Whether you’re making the most of those long-awaited air bridges for your summer holidays or you’re planning a Great British staycation, there are plenty of exciting new literary releases for you to pack as August proves to be a particularly prolific month for fiction. But even if you’re just staying put this summer, you’ll still feel transported thanks to the abundance of tales set in exotic locations emerging this month. Here, we’ve rounded up the very best new books to read right now.
Glasgow-born Goldie was long-listed for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction for her debut, Nightingale Point. Her new book, Homecoming, moves between London and Kenya, via a narrative spanning two decades. Kiama has grown up in the capital without a mother, and is desperate to fill in the gaps in his knowledge of her. But while his father Lewis adores him, he isn’t sure he’s ready to let the only woman he’s ever loved back into his life. Convinced that Kenya holds the answer to his questions, Kiama asks family friend Yvonne to accompany him, who feels unable to refuse. But this journey sets into a motion an unravelling of the past that neither of them are prepared for.
£12.99 (Fourth Estate)
In a beautiful apartment in Paris, the young and affluent Marie and Laurent are trying for a baby. But within a couple of years, their dream life is shattered as Marie poisons dinner, killing herself, her husband and their young son. This Little Family looks at how an act of violence can cause irreparable damage to mental health, and examines the disturbing truths surrounding how society sees women, as well as how women see themselves. At times brutal, this unflinching debut novel about rape, sexism and post-partum psychosis is perfect for fans of Leila Slimani’s international bestseller, Lullaby.
£16.99 (Hamish Hamilton)
There’s something rather unsettling about reading a novel set in real-time, especially when the subject matter can feel stranger than fiction. It is exactly this feeling that makes Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet so powerful, offering up its raw political insight into Brexit Britain today. Encompassing all the major news stories from 2020, from Australian wildfires to “cancel culture” and the tragic murder of George Floyd, Summer is set during the Covid-19 lockdown and examines life when the world is in meltdown and people are living on the brink of seismic social change. Rest assured, Summer brings Smith’s literary tour de force to a satisfying close.
£12.99 (Granta Books)
Feeling out of place in modern Britain, former librarian Hilary Byrd escapes to Ooty, a former colonial hill station in South India, where he takes refuge in life’s simple pleasures. Here he is offered shelter at the Mission House, where the local Presbyterian Padre lives with his adopted daughter, Priscilla. But against the backdrop of rising Indian nationalism and religious tensions, The Mission House may not be as safe as it seems. This beautifully poignant story explores post-colonial ideas in a world divided by old and new ways, by faith and non-belief, and by imperial past and nationalistic present.
£14.99 (Dialogue Books)
Set in Toronto’s Little Jamaica, this coming of age story sees Kara Davis try to balance being a “true” Jamaican to please her mother and grandmother, with attempting to fit in with her Canadian friends as she move from elementary to high school. Weaving together 12 interconnected stories, this shrewdly-written debut was longlisted for Canada’s prestigious Giller Prize – the country’s equivalent of the Booker Prize – and it’s easy to see why. Tackling issues of race, identity and class, Frying Plantain offers an insightful look at life as a young Black woman in Toronto today, as well as the diasporic Caribbean experience.
£8.99 (No Exit Press)
Poet and author Michael Crummey is something of a literary star in his native Canada, where his works have been shortlisted for multiple awards over the years. His new novel, already a national bestseller across the pond, is no exception. Set against the unforgiving backdrop of 18th century Newfoundland, siblings Evered and Ada are forced to survive in a remote cove after their parents and sister succumb to a fatal illness. A tale of survival that morphs into a psychological thriller, this novel is at times harrowing yet extraordinary throughout.
£12.99 (Faber & Faber)
In southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her door to find her son’s body on her doorstep, wrapped in a colourful shroud. From this moment, the novel moves backward through time to uncover the mystery surrounding Vivek’s death, as well as revealing the story of his former life. Because Vivek has a secret – he identifies as a girl, creating a psychological strain that causes him to frequently blackout and pushes him to crisis point. The end result is a dramatic story of loss and the devastating impact that transphobia and homophobia can have. An important read for our times.
It’s rare that you find a novel with such a powerful, creeping sense of dread as Moss creates in Summerwater. But this book, which takes place over the course of a single day and night in a rainy Scottish campsite, is a masterpiece in suspense. The inhabitants of the campsite’s six tatty cabins are stuck indoors due to the bad weather, with not much to do except watch the other residents. Each cabin holds a family completely different in age, class and political views, but one family – a mother and daughter – are “wrong”. This is a carefully crafted tale about the tragic price of ignorance.
£12.99 (Bloomsbury Circus)
Crossan has been a powerhouse in the world of Young Adult fiction for some time now, but this is her first novel for adults. Written in her trademark free verse, Here is the Beehive tells the story of the illicit three-year love affair between Ana and Connor, who are both married to other people. Opening with the aftermath of Ana learning of Connor’s death, this compelling book explores what happens when two intertwined marriages unravel and the reality of being forced to grieve in secret. Poetic and powerful, expect an elegantly eviscerating take on marriage in a brilliant, original form.
Strange and beguiling, this two-part novel set in contemporary Tokyo paints a radical portrait of womanhood and class in Japan today. Part One sees Makiko travel from Osaka to Tokyo for a breast enhancement consultation, where she stays with her sister Natsuko. With her, she brings her adolescent daughter Midoriko, who refuses to speak to her mother and only communicates with her through writing. In Part Two, 10 years later, Natsuko is debating whether to have a child herself. Author Kawakami is already a star in her native Japan, but this book will see her published in English for the first time, and she is hotly tipped to become a big name on the global literary scene.
This fourth novel from the Irish author is set in rural Tipperary, where in 1973 20-year-old Moll Gladney takes the morning bus and disappears. In her wake, she leaves behind her elderly, grief-stricken parents Paddy and Kit, who try to come to terms with the fact that they may never see their daughter again. Yet five years later, Moll reappears out of the blue, and together the family must knit back together the fragments of their broken lives. This beautiful, lyrical novel offers plenty of suspense as it slowly reveals why Moll left, yet the real message at play here is the redemptive power of love.
£12.99 (Hamish Hamilton)
There are distinct echoes of The Handmaid’s Tale in this dystopian novel set in a world where all women must enter a lottery to determine their identity. On the day of their first bleed, women are required to report to the station and take a ticket – a white one grants them children, a blue one grants them freedom. Once the ticket has been chosen, there’s no going back – her life has been decided for her. But what if that life is the wrong one? The Water Cure, Mackintosh’s extraordinary feminist revenge fantasy debut, was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, so it’s safe to expect another chilling, dreamlike and exceptional read from the author.