Ask the book buyer: Books to inspire
Look after your intellectual well-being with these three newly-published novels that will stimulate and add quality to your year, says Jarrold book buyer Chris Rushby.
In a previous edit we looked at books to inspire you to get fit and healthy in 2018. On that basis we’re going to assume your physical care is in hand and this time look to your intellectual wellbeing by suggesting three newly-published novels that will stimulate and add quality to your year. They’re all just out in hardback and I know most book clubs wait for the paperback to arrive – but keep them in mind when that happens, as they’re all books likely to repay discussion and debate, I think.
Three Things About Elsie
Joanna Cannon’s first novel, The Trouble With Goats And Sheep, was a best-seller in 2016. When your first book is such a success there’s always a concern that the follow-up may not hit those heights. This new novel, though, completely allays the concern as Cannon again does charming, quirky, bittersweet things with her fiction in a hugely assured way, this time with a book set largely in an old people’s home and in some ways reminiscent of Emma Healey’s wonderful Elizabeth Is Missing. There’s a humanity and compassion to Cannon’s writing I and many other readers find affecting and I’m delighted she’s through the oh-so-difficult second novel barrier.
The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock
Imogen Hermes Gowar
Sometimes it seems the UEA’s school of creative writing is almost solely responsible for the best and brightest writing talent. Imogen Hermes Gowar is certainly one of the most recent examples of UEA alumni producing fine first novels. The Mermaid And Mrs Hancock is set in a brilliantly evoked eighteenth century London and the author does period feel particularly well – think Sarah Perry’s Essex Serpent, perhaps, for a similarly evocative period feel. This is a book about mermaids and merchants, love and class, sparkling with wit and humour. I’m not the first person to tip the author as a literary star in the making, but she’s definitely someone who, on the strength of this first book, is likely to produce wonderful fiction in the coming years.
The Only Story
Julian Barnes is one of those fine British writers of a certain vintage who – like some of his contemporaries, including Rose Tremain, Ian McEwan, William Boyd and Martin Amis – continues to publish fascinating and moving novels decade after decade. On one level this is a fairly straightforward story: younger man falls in love with older woman; that’s about it. But that prosaic statement doesn’t begin to do justice to the layers of complexity, ambiguity and wisdom contained in the pages of this book. Let me quote the narrator’s opening lines and you’ll know instantly, having read them, whether this book is for you. For me, the rhythms and cadences of these lines are completely beguiling.