New Books May 2017

Fiction

The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen
From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration. The second piece of fiction by a major new voice, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

Hame by Annalena McAfee 
In the wake of the breakdown of her relationship, Mhairi McPhail dismantles her life in New York and moves with her 9-year-old daughter, Agnes, to the remote Scottish island of Fascaray. Mhairi has been commissioned to write a biography of the late Bard of Fascaray, Grigor McWatt, a cantankerous poet with an international reputation. But who was Grigor McWatt? Details of his past – his tough childhood and his war years as a commando – are elusive, and there is evidence of a mysterious love affair which Mhairi is determined to investigate. As she struggles to adapt to her new life, and put her own troubled past behind her, Mhairi begins to unearth the astonishing secret history of the poet regarded by many as the custodian of Fascaray’s – and Scotland’s – soul. A dazzling, kaleidoscope of a novel, Hame layers extracts from Mhairi’s journal, Grigor’s letters and poems and his evocative writing about the island into a compelling narrative that explores identity, love and the universal quest for home.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue 
New York, 2007: a city of dreamers and strivers, where the newly-arrived and the long-established jostle alike for a place on the ladder of success. Jende Jonga, who has come from Cameroon, has just set his foot on the first rung. Clark Edwards is a senior partner at Lehman Brothers bank. In need of a discrete and reliable chauffeur, he is too preoccupied to closely check the paperwork of his latest employee. Jende’s new job draws him, his wife Neni and their young son into the privileged orbit of the city’s financial elite. And when Clark’s wife Cindy offers Neni work and takes her into her confidence, the couple begin to believe that the land of opportunity might finally be opening up for them. But there are troubling cracks in their employers’ facades, and when the deep fault lines running beneath the financial world are exposed, the Edwards’ secrets threaten to spill out into the Jonga’s lives. Faced with the loss of all they have worked for, each couple must decide how far they will go in pursuit of their dreams – and what they are prepared to sacrifice along the way.

Mirror Shoulder Signal by Dorthe Nors
Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive,  joined a meditation group, and she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister. But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate. Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear, and her sister won’t return her calls. Sonja’s mind keeps wandering back to the dramatic landscapes of her childhood – the singing whooper swans, the endless sky, and getting lost barefoot in the rye fields – but how can she return to place that she no longer recognises? And how can she escape the alienating streets of Copehangen?

Corpus by Rory Clements 
1936 and Europe is in turmoil. The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland. In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror. Spain has erupted in civil war. In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers. In an exclusive London club, a conspiracy is launched that threatens the very heart of government. When a renowned society couple with fascist leanings are found brutally murdered, a maverick Cambridge professor is drawn into a world of espionage he knows only from history books. The deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he finds to link the murders with the girl with the silver syringe – and even more worryingly to the scandal surrounding the Abdication.

The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon
In these witty, postmodern stories, Yoon riffs on pop culture, experiments with punctuation, flirts with sci-fi, and in a metafictional twist, mocks his own position as omnipotent author. Highly literary, his narratives offer an oblique reflection of contemporary Bangkok life, exploring the bewildering disjunct and oft-hilarious contradictions of a modernity that is at odds with many traditional Thai ideas on relationships, family, school and work. Credited with having ‘brought fresh energy to Thai literature with his distinctive urban voice’, Yoon’s is the voice of a new generation, responding to his country’s recent and rapid urbanisation with fresh, off-beat perspectives and exciting formal innovation. The collection from which the majority of the stories in The Sad Part Was are taken made the young author a household name in Thailand and won the South East Asia Writers Award.

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore 
Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Soon his plans for a magnificent terrace built above the two-hundred-foot drop of the Gorge come under threat. Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants. In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone.

The Transition by Luke Kennard 
Welcome to The Transition. While taking part in The Transition you and your partner will spend six months living under the supervision of your mentors, two successful adults of a slightly older generation. Freed from your financial responsibilities, you will be coached through the key areas of the scheme – employment, nutrition, responsibility, relationship, finances and self-respect – until you are ready to be reintegrated into adult society. At the end of your six months – who knows what discoveries you’ll have made about yourself? The ‘friends’ you no longer need. The talents you’ll have found time to nurture. The business you might have kick-started. Who knows where you’ll be?

The Traitor’s Niche by Ismail Kadare
At the heart of the Ottoman Empire, in the main square of Constantinople, a niche is carved into ancient stone. Here, the sultan displays the severed heads of his adversaries. People flock to see the latest head and gossip about the state of the empire: the province of Albania is demanding independence again, and the niche awaits a new trophy. Tundj Hata, the imperial courier, is charged with transporting heads to the capital – a task he relishes and performs with fervour. But as he travels through obscure and impoverished territories, he makes money from illicit side-shows, offering villagers the spectacle of death. The head of the rebellious Albanian governor would fetch a very high price. The Traitor’s Niche is a surreal tale of rebellion and tyranny, in a land where armies carry scarecrows, state officials ban entire languages, and the act of forgetting is more complicated than remembering.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Nadia and Saeed are two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it. Civil war has come to the city which Nadia and Saeed call home. Before long they will need to leave their motherland behind – when the streets are no longer useable and the unknown is safer than the known. They will join the great outpouring of people fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world.

