Talking of ‘hope’, a treat I’m very much looking forward to in March is Hope Adams (a.k.a. Adèle Geras)’s novel set in 1841 on a ship bound for Australia with 180 women convicts on board. I know that the seed of this story was planted by a quilt in the V&A Quilt Exhibition from a few years ago that I saw. I love real history woven into rich story! Reading Dangerous Women, I look forward to jumping aboard that convict ship!
In the interests of this research I’ve read Chris Beckett’s America City (recommended) and Jenny Offill’s Weather (well written, but doesn’t live up to the hype). I was delighted to hear a recent Open Book on Radio 4 devote a full programme to climate change fiction, or Cli-fi, as they are now calling it. It has become a sub-genre all of its own! Apparently there is lots in the pipe-line; I want to start with Carys Bray’s new novel, When the Lights Go Out, which is set in the near future, with floods outdoors and a collapsing marriage indoors. Carys writes beautifully - I loved her short story collection Sweet Home. And Diana McCaulay’s Daylight, Come, set in a fictional island closely resembling Jamaica, where she lives, in a future where the days are so hot everyone has to sleep in the day and work at night, sounds fascinating.
Then there’s Caroline Lea’s The Metal Heart, which has a very striking cover. It’s a wartime love story set in a camp for Italian prisoners of war in Scotland. I suspect I will need tissues. Coming in April from Michael Joseph.
My last choice is Atomic Love, by US author Jennie Fields. (Michael Joseph) This is about a woman scientist working on the Manhattan project. I’ve read the first couple of pages and am drawn in already....
It’s going to be another good year for fiction.
The Continuity Girl by Patrick Kincaid (Unbound) promises ‘A lost movie. An elusive monster. One last chance…’ It’s billed as a novel for fans of Jonathan Coe (whose work I adore). There’s a fanatical fan and an old film retrieved and the stage is set for a glorious homage and reckoning with the world today. I can’t wait!
Penelope Lively’s clashes of the mores of past and present (Treasures of Time, Judgement Day) remain reading highlights. (They’re funny, too.) I predict Simon Edge’s historical fiction will be equally beguiling. Anyone for Edmund (Lightning Books) pokes fun at Westminster culture and celebrates the cult of a medieval saint. I’ve also ordered his A Right Royal Face-off, which contrasts Gainsborough’s high art with celebrity TV.
Another indie publisher whose work impresses me is Louise Walters Books. I love novellas and The Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton evokes the brilliant film 45 Years. Louise has just released Helen Kitson’s Old Bones – I can’t resist a quarry-found corpse and the repressed secrets of spinsters. Could we have another Ruth Rendell in the making?
I still have some excellent birthday books to look forward to as well – The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante, and The Diary of a Young Naturalist, by Dara McAnulty.