Happy New Year and welcome back to another instalment of our monthly recommended reading feature where we pick five books you need to be reading this month, or at the very least add to your To Read pile.
This month’s five books are a mixture of debuts alongside some sophomore novels, with plenty if not all of them earning some serious buzz. These five books will take you from New York, to Paris, to Tasmania and to Georgian London, and feature fortune tellers, mermaids, and murderous nannies.
Each of the five titles will be available both online and your local brick and mortar bookstores. As always I do recommend you seek out your local indie bookstore and show them your support.
The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin
The Immortalists, a sweeping family saga following the Gold siblings, is the second novel from American author Chloe Benjamin. Kicking off in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1969 the novel begins with a trip to a travelling soothsayer, with each of the four siblings separately discovering their ultimate fate. What follows is fifty years of life, with the action moving between New York, San Francisco and beyond, with each of the four trying to carve out a life with the knowledge, true or not, of how they will die.
The Immortalists has already attracted plenty of buzz with more than one review suggesting it’ll still be talked about come yearly recap time. The rights have already been picked up by a production company as well so no doubt it’ll be on our TV screens before too long as well. The soothsayer/psychic divining a characters death is not all that new when it comes to storytelling, but from early reviews from critics and fellow writers alike it seems that Benjamin has avoided cliche and crafted a real page turner here.
The Immortalists is available now through Hachette Australia
No One Is Coming To Save Us – Stephanie Powell Watts
No One Is Coming To Save Us is the debut novel from the award winning short story writer and academic Stephanie Powell Watts. Although released in the United States in early 2017 No One Is Coming To Save Us has now been released in the Australian markets. Championed by Sarah Jessica Parker, and heralded by plenty of critics, the novel recasts and reimagines The Great Gatsby in the contemporary South, following the changing fortunes of one extended African-American family, as well as subtle documenting the changing fortunes of an entire nation.
JJ Ferguson, the Jay Gatsby character of the novel, returns home to Pinewood, North Carolina, to build his dream house and pursue this High School sweetheart, Ava. Only problem is Ava is married, and home and the people that live there have changed just as much as he has. No One Is Coming To Save Us is a poignant mediation on the reality and attainability of the American Dream, and a different perspective on the changing face of American society.
No One Is Coming To Save Us is available now through Penguin Australia
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock – Imogen Hermes Gowar
Set in the 18th Century London, and a world of courtesans, sailors and well… mermaids, The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is the debut novel from Imogen Hermes Gowar. The novel was the subject of a 10-way auction between publishers and unsurprisingly is the subject of quite a bit of buzz in the literary world. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock follows the story of merchant Jonah Hancock, the mermaid his ship was sold for, and his entry into the opulent world of Georgian high society. It is here that he meets Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever seen, and a courtesan of great accomplishment.
Early reviews have been incredibly positive with many critics complimenting the quality of Gowar’s prose and ability to capture the feel of 18th Century England. As always there are plenty of comparisons to be made, but it seems that The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock should appeal to fans of Susannah Clarke, Sarah Perry and Jessie Burton. Certainly it should appeal to those that enjoy reading well researched and well written historical fiction, with or without a supernatural twist.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is available January 29th through Penguin Australia
The Sisters’ Song – Louise Allan
The Sisters’ Song is the debut novel from Perth based author Louise Allan and was shortlisted for the Fremantle-TAG Hungerford Award. Set in rural Tasmania, and spanning several decades, the novel traces the lives of two sisters: Ida and Nora. The two sisters have vastly different characters, whose lives diverge, before reuniting later in less than ideal circumstances. The novel draws inspiration in part from Allan’s only family history, with her maternal grandmother’s recollections of life in the Tasmanian bush as the wife of a sawmill, imbuing the novel with some added authenticity.
It seems clear from the handful of reviews that I’ve read that The Sisters’ Song has been thoroughly researched, with Tasmania and the era, recreated in rich detail. The Sisters’ Song offers a look at Australia’s past from a different perspective and will likely appeal to fans of Ashley Hay, Maggie Joel or Emily Brewin, or indeed to those readers that enjoy historical fiction with a strong feminine and Australian focus.
The Sisters’ Song is available now through Allen & Unwin
Lullaby – Leïla Silmani
Leïla Silmani’s Lullaby has already churned up controversy in France, selling over 100,000 copies in it’s first week alone, whilst also winning Silmani the prestigious Prix Goncord award. Since then it’s been the book’s international rights have been the subject of a fierce bidding war, and has been widely tipped as the next Gone Girl and Girl on the Train. Lullaby opens with a mother returning home from work to discover her two children have been murdered by their nanny. The novel then tracks back to a year earlier, tracing the events that led up to a pretty unforgettable opening sentence: ‘The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds’
Lullaby could very easily have been a schlocky bargain bin kind of thriller yet in Silmani’s hands it is a tense and deftly written thriller, that also manages to explore social and economic themes amidst a mounting sense of dread and horror, the Paris in Silmani’s tale is not the city of romance we recognise but one of depravity and disparity. Now, besides being an award-winning author, Silmani has found herself charged by President Macron to promote French language and culture (he reportedly wanted to make her Culture Minister but she turned him down). So pick up a copy of Lullaby and see for yourself what has caught President Macron’s attention.
Lullaby is available January 24th through Allen & Unwin