At the age of thirty, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life. As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney’s wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.
“An exhilarating memoir . . . Anyone who has ever been unhappy or unwise will find much that resonates in this powerful, beautiful writing”
Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love
Read if you loved: H is for Hawk – Helen MacDonald
In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. This extraordinary debut, full of unexpected humour and emotional truth, marks the arrival of a thrilling and significant new talent. .
“I’m not sure I’ve read anything like Max Porter’s book before. It stunned me, full of beauty, hilarity, and thick black darkness. It will stay with me for a very long time.”
Read if you loved: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear MacBride
Adrift in lives of possibility and limitation, the flawed, struggling and sympathetic characters of these desperate, eerie stories seek refuge from meaninglessness and boredom in love, art, friendship, drugs, and sex. A journalist is either the guest or captive of a reclusive former tennis star at his mansion in the French hills; a terrible storm forces a man and a woman, who may be his therapist, to flee New York together; the artistic ambitions of a banker are laid bare when he comes under the influence of two strange sisters. Unflinching, funny and profound, Prodigals maps the degradations of contemporary life – from the deification of celebrity, to the impotence of violence, to the psychological debts of privilege, to the loss of grand narratives – with unusual insight, sincerity, and passion. It is a fiercely honest and heartfelt look at what we have become, the comedy of our foibles, and our longing for home.
“Jacksons funny, vibrant and insightful storytelling, highs and lows included, makes you wish you were there… A terrific writer and Prodigals deserves to be on your reading list.”
Paul Wilson, Esquire
Read if you loved: Learning to Lose – David Trueba
There came an elastic aftershock of creaks and groans and then, softly softly, a chinking shower of rubbled cement. Leaves calmed and trunks stood serene. Where, not a minute before, there had been a suburb, there was now only woodland standing amid ruins. There is no warning. No chance to prepare. The trees arrive in the night: thundering up through the ground,transforming streets and towns into shadowy forest. Adrien Thomas has never been much of a hero. But when he realises that no help is coming, he ventures into this unrecognisable world. Alongside green-fingered Hannah and her teenage son Seb, Adrien sets out to find his wife and to discover just how deep the forest goes. Their journey will take them to a place of terrible beauty and violence, to the dark heart of nature and the darkness inside themselves.
“Strange and brilliantly unsettling, it’s a vivid look at a world gone to the wild”
Mail on Sunday, Best New Fiction
Read if you loved: Haruki Murakami
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves. Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die. The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.
“A wicked witch holds an upstate New York town prisoner. This is totally, brilliantly original”
Read if you loved: Stephen King
When I was a little girl, my dad left me and my mum, and he never came back. And you’re supposed to be gutted when that happens. But secretly I preferred it without him, cos it meant I had my mum completely to myself, without having to share her with anyone. And I sort of inherited all the affection she used to give to my dad – like he’d left it behind for me as a gift, to say sorry for deserting me So says eleven year old Shruti of her broken home in suburban middle England. But hopes of her mother’s affection are in vain: speaking little English, and fluent in only Hindi and Punjabi, Shruti’s mother is lost, and soon falls prey to family pressure to remarry. To find another husband means returning to India and leaving Shruti behind. Meanwhile at school a new arrival, the indomitable Meena, dispenses with Shruti’s bullying problems and transforms her day to day life. Desperate for companionship Shruti latches on to Meena to the point of obsession, following her through high school and on to university. But when Meena invites Shruti to join her on holiday in India, she has no idea how dangerous her obsession will turn out to be…
“It is a rare achievement — an emotionally rich work of literature, delivered in the form of a gripping, page-turning story. The depiction of a British Indian childhood and adolescence is utterly compelling, as is the allegorical exploration of the human condition.”
Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
A little boy and his grandfather embark on a quest to find the old man’s missing birthday in Diana Rosie’s debut novel, Alberto’s Lost Birthday. Alberto is an old man. But he doesn’t know how old – he remembers nothing before his arrival at an orphanage during the Spanish civil war. He rarely thinks about his missing childhood, but when seven-year-old Tino discovers his grandfather has never had a birthday party, never blown out candles on a birthday cake, never received a single birthday present, he’s determined things should change. And so the two set out to find Alberto’s birthday. Their search for the old man’s memories takes them deep into the heart of Spain – a country that has pledged to forget its painful past. As stories of courage, cruelty and love unfold, Alberto realises that he has lost more than a birthday. He has lost a part of himself. But with his grandson’s help, he might just find it again.
“Moving, thoughtful and absorbing . . . Alberto’s Lost Birthday reminds us of the importance of home and the peace that comes with knowing who we truly are”
Mail on Sunday
Read if you loved: Rachel Joyce
For generations they have died young, and now fifteen-year-old Iris and her father are the last of the Villarca line. Confined to their lonely mansion on Dartmoor, they suffer their disease in isolation. But Iris breaks her promise to hide from the world and dares to fall in love.
It is only then that they understand the true horror of the Villarca curse, the curse of the bone-white woman who visits in the night, leaving death in her wake.
“With a ghostly face at the window, inexplicable events and a sense of menace hanging over every page, this is one chilling gothic novel”
Things I will never forget: my name, my made-up birthday…The dark of the Hospital at night. My mother’s face, when she was young.Things other people will forget: where they come from, how old they are, the faces of the people they love. The right words for bowl and sunshine…What is a beginning and what is an end.Joy spends her days working the graveyard shift at a store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with silver blisters and memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune.
“A fresh spin on apocalyptic stories, Find Me beautifully evaluates memory loss and the stories we tell ourselves”
Read if you loved: Kazuo Ishiguro
TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.
“One of the most compelling and unusual stories I’ve ever read … it sucks you in until you are desperate to know what’s going to happen”
Read if you loved: Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
Lizzy’s mother died two years ago, leaving a family bereft by her absence and a house still filled with her things. Then, one day, Lizzy finds a letter from a stranger to her father, and discovers he has another child. Lizzy invites her into their world in an act of outraged defiance. Almost immediately, she realises her mistake
“A creepy, claustrophobic family drama.”
Read if you loved: Her – Harriet Lane
Dr Harry Kent: former Army medic, hospital registrar, police surgeon, drug addict and defender of anyone the world would rather brush aside. His critics say he has a weakness for lost causes. There are some problems Harry can’t solve. His guilt, his lack of sleep, his fractured relationships. But when he sits down across from a sick teenager, he knows what to do – even if that teenager is armed. When the negotiations go wrong and the boy is rushed to hospital, Harry soon realises the danger is not over. Someone wants his patient dead, someone who has access to medical records, someone who will stop at nothing to hide the truth. Harry knows he can’t save everyone. But he won’t stop trying…
“This ferocious debut from a young medical student is one of the finest first crime novels I have encountered this year…it announces the arrival of a shiny new talent in British crime writing and grips from the start”
Read if you loved: Mark Billingham