There’s nothing quite like the delicious thrill of discovering a great new writer for the very first time. Sure, we have our favourite books to re-read and authors we know will always deliver, but fresh new talent delivered in the form of a gripping read is a pleasure unto itself.
These are the kind of novels we chomp through in a weekend of marathon reading, before pressing onto our friends.
And luckily, 2017 promises to be a stellar year for unearthing first-time novelists. Here are just 10 of my favourites that fed my heart, soul and mind.
I hope they find many, many readers.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
Abraham Lincoln mourns his son, Willie, as the voices of the dead fill the air around them.
George Saunders has written many books but this is his first novel and he has achieved something new and extraordinary in the way he weaves history and imagination together in a triumph of storytelling. Bound to win lots of prizes.
Released in March 2017 (Bloomsbury)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Effia lives with her husband, a British slave trader, in Cape Coast Castle. She doesn’t know that her half-sister Esi is one of the women kept in the dungeons.
She’ll survive those terrors to be loaded on to a big boat and transported to Mississippi to pick cotton. The story continues through their descendants. This ambitious novel about slavery is magnificent, and I urge you to read it.
Released in January 2017 (Viking)
The End We Start From by Megan Hunter
A dystopia that feels utterly convincing as our narrator gives birth to her son in a London under threat of advancing flood waters. She lives in the gulp zone so must head off into a familiar territory that has become terrifying in search of shelter and safety.
This slender take on new motherhood has stayed with me – not least in making me think about the UK as a place to flee from rather than to, and to imagine Londoners turned refugees. How would we cope?
Released in May 2017 (Picador)
Sirens by Joseph Knox
“Afterwards I went back on to the night shift. They’d never trust me in the daylight again.” Disgraced detective Aidan Waits wrangles with corrupt politicians, dirty cops and beautiful, damaged women in the murky depths of Manchester’s underworld.
This is an excellent read; it feels both classic and completely new and is remarkably assured for a first outing.
Released in January 2017 (Doubleday)
Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land
“Forgive me when I tell you it was me. It was me that told.” Now, admittedly I have a low threshold when it comes to being frightened and disturbed, but this tale of a girl who is given a new name and family after she tells the police about her mother’s terrible crimes is right at the edge of what I can handle.
Dark and pacey, I hardly drew a breath all the way through. Do not start before bed unless you want to stay up all night.
Released January 2017 (Michael Jospeh)
Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Our heroine Elinor works as an accounts clerk, likes doing cryptic crosswords, and needs two big bottles of vodka to get her through the lonely wasteland of her weekends. She spreads the drinks out so she is never either drunk or sober. Something has to change…
I was smitten within a couple of pages of this strangely beautiful and sad story and in deep, irrevocable love by the end. I hope that all readers fall for Elinor Oliphant as much as I have.
Released May 2017 (Harper Collins)
The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
“The first time I meet Patrick Brannock, I’m wearing his wife’s lipstick.”
Eurydice works at the Elysian Society helping people to connect to their lost loved ones via her unconscious body. There are rules to protect both the workers and the clients but they are not always kept…
A beautifully imagined mélange of thriller, dystopia and interrogation of grief.
Released in March 2017 (Scribe UK)
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
1965, New York: When Ruth Malone’s children go missing she is too elegant and poised for the liking of the investigating detectives.
A stylish literary thriller that takes a hard look at the standards by which women are judged when something bad happens to their children. Very accomplished.
Released in January 2017 (Picador)
See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father forty whacks…” Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother were murdered in 1892. Lizzie was never convicted but nor was anyone else.
Here, we get to read various sides of one of the most famous unsolved crimes in America. It’s a compelling and atmospheric rendering of a deeply unhappy house…
Released in May 2017 (Tinder Press)
Dark Chapter by Winnie M Li
When Vivian Tan and Johnny Sweeney encounter each other on a hiking trail west of Belfast, their lives will be changed.
This is a moving look at all aspects of rape, from the event itself through the long process of recovery. Unusually, we see through the eyes of both victim and perpetrator, which adds a complex and rewarding dimension to this important book.
Released in November 2017 (Legend Press)