As the start of holiday season, July is always a bumper month for fiction – and this year it’s a particularly fine crop. Matt Haig is back with another wise and warm novel, Lisa Jewell continues to be one of the UK’s most intriguing writers, Neel Mukherjee cements his reputation as a writer of consummate skill and invention, while The Upstairs Room introduces a compelling new voice in Kate Murray-Browne.
We think all of these books are going to be big news this summer, so don’t forget to read and review. Talking of which, be sure to check out our recent Reader Spotlight post, which features UK blogger Leonie Byrne. Enjoy!
BOOK OF THE MONTH
How to Stop Time
Matt Haig has become one of the UK’s most beloved authors – and the author of Reasons to Stay Alive and The Humans has done it again with How to Stop Time.
Tom Hazard looks like a normal, forty-something teacher. But as he takes lessons on witch-hunts and wars, he can’t tell his pupils the real truth. He was there to witness it all. Owing to a strange condition, Tom has been alive for centuries, seeing everything from Elizabethan England to Jazz-age Paris. All he wants now is a quiet life. But his past is catching up with him – just as he’s doing the one thing he must never do: fall in love.
Clever, unusual and romantically charged, this is a superb novel of how we change and how we stay the same.
The Upstairs Room
The Upstairs Room is a remarkable debut of unsettling power, introducing a writer of rare skill and empathy. It is supposed to be their dream house: a four-bedroom Victorian terrace in East London. But that dream is slowly turning sour. Richard seems overly interested in their enigmatic lodger, Zoe, while Eleanor is perturbed by the chilling atmosphere of their new home – especially the strange upstairs room, where the previous owner, Emily, has written her name hundreds of times. This is a expertly crafted novel of domestic disharmony and secrets.
A State of Freedom
Chatto & Windus
Neel Mukherjee’s second novel, The Lives of Others, was shortlisted for the Man-Booker Prize 2014, and heralded the arrival of one of the most compelling, sharp and innovative writers in world literature. A State of Freedom is his remarkable follow-up, a deeply affecting, stunningly written novel of India in all its fractured forms. Following five characters as they negotiate the shifting cultural and emotional spaces of their situations, Mukherjee teases out a devastating portrait of people caught between the lives they have and the lives they desire for themselves.
Then She Was Gone
Lisa Jewell first made her name with the iconic rom-com Ralph’s Party – but her more recent books, especially the bestselling I Found You, have combined her unerring sense of character with far darker and disturbing plots. Then She Was Gone is perhaps her most chilling book to date, and is Lisa’s best book yet. Laurel’s daughter, Ellie, disappeared at the age of 15, and a decade later, Laurel is still coming to terms with the loss. Despite this there’s a new man in her life and things seem to be looking up. But then she meets his daughter. And she is the spitting image of Ellie…
Flight of a Starling
Paper Butterflies was one of the most popular Teen & YA titles uploaded to NetGalley in 2016, and Flight of a Starling is sure to be an even bigger hit with readers and reviewers. Sisters Rita and Lo have spent their lives in the air, taking their trapeze act from town to town as part of the family circus. Their life of freedom, and their close family, means they never want to stay anywhere for too long. Until Lo meets a boy, triggering a sequence of events that will rock their circus community….
Natasha Pulley’s The Watchmaker of Filigree Street was an internationally bestselling novel of magic and intrigue, and this new novel draws on the same captivating world. India, 1859, Merrick Tremayne is sent to Peru to find chinchona bark, the only cure for the malaria that is plaguing the country. There he discovers a legacy left by two generations of explorers before him, one that will prove more dangerous and valuable than the India Office could ever have imagined.
Already creating a huge amount of buzz online and on NetGalley, Sarah Franklin’s Shelter is set to become one of the year’s hottest debuts. It is the Second World War and Connie Granger has escaped her bombed-out home to become a ‘lumberjill’ in the Women’s Timber Corps. There she meets an Italian prisoner of war, Seppe; their relationship changing their lives for ever. Both must make a life-defining choice and try to discover their place in a world they hardly now recognise.
City of Saints & Thieves
Natalie C. Anderson
Rock the Boat
This unbearably tense thriller has earned comparisons with The Hunger Games and The Thief Lord, but the compelling and richly drawn setting of Kenya make City of Saints & Thieves stand out as a brilliantly accomplished work in its own right. In the shadows of Sangui City, street-thief Tina patiently plots her revenge on those she believes shot her mother. When an opportunity presents itself, she takes it with both hands. But things do not go quite as planned. And her desire to finally uncover the truth about why her mother was killed, will place her mortal danger…
Watling Street is a thought-provoking, vividly written and witty look at our island through the prism of just one road: one that runs from Dover to Anglesey. Watling Street (now built on as the A2, the A5 and the M6 Toll) is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Along this route Boudicca met her end, the Battle of Bosworth changed royal history, Bletchley Park code breakers cracked Nazi transmissions and Capability Brown remodelled the English landscape. A fascinating journey well worth taking.
Conn Iggulden’s first foray into the world of fantasy is as breath-taking and as visceral as you might imagine. In the city of Darien, twelve families rule in a time of uneasy peace. Just one act will bring chaos and disorder: a plot to kill a king. It’s an act of treachery that will summon strangers to the city – Elias Post, a hunter, Tellius, an old swordsman banished from his home, Arthur, a boy who cannot speak, Daw Threefold, a chancer and gambler, Vic Deeds, who feels no guilt – and Nancy, a girl whose talent might be the undoing of them all. Sparkling, immersive and utterly spell-binding.