Author, self-confessed bookworm and contributing editor at The Bookseller Cathy Rentzenbrink tells us about the hot new books that should be on your buy, beg or borrow list this month.
Oh January, the time when so many self-help books are encouraging us to be different from how we are. Whether you are full of kale smoothie induced energy or huddling angrily under the bedclothes refusing to accept that the mince pie free-for-all is over, I promise your life will be improved by reading one of these books.
Novels first. Human Acts by Hang Kang examines the aftermath of an uprising in South Korea in 1980 and The Expatriates by Janice Y K Lee is set in Hong Kong. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes takes us to Soviet Russia and the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Exposure by Helen Dunmore offers a 1960s London experience of the Cold War and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon is a mystery set in 1970s suburbia.
If you want to increase your heart rate, then thrillers The Widow by Fiona Barton and The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker will be right up your street. Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes features likeable psychopath Joe – you’ll never look at your local bookseller in the same way again. Finally, these two exceptional pieces of non-fiction will expand your mind: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot and But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens.
Human Acts by Han Kang
"Some memories never heal." In the aftermath of a brutally repressed student uprising in Gwangju, South Korea, a boy goes to look for his friend among the masses of dead and ends up helping to wash and cover the bodies.
An astonishing novel about the long ranging effects of trauma, both personal and national.
The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
Barnes’ first novel since the Man Booker Prize winning The Sense of an Ending opens in Leningrad in 1937 as the composer Dmitri Shostakovitch spends the night smoking cigarettes on his landing, waiting to be arrested.
A short masterpiece about creativity, resistance and compliance in the harshest of circumstances.
Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Imagine The Railway Children written for adults and transported to 1960s London. When civil servant Simon Callington is imprisoned for selling secrets to the Russians, his wife Lily and their children move to the country. Simon is innocent, but has other secrets in his past that could keep him in jail…
The Expatriates by Janice Y. K. Lee
Three women in Hong Kong: when the unthinkable happens, Margaret has no idea how to cope with her loss and Mercy marinates in guilt as she tries to imagine a future. Hilary’s marriage is crumbling as her desire to adopt a local orphan grows.
The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
An intriguing mystery set during the long, hot summer of 1976 sees 10-year-old friends Grace and Tilly turn detective.
Mrs Creasy has disappeared from The Avenue, the grown-ups are all whispering, and it’s up to our intrepid duo to work out what is really going on.
The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker
Helen sits in a dilapidated house in Yorkshire trying to avoid her nosy neighbours and reading online reports about the discovery of a dead body in Paris. Who is she and what is she running from?
A clever and absorbing homage to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
The Widow by Fiona Barton
What is going on in the minds of those women who stand silently by on the court steps when their husbands are accused of terrible crimes? Jean Taylor was a good wife whose husband was acquitted of murderer. Now he’s dead and she’s talking to the press.
Twists and turns galore.
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
Gloriously dark and funny, this sequel to You picks up the story of psychopathic bookseller Joe who has moved to LA and is still looking for love and murdering those who get in way. Full of jokes and smart observations about the film industry and the super rich.
The supporting characters are so vile that you’ll want Joe to get away with murdering them…
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
An exhilarating memoir of alcoholism and recovery that flits between the streets of London and the islands of Orkney as the author tries to work out how to live a sober life.
Anyone who has ever been unhappy or unwise will find much that resonates in this powerful, beautiful writing.
But You Did Not Come Back by Marceline Loridan-Ivens
Marceline and her father were arrested at their house in France and deported to Auschwitz together, but she survived the camps and he did not. This astonishing and beautifully written letter to him is a love letter, a story of lives lived and lost, and shows the heavy burden that falls on the survivor.