We’re pretty big fans of March – the sun is out, the winter coat can go back in the wardrobe, and it’s nearly Easter, which means lots of chocolate. March is also a great month for books this year, and our pick of the bunch includes the first book in a gripping new young adult series, an updated version of Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid, and a new novel from Emma Donoghue.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Rosemary used to have an older brother, Lowell, and a sister, Fern, the same age as her. But now she has neither – Fern disappeared when they were five, and Lowell ran away and disowned their family. As Rosemary goes to college and tries to maintain her fractured relationship with her scientist parents, the truth about Fern reveals itself – and it is far from what you could ever have predicted.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a captivating novel with a twist unlike anything you’ll ever have read before, and it will break your heart in two.
Half Bad by Sally Green
Nathan lives in a world inhabited by a secret population of witches. White witches are the dominant species, and Nathan’s family is white – but his father is Marcus, a notorious black witch, who lives in hiding. As Nathan is half-code, the government keep him in a cage from the moment his powers start to appear. Nathan must escape so he can be handed his gifts on his 17th birthday – but with the entire witch community against him, his quest takes him across Europe to find his father.
Half Bad is an addictive read and is set to take the place of Twilight and The Hunger Games with the first in this electrifying series.
Shotgun Love Songs by Nickolas Butler
Best friends Henry, Lee, Kip and Ronny grew up together in rural Wisconsin, and adult life has taken them their separate ways. All successful in their own right, Lee has gone the furthest, finding stardom as a famous musician, and when a wedding reunites them their friendship is put under the spotlight as they realise their different paths have landed them back where they started.
Shotgun Lovesongs is a beautiful tale of growing pains, friendship and first love, which author Nickolas Butler based on the life of Wisconsin-born Bon Iver, with whom he went to school.
Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue made her name with Room, the haunting tale of a little boy and his mother who were kept prisoner, and Frog Music is her latest book, set in 1876 San Francisco. In a stifling heat wave, the city is suffering from a smallpox epidemic, but in Chinatown the show must go on: Blanche is an exotic dancer at the House of Mirrors, and when she, her lover Arthur and his friend Ernest are joined by an eccentric outsider, their carefree, bohemian dynamic is turned upside down after one of them is killed.
Frog Music is inspired by a true story, and this Victorian murder mystery will grip Donoghue’s many fans.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Jenny Offill’s short, sharp and insightful book is an enthralling look at modern life, marriage and motherhood. Told from the point of the view of "the wife", who writes to her husband, this is a stunning account of one woman’s predicament in the grey space between domestic life and art. As she confronts an array of catastrophes in her life as a mother, wife and stalled artist, she muses on the experience of maternal love and the self-destruction of her own career.
Sparkling with wit and full of sentences you will want to stick all over your fridge, Dept. of Speculation is a fierce, important read.
All That is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon
Set in the aftermath of the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine in April 1986, All That Is Solid Melts Into Air (the title is taken from the Communist Manifesto) traces the intertwined lives of six characters. Yevgeni is a nine-year-old piano prodigy in Moscow; his aunt Maria is a journalist repressed for her samizdat writings, and her estranged husband Grigory is a gifted surgeon sent by the authorities to work on the medical frontline of the catastrophe.
Ten years in the making, Darragh McKeon’s first novel bravely tackles a tragic disaster with warmth and humanity.
Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut
Booker-shortlisted Damon Galgut’s new novel tells the fictional account of author E. M. Forster’s journey of discovery 12 years before he publishes A Passage to India. In 1912, on board the SS Birmingham, under a wide, empty sky the seed for a story forms in Forster’s mind, and the next few years shape him into the remarkable novelist he will become.
Galgut’s exploration of the defining years in the life of one of Britain’s best novelists feels entirely authentic, and is a novel to savour on a sun lounger somewhere far away.
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Set in New York in 2004 and Virginia in 1852, The House Girl tells the story of two women united in history. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to escape the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and a nurse to her mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. In 21st-century New York, Lina Sparrow is a lawyer with a tough assignment involving reparations for descendants of America slaves.
When Lina discovers Josephine’s story, and the art supposedly created by her mistress, she finds herself questioning her own family history. The House Girl is a touching piece of historical fiction.
Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre
In Charles I’s court in 1632, all the women are starting to look suspiciously alike – plumped cheeks and dilated pupils are the signs of a new beauty tonic: viper wine. As England descends into civil war, courtier Venetia Stanley secretly takes the tonic and looks increasingly younger as she grows older. Her husband, Sir Kenelm Digby, is powerless to stop her, as well as hiding his own guilt about his father’s involvement in the Gunpowder Plot.
Viper Wine is a rich, raucous ride through 17th century London, a city obsessed with power, revenge and vanity.
Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
Crime writer Val McDermid has put her own modern spin on Jane Austen’s gothic classic in this re-imagining of Northanger Abbey. Set in modern-day Edinburgh, Cat Morland’s wealthy neighbours invite her to the Edinburgh Festival, and one night at a Highland fling Cat meets the dashing Henry Tilney, who invites Cat to his country pile.
McDermid has deftly tailored Austen’s tale of love and suspected murder into a modern thriller, and we already can’t wait for the next installments in the Austen Project – Alexander McCall Smith’s Emma and Curtis Sittenfeld’s Pride and Prejudice.