This year promises to be a treat for bookshelves, with new offerings from old favourites David Mitchell, Sarah Waters and Jojo Moyes, and some brand new authors who look set for stardom. We can’t wait until autumn for Lena Dunham and Vivienne Westwood’s first books, and fiction-wise we’ve picked out some war-time tear-jerkers, nail-biting thrillers and cracking historical fiction, as well as two well-loved classics that are getting a makeover. Read on for the best books of 2014.
If you want to improve your culinary skills this year, what better way to start than by learning how to cook your other half? Not for the faint-hearted or the weak-stomached, Natalie Young’s novel follows Lizzie’s kitchen adventures as she decides to call it a day on her 30-year-marriage and kills her husband with a shovel. Would you like fries with that?
Widowed Ruth lives on the New South Wales coast, and is surprised and delighted when her new carer, Frida, turns up. But why can she hear a tiger prowling around her house at night? And is Frida really who she says she is? The Night Guest is a gripping new thriller that plays on the fears of old age and isolation.
The Spinning Heart made Donal Ryan one of the breakthrough novelists of 2013, and his follow-up The Thing About December is even more dark, grieving and heart-breaking, telling the story of Johnsey Cunliffe who is ostracised in his community for being a loner. Ryan’s ability to write with wit and precision about his native Ireland marks him out as being here to stay.
With 2014 marking the 100-year anniversary of the First World War, The Lie is the first of our pick of this year’s war-themed novels. Opening in Cornwall in 1920, it deals with the post-war trauma suffered by many soldiers, focusing on the shattered friendship of Daniel and Frederick. A haunting story, stunningly written.
Another compelling piece of fiction set just after the First World War, Wake tells the story of three women – Hettie, Evelyn and Ada – who are left to pick up the pieces after the war’s impact on the men in their lives. Their stories intertwine around a mystery involving Ada’s missing son before reaching a devastating conclusion in this gripping, emotionally charged novel.
Bobby has grown up in the boxing clubs of the East End, fighting for a living and clocking up a few rivalries along the way. And when new girl Chloe arrives at the club and Bobby is sucker-punched by Cupid, the competition cranks up a notch. Boxer Handsome is a powerful debut from a talented new writer, filled with blood, sweat and tears.
Do you see yourself as a Cathy Earnshaw or a Jane Eyre? A Lizzy or a Lydia Bennet? In her excellent book How To Be A Heroine, Samantha Ellis dissects some of literature’s most famous heroines and exposes them for what they really are. From Jilly Cooper’s Riders to What Katy Did (or didn’t), this is a fun read for book-lovers.
Ernest Hemingway was famously married four times, and, even more famously, was never single once in 40 years – even between marriages. Mrs. Hemingway gives a voice to his four wives – Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary – and Naomi Wood’s talent is in portraying them all as individual and strong but sympathetic women. Exquisitely written, the Mrs Hemingways finally have their say in this beautiful novel.
Set in the human-trafficking world of Mexico, 13-year-old Ladydi Garcia Martinez is the star of this funny but terrifying novel that tells the story of how Mexican women exist at the mercy of men. Determined not to be victims, Ladydi and her friends are forced to hide for most of their teenage years, until tragedy strikes and their lives are turned upside down.
Jenn and her husband Greg are holidaying in rural Majorca, and when Jenn’s stepdaughter Emma and her boyfriend Nathan arrive, Jenn finds herself fantasising about Nathan, before soon developing a full-blown obsession. The Lemon Grove is fraught, highly-charged and very sexy, as well as being an intelligent take on raising other people’s children, and it should be at the top of your summer reading list.
Daniel has long-since waved goodbye to his parents, who retired and now live in Sweden. When an unexpected phone call from his father tells him that his mother is not well and has been having horrific hallucinations, Daniel gets ready to board a plane. But then his mother calls – and tells Daniel not to trust his father. A heart-pounding thriller from a talented writer.
Single mother Jess Thomas has two jobs and two children. Her daughter Tanzie is gifted with numbers but sinking at school, and her stepson Nicky is a victim of bullying. But then Ed comes into their life, on the run from an uncertain future. This is the highly-anticipated newest novel from the author of 2012 bestseller Me Before You, and, like that one, you’ll need tissues.
Rosemary used to have an older brother, Lowell, and a sister, Fern, the same age as her. But now she has neither – Lowell ran away, and Fern disappeared when they were five. Exactly how she disappeared isn’t the question in this novel – it’s why. One of the best twists in years makes this novel unique, captivating and so moving it will stay with you for a long time.
Crime writer Val McDermid has put her own twist on Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, setting it in the modern day in Edinburgh. Cat Morland is invited by her wealthy neighbours to the Edinburgh Festival, and one night at a Highland Fling meets the dashing Henry Tilney. We all know what happens next, but McDermid’s expert hand has moulded this gothic classic into a modern thriller.
Room author Emma Donoghue makes a return this March with her latest novel Frog Music. Based on a true story and set in 19th century San Francisco, it follows exotic dancer Blanche, her lover Arthur and his companion Ernest – but then an outsider joins their group and one of them is killed. Frog Music is a sensational Victorian murder-mystery that will satisfy her many fans.
