Best new books out this April
What better way to embrace a new season that with a new slew of books? Our friends at The Book House, Thame, have offered up their favourites of the month.
It’s spring so that means it’s time to spruce up your bedside reading. Luckily, our friends at The Book House in Thame have suggested 10 new reads out this month that should sate all your bookworm needs.
Kololo Hill by Neema Shah (Hardback)
This astonishing debut novel is set in Uganda, 1972. Idi Amin has issued a devastating decree: all Ugandan Asians have 90 days to leave the country, taking nothing with them. For newlyweds Asha and Pran, it means abandoning the family business. For Jaya, it will be leaving the home she has lived in for decades. In Kampala, violence is escalating, and people are disappearing. When the destitute and fractured family make their way to London, with all the challenges of language, climate, and casual racism, they experience a massive culture shock. For Asha, there is the opportunity to learn resilience and create a new life for herself. The book explores in detail the universal experience of those who have had to flee their homelands, and Neema writes so well about the Ugandan exiles, and the trauma suffered by an entire community. A sense of creeping dread is threaded through the novel, counterbalanced by descriptions of everyday life, food, and landscape – all of which place the reader firmly in the heart of the story.
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Hardback)
Twins Julius and Jeanie have always known they are different. Middle-aged, they still live with their mother in a small, rented cottage that has been their whole world. When Dot dies unexpectedly, the twins have to start engaging with the outside world, confront their lack of money, and uncover secrets about their own pasts that have been hidden. They quickly discover that the outside world is every bit as cruel and unyielding as they had supposed and being poor and unconventional makes them a target for some of the local community. Life becomes increasingly difficult. Quietly disturbing, and very moving, this is a timely exploration of those marginalised at the edges of society. Claire’s prose is delicate and devastating, and the descriptions of modern day poverty stay long after the final page. This is Claire’s fourth novel, and we at The Book House have loved every single one.
Tall Bones by Anna Bailey (Hardback)
A debut novel set in a remote Colorado town, this dark thriller explores a shattered community after the disappearance of a 17-year-old girl. Whistling Ridge is a town full of secrets, long harboured grudges, and resentment, where anyone who does not conform is suspect. When Abigail goes missing after a party in the woods, suspicion falls on her friend Rat, an outsider. Her own family have their secrets: older brother Noah, betrayed and despised, younger sibling Jude, and parents in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Racked with guilt at abandoning her friend, Emma tries to piece together what happened that night, and uncovers shocking secrets that were better left buried. A brutal twisting tale about the claustrophobia of small-town life, the bittersweetness of first love, and the loss of innocence.
Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny (Hardback)
This is a warm-hearted novel about life in small-town America. Jane moves to Boyne City and falls in love with local lothario Duncan. Surrounded by his ex-girlfriends, she wonders how love and marriage could work with a man who is a commitment-phobe. But after a tragic accident leaves her life permanently intertwined with his and the people to whom he is connected, Jane has to come to terms with wanting things she cannot have and discovering what really matters the most. Heiny’s characters are quirky, messy and flawed. She captures the essence of ordinary people and life in a way reminiscent of Anne Tyler. Early Morning Riser is a tale of friendships, of grief and of love. Full of wry observations it is funny, insightful and life affirming – just what is required right now
Sistersong by Lucy Holland (Hardback)
A retelling of an age-old myth and folk ballad, The Twa Sisters, this novel is set in the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia – where magic and folklore are threaded through the very bones of the kingdom. King Cador’s children will inherit a land abandoned by the Romans and torn into factions by warring tribes. Riva can cure others but can’t heal her own scars. Sinne dreams of love and yearns for adventure, and Kenye battles to be seen as the King’s son, despite being born a daughter. All three fear a life of confinement behind the walls of their stronghold, last bastion against the strength of the Saxon invaders. One day, ash falls from the sky, and with it comes Myrdhin, meddler, myth teller and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land to which they belong. Long dead magic is reawakened. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior, who will tear their lives apart. This lyrical and poetic novel is perfect for fans of Katherine Arden and Madeleine Miller.
Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal
Edmund de Waal published The Hare with the Amber Eyes to great acclaim, exploring his family’s history through the pieces of netsuke that survived the Second World War. In this new book he revisits Parisian Grand Society, with an examination of one of the other great belle epoque families of the time, the de Camondos, close associates of the Ehprussi family who were de Waal’s forebears. Like them, the de Camondos were Jewish, and targets of antisemitism.
On the Rue de Monceau, Paris, stands the Musee Nissim de Camondo. It has remained unchanged since 1936. Dedicated to Count Moise de Camondo’s eldest son, who died in the First World War, the house and its astonishing collection of 18th-century art was given to the French Government upon Moise de Camondo’s death. A model French citizen, a benefactor of the Arts, Moise didn’t live to see the great betrayal of the Second World War, when his surviving daughter and grandchildren were sent to Auschwitz. They did not survive.
Edmud De Waal tells the tale through a series of letters, elegant and charming, using objets and archives still kept at the Musee. This is an astonishing and poignant story of a family who were at the pinnacle of French society, yet who did not see the danger coming. Haunting.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders
Another nonfiction book just published: Booker Prize winner George Saunders is also a professor who teaches creative writing at Syracuse University. In this book, which echoes his teaching syllabus, he takes the reader through seven classic Russian short stories, all by esteemed writers – Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy and Gogol. He devotes a following essay to each, dissects and examines them, teasing out what readers feel about each tale, and what they can teach us. These tales are simple and moving, great examples of their genre. They challenge and console. Anyone interested in how fiction works and why will find the book fascinating, and it is a masterclass for would-be writers as well. And it would open up a number of avenues for discussion by bookclubs.
And also worth mentioning…
Brief mention must also be made of some of our favourite books which are coming out in paperback in April. These include Magpie Lane, by Lucy Atkins, a domestic noir thriller involving a middle-aged nanny and an entitled academic family. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell tells of the death of Shakespeare’s only son, from the viewpoint of Agnes Shakespeare. And, at the tail end of April, the paperback version of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light finally arrives.