1. The Land Of Lost Things by John Connolly is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton
Nearly two decades after enchanting a generation of readers with The Book Of Lost Things, Irish writer John Connolly is revisiting his richly dark fairyland. In this update for 2023, a mother is sucked into a terrifying world as her comatose young daughter’s life hangs in the balance. Time here is twistier than the gnarly old trees and roots in the forests of our nightmares. Connolly manages to give a subtle nod to the post-pandemic era while reaching out and embracing modern readers from beyond the page. If fairy stories help people confront and come to terms with universal themes of love, loss, grief and fear, then this is a timely and comforting sequel. But as all lifelong travellers will know, returning to a beloved place in time and space after many years away can be a subjective experience. Book lovers and fans of John Connolly will not be disappointed by this remarkable standalone novel.
2. Holly by Stephen King is published in hardback by Hodder & Stoughton
Holly Gibney is a tough yet compassionate private detective that was first introduced to readers in Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes. This novel is set during Covid and explores a difficult period in Holly’s life – the death of her mother, her partner’s illness, and her attempt to take time away from her detective agency. Penny Dahl’s plea to find her missing daughter resonates with Holly and she feels compelled to investigate Bonnie’s disappearance and to solve the gruesome truth behind multiple disappearances. She uncovers that married octogenarians, the epitome of Midwestern respectability, are harbouring a terrible secret. As she starts to unravel their abhorrent intentions, she summons her talents to beat and defeat the deviant pair. This book explores themes that many people might find unsettling. It’s a twisty tale that engages the reader from the first page and keeps you enthralled through the wonderfully human character of Holly.
3. The Fraud by Zadie Smith is published in hardback by Hamish Hamilton
A new Zadie Smith novel is always a big literary event – The Fraud even more so, as it’s the author’s first foray into historical fiction. Like previous novels White Teeth and Swing Time, it’s set in northwest London – but in the 1800s. It follows Mrs Touchet, widowed cousin to famed – but struggling – author William Ainsworth. A court case of a working class man pretending to be a noble person is currently gripping the country, and through it we discover the story of Andrew Bogle, a Jamaican who works as the ‘nobleman’s’ page. It’s a fascinating look at England’s role in the slave trade – an inconvenient truth too often ignored in historical fiction – but ultimately it’s hard to care much about Mrs Touchet’s story. Bogle is far more interesting and compelling a character, yet Mrs Touchet is the majority of tale. Zadie Smith’s signature wit and skill at portraying relationships is there – but she seems somewhat hampered by the historical genre.
4. The Magic Border by Arlo Parks is published in hardback by Fourth Estate
Music lyrics are essentially poetry come to life – and now having conquered the airwaves, with a Mercury Prize win under her belt, singer Arlo Parks is publishing her first book of poetry. The poems are short and deal with different things – some are dedicated to specific friends or lovers (past and present), while others tackle themes such as love, pain and self-worth. They read more like songs than traditional poetry – often with repeated lines reminiscent of a chorus – so you can’t help but wish they were instead accompanied by Parks’ silken voice. Sometimes overly laden with metaphor and evocative imagery, the most powerful poems are those which unveil the author’s inner life, with less of the bells and whistles.
Children’s book of the week
5. Mama’s Sleeping Scarf by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, illustrated by Joelle Avelino, is published in hardback by HarperCollinsChildren’s Books
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s debut children’s book Mama’s Sleeping Scarf is a warm tribute to her daughter, as well as her parents Grace and James, who she lost recently. It’s why the bestselling author of novels Americanah and Half Of A Yellow Sun, wrote it as ‘Nwa Grace James’, which means ‘daughter of Grace and James’ in her native Nigerian language, Igbo. The book follows a young girl called Chino who spends the day playing with the scarf her mother wears to bed over her hair, as well as a stuffed bunny. It shows how impactful a mother-daughter relationship can be and why it really does take a village to raise a child. Illustrations by Joelle Avelino help to bring to life the simple yet powerful message, which encourages every child and parent to keep their imagination alive.