Set against the backdrop of a turbulent political period in 1980s Nigeria, Stay With Me never lets its reader get comfortable. Adébáyò refuses to keep her story moving in an expected direction. She drops in twists and reveals with little announcement to great effect and without it ever feeling exploitative. Stay With Me becomes a domestic thriller, where the protagonists aren’t spies or investigative journalists, but two people facing extraordinary social pressure to have their own family and keep their marriage alive.
As The Gustav Sonata begins, it feels as if it will focus solely on the eponymous character, perhaps with the odd accompaniment from Anton as their friendship develops. Instead, Rose Tremain adds in other elements; an underlying beat of context, the thrum of violence. Characters seemingly incidental become crucial to the novel, whilst others fade away into background noise.
Rose and Pierrot grow up in the same orphanage, drawn to each other by a love of performance and the ability to make their fellow inmates laugh. The orphanage tries to suppress them and eventually force the pair apart as they head out into early 20th century Montreal to make their own lives. But fate has other ideas.
It’s an oft-repeated wisdom that grief makes people do funny things, but for Landyn and Vale Midwinter, it shuts them down into a kind of stasis. After the death of Landyn’s wife and Vale’s mother years ago, the pair return to their farm in Suffolk and work the land without confronting the grief that both of them feel. However, after Vale gets into accident, that silence threatens to crack as Landyn becomes fixated on a fox residing on his farm and Vale throws himself into increasingly destructive behaviour.
Like McBride’s first and spectacular novel, ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’, The Lesser Bohemians plays out in a stream of consciousness from the point of view of Eily. She’s eighteen and has recently moved to London from Ireland to start drama school, but she meets Stephen, an older man and well-regarded actor, who decides to take her home for the night. They both have issues locked in their respective pasts, but they fall swiftly into an intense relationship that could have severe consequences for both of them.
Barkskins tells the tale of two dynasties, beginning with the arrival of René Sel and Charles Duquet in seventeenth-century New France, bound to a local lord and forced into becoming barkskins or wood-cutters. Operating as a series of vignettes, Proulx charts the fortunes of both families; one, the Sels, occupying an awkward in-between space, not quite belonging to the Mi’kmaq or migrant white cultures. The other, Duquet’s clan, rise to establish their logging firm as a force within the industry for generations to come.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing is a remarkable book. The depth and lyricism of Thien’s prose is almost hypnotic, capable of transplanting you wholesale into the novel’s setting. There’s a haunting melancholy at work throughout Do Not Say We Have Nothing, a pervasive sense of loss that is never quite defined as anything specific. I feel that, depending on your age when reading it, there will be different losses a reader will attach themselves to. The loss of music in the lives of the two families, the loss of a community, a loss of innocence...
To look at a copy of First Love is to be immediately confronted with a microcosm of the physical and thematic differences. The lefthand side is a stark black and white, suggesting an easily categorised morality, a traditional kind of good and evil or right and wrong. The right is a murky grey, much more in tune with the complicated reality that Gwendoline Riley writes of, slightly offset and jarring. It’s a slim volume, giving the impression of a slight story, a quick read that can be absorbed and put down swiftly. It is anything but.
The Mare follows the relationships between Ginger, a failed artist and recovering alcoholic, her husband, Paul, a teacher at a local university, and a Hispanic girl from Brooklyn who comes to stay with them. Said girl is twelve-year old Velveteen Vargas, or Velvet for short, from Brooklyn. Ginger and Velvet develop a strong relationship immediately that lasts for years after Velvet’s initial visit. When Velvet visits a nearby stables, she discovers a talent for horsemanship and attaches herself to a violent and abused mare, Fugly Girl.
When the NHS is under threat and incorrect nonsense about vaccinations continues to be spouted, The Dark Circle offers a timely look back at how the country struggled to deal with widespread infections and the groundbreaking way the NHS provided healthcare for people who would never normally have been able to seek any kind of medical help.
Hag-Seed is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare initiative that finds authors reinterpreting the Bard’s great works into new novels. Margaret Atwood takes on one of the ‘problem’ plays, The Tempest, and transplants the action into Canada where Felix Phillips has been newly fired from his role as Artistic Director of the Festival Theatre, deposed by his ambitious rival, Tony.
Ruth Malone is separated from her husband Frank, attempting to juggle looking after two children, a dead-end job, and a life that finds her at the centre of most local gossip. It’s July, 1965; Brooklyn is in the middle of a heatwave and the fragile hold that Ruth has on her life is about to loosen as her children vanish in the middle of the night. With her not-very-proper-for-1965 lifestyle, she finds herself as the chief suspect with only an eager young reporter, Pete Wonicke, on her side.
Gary Budden is one of the founders of Influx Press, an independent publisher dedicated to publishing stories from the margins of culture, specific geographical spaces, and sites of resistance. He was kind enough to take some time to speak with us about Influx, independent publishing, and their recently launched kickstarter.
Unsung Stories is an independent publisher of 'literary and ambition speculative fiction'. They are making the news at the moment with the launch of a Kickstarter for 2084, a short story collection of dystopian fiction. At the time of publishing the book has achieved more than twice its funding goal, and shows no sign of slowing. George Sandison, Unsung's Managing Editor, was kind enough to talk to us about the project.
Dead Ink is an independent publisher based in Liverpool that's doing a lot of exciting work. I had a chance to speak with its founder, Nathan, about his experiences setting up the press, the Northern Fiction Alliance, participatory publishing, and the way Dead Ink nurture and encourage new and exciting writers.
Hortensia lives in a charming, designer house in a wealthy suburb of Cape Town, her ailing husband bedridden as she wanders off on walks on a mission to escape. Her next door neighbour is Marion, a retired architect who has now become the head honcho at the community’s housing committee. Hortensia’s stubborn refusal to engage with it clashes with Marion’s hands-on attitude, but circumstances soon force the women into an uneasy alliance that threatens their status as mutual enemies.
The realm of speculative fiction has long offered a playground for women writers to critique and examine the world around them. From Herland to the Republic of Gilead, authors have held up a dark reflection of social behaviours to illustrate the gender politics that women are forced to navigate, the inherent contradictions, and the oppressive nature of a world dominated by men.
Crime is a genre defined by a particular set of recognisable elements that may fall either side of the creativity line: hackneyed trope or exciting subversion. Firmly in the latter category, Easy Motion Tourist is a crime novel through and through; but it is also something more. Author Leye Adenle shakes up the tried-and-true crime thriller, setting his endearing loyalty to the genre in Laogs, Nigeria. The result is a riveting read that delivers fully on excitement and story, while bringing to life a world that’s both deeply sinister and heroically optimistic. Adenle takes full advantage of our assumptions both about the crime genre and Nigeria to turn the tables in a confrontation of bias that is both exhilarating and clever.