up! I’d already decided to give Land of Milk & Honey a past and was sitting on the fence about Julia (still sitting there I’m afraid!). I’m not a particular Charles Frazier fan, but I’m very fond of novels about artists and have done a teeny bit of research on WPA art during the depression (it produced some interesting stuff, along with some really bad post office murals!). I may actually give The Trackers a peek.

  4. I’ve read the Fuller – didn’t like it much (too quirky!). Have enjoyed her previous work and will read her again in the future but will avoid anything dystopian.

  5. I do hope to get to Land of Milk and Honey which did pique my interest when you reviewed it and eventually probably Julia which will entail a revisit to 1984 I assume (I actually found my copy while tidying up one of my shelves the other day

  6. I wonder how I’d get on with the Claire Fuller it does sound a bit grim, however I have two other Fuller novels tbr I should probably read first anyway. I am intruiged by Julia, but reworkings/modern sequels of classics can be problematic and I usually steer clear.

    1. Definitely agree about the reworking of classics. Lots of potential for things to go horribly wrong. I’ve read and enjoyed all of Fuller’s previous novels but I’m not in a rush to read this one.

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