Ties by Domenico Starnone
They married young. They were in love and desired independence. But as middle-age and family obligations set in, their marital vows lost meaning. When he left, she felt gripped by rage. He moved to Rome and met a younger woman. She stayed with the kids in Naples, a city from which she felt a growing estrangement. But the inescapable ties that bind us can be tenacious, stronger even than both the wounds inflicted by abandonment and the desire for freedom. Can betrayal ever be swept under the carpet? A powerful short novel about the ties that bind, and mark us indelibly.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In a small fishing village on the banks of the East Sea, a club-footed, cleft-lipped man marries a fifteen-year-old girl. The couple have one child, their beloved daughter Sunja. When Sunja falls pregnant by a married yakuza, the family face ruin. But then Isak, a Christian minister, offers her a chance of salvation: a new life in Japan as his wife. Following a man she barely knows to a hostile country in which she has no friends, no home, and whose language she cannot speak, Sunja’s salvation is just the beginning of her story. Through eight decades and four generations, Pachinko is an epic tale of family, identity, love, death and survival.

 

Mystery / Thriller

The Intrusions by Stav Sherez 
When a distressed young woman arrives at their station claiming her friend has been abducted, and that the man threatened to come back and ‘claim her next’, Detectives Carrigan and Miller are thrust into a terrifying new world of stalking and obsession. Taking them from a Bayswater hostel, where backpackers and foreign students share dorms and failing dreams, to the emerging threat of online intimidation, hacking, and control, The Intrusions explores disturbing contemporary themes with all the skill and dark psychology that Stav Sherez’s work has been so acclaimed for. Under scrutiny themselves, and with old foes and enmities re-surfacing, how long will Carrigan and Miller have to find out the truth behind what these two women have been subjected to?

Spook Street  by Mick Herron
Twenty years retired, David Cartwright can still spot when the stoats are on his trail. Jackson Lamb worked with Cartwright back in the day. He knows better than most that this is no vulnerable old man. ‘Nasty old spook with blood on his hands’ would be a more accurate description. ‘The old bastard’ has raised his grandson with a head full of guts and glory. But far from joining the myths and legends of Spook Street, River Cartwright is consigned to Lamb’s team of pen-pushing no-hopers at Slough House. So it’s Lamb they call to identify the body when Cartwright’s panic button raises the alarm at Service HQ. And Lamb who will do whatever he thinks necessary, to protect an agent in peril.

The Pictures by Guy Bolton 
World-weary Jonathan Craine is a detective at the LAPD who has spent his entire career as a studio ‘fixer’, covering up crimes of the studio players to protect the billion-dollar industry that built Los Angeles. When one of the producers of The Wizard of Oz is found dead under suspicious circumstances, Craine must make sure the incident passes without scandal and that the deceased’s widow, the beautiful starlet Gale Goodwin, comes through the ordeal with her reputation unscathed. But against his better instincts, Craine finds himself increasingly drawn to Gale. And when a series of unsavoury truths begin to surface, Craine finds himself at the centre of a conspiracy involving a Chicago crime syndicate, a prostitution racket and a set of stolen pictures that could hold the key to unravelling the mystery.

The Dry  by Jane Harper 
Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn’t rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community become unbearable when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler, who committed suicide after slaughtering his wife and six-year-old son, is guilty. Policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his childhood best friend, and is unwillingly drawn into the investigation. As questions mount and suspicion spreads through the town, Falk is forced to confront the community that rejected him twenty years earlier. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret, one which Luke’s death threatens to unearth. And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, secrets from his past and why he left home bubble to the surface as he questions the truth of his friend’s crime.

Retribution Road by Antonin Varenne
Burma, 1852. Arthur Bowman, a sergeant in the East India Company, is sent on a secret mission during the Second Anglo-Burmese War. But the expedition is foiled – his men are captured and tortured. Throughout their ordeal, a single word becomes Bowman’s mantra, a word that will stiffen their powers of endurance in the face of unimaginable suffering: “Survival”. But for all that, only a handful escape with their lives. Some years later in London, battling his ghosts through a haze of alcohol and opium, Bowman discovers a mutilated corpse in a sewer. The victim appears to have been subjected to the same torments as Bowman endured in the Burmese jungle. And the word “Survival” has been daubed in blood by the body’s side. Persuaded that the culprit is one of the men who shared his captivity, Bowman resolves to hunt him down.

