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Three new novels to read in January
A fun and fast-paced debut, a gorgeous book about community and another evocative read from a bestselling writer all arrive this month.
With a new year always comes new brilliant books, but 2022 has more literary treats in store than I could have hoped. Jennifer Egan, Julian Barnes, Candice Carty-Williams, Nina Stibbe, Kamila Shamsie, David Sedaris, Jessie Burton and Anne Tyler ALL have books out in the next 12 months, so I know it’s going to be a good year for reading.
But first, I have to tell you about these three novels publishing this month. Between them, they made me cry, laugh, shiver and stay up late for just another page - as all good fiction should. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
Three great new books to read this month
A Terrible Kindness by Jo Browning Wroe
(Faber & Faber, out 20th January)
I was not emotionally prepared for this novel. Rooted in the real events of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, it opens with William, a newly qualified embalmer, rushing to the Welsh mining village as a volunteer, where he helps salvage the bodies of the children who were buried when their school was wiped out by the landslide. It’s a horrifying day that will stay with William for decades - as well as forcing him to face up to parts of his own past he’s buried.
Taking you on a journey through family relationships, loss, friendship, estrangement, romance and forgiveness, A Terrible Kindness is the kind of book you step into. I also haven’t rooted for characters (or a love story) like this in a long time. Please read it - it’s an astonishingly good book.
Read it if you like: books by Rachel Joyce or Maggie O’ Farrell.
Wahala by Nikki May
(Doubleday, out now)
Ronke, Simi and Boo are three London-based friends in their thirties, often found discussing careers, fashion, race, marriage and kids over a meal at their favourite Nigerian restaurant, Buka. But when an old friend from the past reappears, their lives start imploding - and the timing is probably not a coincidence.
With a BBC adaptation already in the works and a slogan billing the book ‘Sex and the City with a killer edge’, Wahala had a lot of hype to live up to, but I absolutely tore through it. I love books that blend genres and this one occupies a space between the female friendship novel and crime fiction unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s pacy, tense and wonderfully entertaining.
Read it if you like: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams or My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite.
Free Love by Tessa Hadley
(Vintage, out 20th January)
It’s 1967 and although the swinging sixties are still sweeping through the world outside, Phyllis lives a very ordinary, suburban life as a wife and mother. Until one sweaty summer night, that is, when she ends up kissing the 20-something son of a family friend in their garden, and her whole world is turned upside down.
A book about awakenings, desire and freedom, this is another evocative read from the bestselling author whose writing is always practically perfect. I loved it.
Read it if you like: books by Anne Tyler, William Boyd or Clare Chambers.
Last year I discovered the brilliant Bookswap, a service which lets you give away old books in exchange for new ones, and I thought now might be a good time to mention it in case any of your new year goals involve reading more while also a) clearing out overflowing shelves, b) saving money or c) being kinder to the planet.