Is it just us, or are there a serious amount of amazing books out right now? Our 'To Be Read' lists are overflowing with amazing recommendations and prizewinners – especially with the Women's Prize long list having been released during the week. It's hard to keep track of all the incredible stories out there that we want to get our hands on, so we said we'd make up a handy list of new releases and upcoming ones for you to check out and add to your reading list!
'The Art of Falling' by Danielle McLaughlin (John Murray)
Nessa McCormack’s marriage is coming back together again after her husband’s affair. She is excited to be in charge of a retrospective art exhibit for one of Ireland’s most beloved and enigmatic artists, the late sculptor Robert Locke. But the arrival of two outsiders imperils both her personal and professional worlds: a chance encounter with an old friend threatens to expose a betrayal Nessa thought she had long put behind her, and at work, an odd woman comes forward claiming to be the true creator of Robert Locke’s most famous work, The Chalk Sculpture.
As Nessa finds the past intruding on the present, she must decide whether she can continue to live a lie – or whether she’s ready to face the consequences once everything is out in the open. In this gripping debut, Danielle McLaughlin reveals profound truths about love, power, and the secrets that rule us. Buy here.
'Plain Bad Heroines' by Emily M. Danforth (Borough Press)
In the early 1900’s, Brookhants students Flo and Clara fell madly in love, brought together by their obsession for a scandalous memoir.
A few months later they were found dead in the woods, after a horrific wasp attack, the book lying next to their intertwined bodies.
Three more grisly deaths followed before the school was forced to close.
Now, the school’s doors are open once more. But as the crew of glamorous young actresses assemble to start filming, past and present begin to blur. And soon it’s impossible to tell quite where the curse ends and Hollywood begins…
'Madam' by Phoebe Wynne (Quercus)
For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.
Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.
But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late. Buy here.
'The Rose Code' by Kate Quinn (Harper Collins) (Out March 18th)
1940, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.
Three very different women are recruited to the mysterious Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.
Vivacious debutante Osla has the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, working to translate decoded enemy secrets. Self-made Mab masters the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and the poverty of her East-End London upbringing. And shy local girl Beth is the outsider who trains as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts.
Seven years after they first meet, on the eve of the royal wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, disaster threatens. Osla, Mab and Beth are estranged, their friendship torn apart by secrets and betrayal. Yet now they must race against the clock to crack one final code together, before it’s too late, for them and for their country.
'The Prophets' by Robert Jones Jr (Hachette)
Tipped to be one of the biggest books of the year, this un-put-downable read is totally gripping.
The Halifax plantation is known as Empty by the slaves who work it under the pitiless gaze of its overseers and its owner, Massa Paul. Two young enslaved men, Samuel and Isaiah dwell among the animals they keep in the barn, helping out in the fields when their day is done. But the barn is their haven, a space of radiance and love – away from the blistering sun and the cruelty of the toubabs – where they can be alone together.
But, Amos – a fellow slave – has begun to direct suspicion towards the two men and their refusal to bend. Their flickering glances, unspoken words and wilful intention, revealing a truth that threatens to rock the stability of the plantation. And preaching the words of Massa Paul’s gospel, he betrays them. Buy here.
'An Inconvenient Woman' by Stephanie Buelens (Quercus)
She says he is a killer. He says she is delusional. Somebody is lying.
When Claire Fontaine learns that her ex-husband Simon is marrying again, to a woman with a teenage daughter, her blood runs cold. She is sure that years ago Simon molested her own daughter and was responsible for her mysterious death. She can’t let him get away with it a second time. Vandalism, harassment; whatever it takes, Claire will expose him.
Simon doesn’t know where Claire got this delusion from; her daughter’s death was ruled a suicide, but she has always blamed herself – is she just lashing out? Wanting to protect his new fiancée, he hires Sloane Wilson, an ex-cop turned ‘sin-eater’, whose job it is to handle delicate cases without getting the police involved, to get Claire off his back.
Sloane must navigate the wreckage of Claire and Simon’s marriage to discover the truth. Two people with conflicting stories and a whole lot of reasons to want to hurt each other. Is she crazy or is he manipulative? And can Sloane stay clear-headed enough to figure it out?
'Everything is Beautiful' by Eleanor Ray (Hachette)
When Amy Ashton’s world fell apart eleven years ago, she started a collection.
Just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.
Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves – soon there’ll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery, and Amy’s carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she’d lost still be hers for the taking?
Perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant and The Keeper of Lost Things, this exquisitely told, uplifting novel shows us that however hopeless things might feel, beauty can be found in the most unexpected of places. Buy here.
'Unsettled Ground' by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree) (Out March 25th)
Twins Jeanie and Julius have always known they are different. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation. The cottage they have rented for their whole lives is simultaneously their armour and their provider. Inside its walls they make music, in its garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need to survive. To an outsider it looks like poverty but, to them, it is home.
But when Dot dies unexpectedly, the twins are exposed to a truth that has far-reaching repercussions, and as members of the local community start to make things difficult for the twins, Jeanie wonders how they will cope in a world which can be cruel and unyielding.