In 1986 in a Moscow apartment, a nine-year-old piano prodigy practises. In a nearby factory, his aunt makes car parts, trying to hide her past. In the hospital, a surgeon avoids facing his marriage, and in a rural village in Belarus, a teenage boy wakes up to a red sky. Darragh McKeon’s novel is an extraordinary story of truth and tragedy set during the Chernobyl Disaster.
Tipped to be the next Twilight and Hunger Games, Half Bad is the first book in an electrifying new series. It takes place in a world inhabited by witches: one side good, the other evil. Constantly at war, they are united by one thing – fear of a boy descended from both sides, who lives in a cage. Take our word for it, this book will be huge.
Another supernatural novel, The Quick is set in Victorian London in the dark and seedy world of gentlemen’s clubs. But the Aegolius Club isn’t a normal club – although the men of the club have to abide by certain rules. When a brother and sister collide with an organisation they didn’t know existed, their future looks bleak. The Quick will have you gripped from start to finish.
We loved Maggie Shipstead’s first novel Seating Arrangements, about a wealthy East Coast family wedding, and her next novel is set in the professional American ballet world. Joan’s career as a ballerina has slowly declined, and her ex-boyfriend’s, fellow dancer Arslan Rusklov, has gone stratospheric. Shipstead is a gifted writer who examines families and relationships in a poignant, insightful way.
Lynn Barber is one of Britain’s most successful and prolific writers, famous for her celebrity interviews with everybody from Lady Gaga toS alvador Dalí. Her memoir An Education was made into a film starring Carey Mulligan, and A Curious Career is a collection of her interviews mixed with memoir. A must-read for anybody interested in celebrities and journalism, we salute this Fleet Street legend.
Luke, Paul and Paul’s girlfriend Leigh are young, broke and passionate about theatre. In 1970s London they set up their own radical theatre company, and soon fledgling actress Nina Jacobs joins their group. Their carefree existence quickly turns into a web of jealousy and betrayal and Luke’s bright future looks less certain in this enthralling novel from the author of The Outcast.
Maud, an ageing grandmother, is slowly losing her memory – and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger. But no-one will listen to her, not her daughter, nor her carers, not even Elizabeth’s son, Peter - so Maud is determined to rescue her friend in this dark and riveting psychological thriller.
Described as ‘feminist golden-age fiction’, Jessie Burton’s debut novel is set in 17th century Amsterdam, and was inspired by a trip she took to Holland where she saw a collection of dolls’ houses that were exact replicas of the homes of Amsterdam’s high society. The Miniaturist tells the story of two women’s different journeys to find freedom in a repressive, male-dominated society.
Japanese writer Haruki Murakami is famous for his surrealist fiction, and his latest book is centred around Tskukuru Tazaki, an isolated 36-year-old man struggling to overcome the trauma of rejection by his high school friends. But don’t let the depressing premise put you off – Ellie Goulding is a huge fan of his, and the book has already sold a million copies in Japan.
It’s the book we’ve all been waiting for. She’s the voice of her generation (or, at least, a voice of a generation), and she received a $3.5m advance for it in the US, which would keep her character Hannah Horvath out of hole-filled underwear for life. It’s Girls creator Lena Dunham’s first book, which promises to be about “dieting, dressing and friendships”, and we can’t wait.
Sarah Waters is best-known for writing nail-biting, plot-twisting, pinafore-ripping historical fiction, including best-sellers Fingersmith and The Little Stranger. Her newest, The Paying Guests, is set in London in 1922, where a mother and daughter are forced to take in lodgers to make ends meet. It isn’t out until autumn, so you have plenty of time to read her backlist if you haven’t already.
Nora Webster is the long-awaited sequel to Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn, which followed Irish girl Nora’s move to New York to work in a department store. In this book, it’s the 1960s and Nora, now a widow, is living with her two young sons back in Ireland. The love of her life has just died and she has to work out how to grieve while still making a life for her family.
David Mitchell is famous for the futuristic, alternate universes he creates in books like Cloud Atlas. The Bone Clocks follows heroine Holly Sykes, who runs away from home in 1984 and, decades later, is found raising her granddaughter in western Ireland as war rages across the earth. With its rich plot, this will be one of the sci-fi novels of the year.
Our favourite moustached Belgian detective will be given a new lease of life by crime writer Sophie Hannah, who has been given permission by Agatha Christie’s family to bring him out of retirement. Although there’s no plot detail or title yet, Hannah has promised to bring the “fiendishly puzzling” twists Christie was loved for, and we can’t wait to see how she’ll reinvent such a classic character.
Another first book from another iconic female, Vivenne Westwood’s memoir will come out in autumn. The book promises to shed light on her early life – her upbringing in rural Derbyshire, her marriage, divorce and becoming a mother in her early 20s, and her journey from the Kings Road to international stardom by way of inventing punk. A true living legend, she no doubt has a lot to say.