10 New Books To Read This May
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
This sprawling novel tells the legend of Troy from an all-female perspective. It begins with a poet wishing to write an epic featuring the women of Troy and praying for inspiration to Calliope, the muse of poetry. Calliope may be wonderfully sardonic towards the poet, but she empathises entirely with the women whose stories she is encouraging him to write. She is determined that they will not be a mere footnote in history; they deserve to be heard and for their experiences to be chronicled. The fragmented story that follows is a deeply moving one. There is not one aspect of brutality or cruelty that has not been meted out to these women. In ancient Troy as in today’s world, the sacrifices of war are rarely isolated to the battlefield.
Cape May by Chip Cook
This debut novel from Chip Cook has been described as a blend of Mad Men and The Great Gatsby, with the highest praise comparing it to the work of James Salter. This comparison is the one that pervades when introduced to Henry and Effie, a newlywed couple honeymooning in Cape May in 1957. They find the tourist town is deserted as it is the end of the summer season. The early discoveries of their marriage, both emotional and sexual, are richly described by Cook. When a privileged socialite and her glamorous entourage turn up out of nowhere, Effie and Henry find themselves swept up in a drama that may irrevocably change their lives.
Comfort Zones: women writers tackling unfamiliar ground in aid of Women for Women International
This must-read collection of essays and stories is raising money for an exceptionally good cause, Women for Women International who work with at-risk women in countries affected by conflict and war. The writers featured have all chosen a topic that is uniquely challenging or new to them. The contributor list is fantastic: Olivia Sudjic writes about cats, quantum nanophysics and Cointreau in her very first short story, Funmi Fetto looks at her Nigerian background and how it has helped her to use her voice even when it feels uncomfortable, Pandora Sykes compiles a beautiful and inspiring reading list for her daughter, Sophie Mackintosh picks apart her lack of domesticity, Zing Tsjeng writes evocatively on the food of her childhood, to name but a few of the immensely talented contributors. A must-buy for a great cause.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
Don’t Touch My Hair opens with the following dedication: “In honour of all the black brilliance and beauty, squandered and diminished yet never extinguished.” Dabiri’s insightful and essential book argues the significance of black hair. Dabiri is an intelligent, passionate, and articulate academic and TV host. She brings the reader from pre-colonial Africa though to 20th century Harlem, right up to today’s Natural Hair Movement. She includes her own experiences growing up in Ireland and the chequered history she had with her own hair as a mixed-race woman. This is such an important book – one that educates and enlightens.
Salt Slow by Julia Armfield
Julia Armfield’s debut collection of short stories makes it clear why she won The White Review Short Story Prize in 2018. Her stories are unique, weird, unsettling, they bring you to places that you have never been and may never want to go to. Women’s bodies are described in such a refreshing way; they are powerful, strong and adaptable. Armfield explores and picks apart prescribed notions of what girls and women are capable of. The heroines of these stories can be predatory, dangerous, vindictive, and loving, caring and sweet. A wry and wickedly funny collection.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
A deeply poignant novel following the journey of a Syrian refugee couple, Nuri and Afra, as they are smuggled from their war-ravaged home to Europe. In their home city of Aleppo, Nuri had been a beekeeper, Afra an artist. Now that is all gone, and their lives are barely recognisable, loss permeates the pages of this novel, but what is remarkable is that hope does to. Many of the headlines we encounter daily add to the dehumanisation of Syrian refugees, it is fiction like The Beekeeper of Aleppo that can counter this, our empathy returns, and we are reminded that they are people, not statistics, not a ‘swarm’, to borrow the language of a former prime minister - they are people, just like you and I.
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
Iris is a young apprentice at a dollmakers shop in Victorian London. She longs to be an artist and a chance introduction to a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement brings about the opportunity to train as one. Flouting convention and ignoring her family’s disapproval, she courageously follows her dreams and begins modelling for a young artist, Louis. At the same time, Irish catches the eye of a strange and isolated taxidermist, Silas. He becomes obsessed with her every move and stalks her throughout the city. The pace of the novel picks up as we discover the extremes that a person will go to in order to get what they want most. An authentic and well-crafted historical novel.
The Farm by Joanna Ramos
Jane is an immigrant from the Philippines who dreams of making a better life for her daughter, Amalia. When the opportunity arises to earn a life-changing sum of money, Jane jumps at the chance. All she must do is check into the luxurious Golden Oaks for the next 9 months. Everything is done for her here, she is looked after and monitored 24/7. She has one job to do before the money is hers - to give birth to a child for someone else. A deeply disturbing take on the American Dream.
The Furies by Katie Lowe
This debut novel will definitely remind you of the cult 90s film The Craft with its focus on obsession, narcissism, and witchcraft. After a family tragedy, Violet finds herself enrolled at the prestigious Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girls boarding school. The school comes with a dark past thanks to its historic links with some 17th century witch trials. Violet joins an advanced study group led by a charismatic art teacher, Annabel. Mythology becomes the focus of their group but soon the girls have a new obsession – witchcraft. This wonderfully evoked novel will completely draw you in as the girl’s obsession becomes darker and more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.
The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
This ambitious novel from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a reimagining of the old legend of Antiochus, whose incestuously in love with his own daughter. Shakespeare used this legend as inspiration for his play Pericles. Haddon’s own contemporary take begins with a plane crash. Maja, the pregnant wife of Phillipe is killed, but their daughter Angelica survives. As Angelica grows, Philippe’s love for her becomes warped and obsessive. A young man called Darius visits Philippe on a business trip, Darius senses the situation and decides to rescue Angelica. And just like any good legend, nothing goes to plan.
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