 

Non-Fiction

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe by Kapka Kassabova
When Kapka Kassabova was a child, the borderzone between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece was rumoured to be an easier crossing point into the West than the Berlin Wall, so it swarmed with soldiers, spies and fugitives. On holidays close to the border on the Black Sea coast, she remembers playing on the beach, only miles from where an electrified fence bristled, its barbs pointing inwards toward the enemy: the holiday-makers, the potential escapees. Today, this densely forested landscape is no longer heavily militarised, but it is scarred by its past. In Border, Kassabova sets out on a journey through a hidden corner of the continent, and meets the people of this triple border — Bulgarians, Turks, Greeks, indigenous Balkan Muslims, and the latest wave of refugees fleeing conflict further afield. She discovers a region that has been shaped by the successive forces of history: by its own past migration crises, by communism, by Nazi occupation, by the Ottoman Empire, and – older still – by the ancient legacy of myths and legends. But there seem to be non-human forces at work here too: it is a land rich with curative springs and Thracian tombs; home to psychic healers and Europe’s last fire-worshippers. Kassabova traces the physical and psychological borders that criss-cross its villages and mountains, and goes in search of the stories that will unlock its secrets.

 

Young Adult 

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson
One family, three sisters. Grace, the oldest and a straight-A student. Audrey, the youngest and future Olympic swimming champion. And Mia, the mess in the middle. Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers. When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves. But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.

 

Children’s Fiction

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions. Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave? Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down.

The Jamie Drake Equation by Christopher Edge
How amazing would it be to have a dad who’s an astronaut? Rocket launches, zero gravity, and flying through space like a superhero! Jamie Drake’s dad is orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station and Jamie ought to think it’s cool but he just really misses him. Hanging out at his local observatory, Jamie picks up a strange signal on his phone. It looks like alien life is getting closer to home. But space is a dangerous place and when his dad’s mission goes wrong, can Jamie prove that he’s a hero too?

The Bookshop Girl by  Sylvia Bishop 
This story is about a little girl named Property Jones, so-called because she was left in the lost property cupboard of a bookshop when she was five years old. Property loves living in the bookshop, but she has a whopper of a secret …she can’t actually read! So Property doesn’t see the newspaper article announcing the chance to win the Montgomery Book Emporium, the biggest and most magnificent bookshop in the world! When her family win the competition, Property finds herself moving to the Emporium, a magical place filled with floor upon floor of books and a very bad-tempered cat. But all is not at it seems at the Emporium and soon Property Jones finds herself in a whole heap of trouble.

Bruno: Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So Far by Catharina Valckx
Bruno, the cat in the checkered cap, takes life as it comes. When it’s too rainy to go outside, he rustles up an inside picnic with his friends. When he meets a fish swimming in the air, he follows it. Why not! When the canary forgets how to sing and can only speak gibberish, Bruno helps out.

 

Children’s Picture Books

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale by Josh Funk
George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write letters to each other about everything: their pets, birthdays, favorite sports, and science fair projects. There’s just one thing that the two friends don’t know: George is a human, while Blaise is a dragon! What will happen when these pen pals finally meet face-to-face?

Penguin Problems by Jory John
Have you ever considered running away to Antarctica? Of course you have! Because it’s a land free of worries and responsibilities! All of your problems will surely be blown away by the icy winds of that lawless paradise! Won’t they? Think again, my friend. This penguin has come to tell you that his life down there is no more a picnic than yours is here. For starters, it is FREEZING. Also, penguins have a ton of natural predators. Plus, can you imagine trying to find your mom in a big ol’ crowd of identical penguins? No, thank you. Yes, it seems there is no escaping the drudgery of your daily grind, whatever it might be. Or perhaps we’ve just learned that grumps are everywhere.

The Naughty Naughty Baddies by Mark Sperring
Once there were four Naughty, Naughty Baddies. And each one was as naughty as the next. They liked nothing more than being diabolically dreadful. But best of all, they loved creeping. When Four suggests a cunning plan to steal all the spots off the Queen’s Little Doggy Woof-Woof, they all grin fiendishly and chuckle evilly as they creep, creep, creep.  What will the Queen do when she sees her spotless Little Doggy Woof-Woof? Where is the King sitting as they creep, creep past? (Clue: a throne of sorts.) Will the Naughty, Naughty Baddies get away with it?

The Everywhere Bear by Julia Donaldson 
The Everywhere Bear has a wonderful time with the children in Class One, but one day he gets more than he bargained for when he falls unnoticed from a backpack and embarks on his own big adventure! He’s washed down a drain and whooshed out to sea, rescued by a fishing boat, loaded onto a lorry, carried off by a seagull.  How will he ever make it back to Class One?

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems 
For as long as she could remember, Diva lived at 11 avenue Le Play in Paris, France. For as long as he could remember, Flea also lived in Paris, France – but at no fixed address. When Flea flaneurs past Diva’s courtyard one day, their lives are for ever changed. Together, Diva and Flea explore and share their very different worlds, as only true friends can do.