A portrait of rural poverty in the 21st Century, Unsettled Ground forces readers to see beyond the unsavoury, the unconventional, the ‘other’ and to recognise the thing that unites us all: the beating heart beneath. This is a story of resilience and hope, of homelessness and hardship, of love and survival, in which two marginalized but remarkable people take centre stage.
'A Quarter Glass of Milk' by Moire O'Sullivan (The O'Brien Press)
When Moire O’Sullivan’s husband, Pete, took his own life, she was left with a stark choice: to weep forever over the glass of milk that had just spilt or get on with the quarter that was still remaining.
As Moire charts the first harrowing year after Pete’s death – the shock, the loneliness and the difficulties of single parenting two young children – she also experiences glimpses of hope and acceptance as she trains to become a mountain leader. The people she meets through the mountains, as well as the peace and wild beauty of the Mournes, help Moire discover her inner strength and prove she is not alone in her struggles.
A year on from Pete’s death, Moire takes on a circuit of the Mournes: a winter run that reflects the dark struggles her husband went through, but which also shows the power of nature, and the healing support of community.
'Love Letters of Kings and Queens' by Daniel Smith (Hachette)
From Henry VIII’s lovelorn notes to Anne Boleyn and George IV’s impassioned notes to his secret wife, to Queen Victoria’s tender letters to Prince Albert and Edward VIII’s extraordinary correspondence with Wallis Simpson – these letters depict romantic love from its budding passion to the comfort and understanding of a long union (and occasionally beyond to resentment and recrimination), all set against the background of great affairs of state, wars and the strictures of royal duty.
Here is a chance to glimpse behind the pomp and ceremony, the carefully curated images of royal splendour and decorum, to see the passions, hopes, jealousies and loneliness of kings and queens throughout history. By turns tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations, whose actions (and passions) changed the course of history, for good and bad. Buy here.
'Detransition Baby' by Torrey Peters (One World)
Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.
Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames's boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby—and that she's not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?
This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can't reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel
'The Walking People' by Mary Beth Keane (Penguin)
1960s Rural Ireland. Greta Cahill must abandon her deserted village to follow her fearless sister Johanna on a ship bound for New York.
It's here that she steps out of her sister's shadow and into a life of her own, rich with love, work and family. As the years pass, Greta longs to revisit the past – to see her mother, to show her what she has made of herself.
But she must protect a family secret, decades old.
So when her children conspire to unite the worlds she's kept so carefully apart, Greta fears she could lose it all…
'The Self Love habit' by Fiona Brennan (Gill Books)
Love is the antidote to fear. Love is life itself. However, many of us find it easy to love others but do not know how to love ourselves.
Do you struggle with the seemingly ‘difficult’ parts of yourself that lurk in the shadows, often hidden from the world – frustration, anxiety, self-doubt, anger? The Self-Love Habit is about learning to bring these parts of yourself out from the darkness and into the light. By loving and paying attention to the rejected aspects of ourselves, we give ourselves the power to transform in ways we never thought possible.
Fiona Brennan’s four powerful self-love habits – Listen, Open, Value, Energise – will teach you how to do this. When you truly love yourself, your whole world opens to serenity and your self-imposed limitations fall away. You no longer feel the background hum of anxiety and your mind becomes clear.
The accompanying hypnotherapy audios will rewire your brain as you sleep and help you to start the day full of loving energy by changing the negative, unconscious habit of living through fear into the positive, conscious habit of living through love.
'No One is Talking About This' by Patricia Lockwood (Hachette)
As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms "the portal," where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats–from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness–begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal's void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. "Are we in hell?" the people of the portal ask themselves. "Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?"
Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: "Something has gone wrong," and "How soon can you get here?" As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.
Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.
'Mirrorland' by Carole Johnstone (Borough Press) (Out 1st April)
No. 36 Westeryk Road: an imposing flat-stone house on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A place of curving shadows and crumbling grandeur. But it’s what lies under the house that is extraordinary – Mirrorland. A vivid make-believe world that twin sisters Cat and El created as children. A place of escape, but from what?
Now in her thirties, Cat has turned her back on her past. But when she receives news that one sunny morning, El left harbour in her sailboat and never came back, she is forced to return to Westeryk Road; to re-enter a forgotten world of lies, betrayal and danger.
Because El had a plan. She’s left behind a treasure hunt that will unearth long-buried secrets. And to discover the truth, Cat must first confront the reality of her childhood – a childhood that wasn’t nearly as idyllic as she remembers…
'Make Yourself at Home' by Ciara Geraghty (Harper Collins)
When Marianne’s carefully constructed life and marriage fall apart, she is forced to return to Ancaire, the ramshackle seaside house perched high on a cliff by the Irish Sea. There she must rebuild her relationship with her mother, Rita, a flamboyant artist and recovering alcoholic who lives by her own rules.
Marianne left home when she was fifteen following a traumatic and tragic incident. She never planned to return, and now she has to face the fact that some plans don’t work out the way you wanted them to. But she might just discover that, sometimes, you have to come to terms with the story of your past before you can work out the shape of the future…
'The Vanishing Half' by Brit Bennett (Hachette)
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.