November marks the last big publishing month of 2020, but these ten brilliant new books offer plenty of excellent reading to keep you entertained over the upcoming winter months. In the mix are big name releases from the likes of Costa-award winning writer Jonathan Coe and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis de Bernières. But there are also crime-based mysteries, journeys of self-discovery and even verses from Man Booker Prize winner, Margaret Atwood – her first foray into poetry in over a decade. Here, we round up the best books to read this month.
This standalone mystery sees 48-year-old retired Chicago police officer Cal Hooper move to the rural west of Ireland and into a crumbling house. But as he renovates his new home, he befriends local teen Trey, who reveals that his brother is missing – a fact no one seems to be bothered about. Cal is reluctantly drawn to the case, but he has no authority in Ireland where he is an outsider. Can he get to the bottom of the mystery of whether Brendan is a genuine runaway? Or is this community hiding a secret?
It’s 1977, and the young, naive Calista finds herself working for famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder on an idyllic Greek island. But Wilder’s star is on the wane, and when Calista accompanies him to Germany to shoot further scenes, she uncovers a dark past to his family history. The result is a revealing portrait into one of cinema’s most intriguing characters. Best-selling author Coe’s last novel, Middle England, won the Costa Prize, so expect good things from his latest offering.
£15.99 (Harvill Secker)
The tale of an extraordinary life in extraordinary times, this nostalgic read explores where or not it’s ever too late to change your story. Former RAF pilot and spy Daniel Pitt served in both the world wars, but right now, the conflict he faces is closer to home. Dealing with a broken marriage and sour relationship with his son, Bertie, Daniel travels to Peshawar to bury his recently deceased brother in the place he loved most. But is he spending too much time looking to the past instead of the future? And can Bertie and Daniel’s differing experiences of war actually bring them the opportunity to reconnect?
Master of the atmospheric novel, best-selling author Margaret Atwood returns to her poetic roots this month for the first time in over a decade. Dearly is a collection of moving poems encompassing some of Atwood’s most recognisable and well-loved themes, from absences and endings to ageing and retrospection, and gifts and renewals. But there’s also a lyrical, ethereal element to these poems too, so don’t be surprised to find werewolves, sirens, dreams and fragments of our damaged environment also making an appearance.
Like Sunday Times bestseller The Binding – Collins’ debut adult novel – this follow-up also takes place in a historical world that is not quite our own, where the same element of fantasy intermingles with the love story at play. Monteverre is an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains where pupils are trained in the grand jeu – an arcane and mysterious contest. Here Leo Martin was a student, until a violent tragedy drove him out. But now he’s returned to his alma mater and has found it very different – mainly because of the presence of a woman named Claire with whom he finds he has a special connection…
Having originally been slated for release in May, Carys Bray’s timely story about cultivating hope in the face of adversity now comes at just the right time. Global temperatures may well be rising, but the feelings in Emma and Chris’s marriage are definitely cooling. Anxious Chris is stockpiling medicine and food as he plans for disaster in the face of an oncoming climate emergency. Yet his wife Emma remains relentlessly optimistic. But whether they agree or not about the future, their marriage is unravelling – a situation neither of them have prepared for.
Described as ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry on a narrowboat’, this second novel from the author of Meet Me at the Museum is an ode to female friendship. Two strangers, both women of a certain age, find themselves adrift – Eve has recently retired from a career in engineering, Sally has left a long marriage. Both have agreed to sail a narrow boat via canal to Chester as a favour to its brusque owner, Anastasia, despite having never previously met. But as they travel, a friendship grows, as well as an understanding that it’s never too late to step outside your comfort zone and seek a new adventure.
£9.99 (Comma Press)
This debut from writer, filmmaker and poet Hassan Blasim follows the story of Hassan Owl, an Iraqi refugee who is struggling to establish himself as a writer in his new adoptive home of Finland. So he tries a different tack – interviewing 99 other individuals in order to capture the real stories behind Europe’s ‘refugee crisis’. Each of these people have had their lives disrupted by war, whether that’s giving up their role as a frontline Syrian doctor to work as a DJ in Berlin, to falling foul of radicalisation and forget the family that needs them which they left behind. As he uncovers these personal narratives, more of Owl’s own fascinating story is revealed.
An uplifting story about the exploration of belonging and finding home amidst lost connection. Jo, a butcher, has returned to live in the Forest of Dean where she grew up in order to save her family legacy. Meanwhile Tessa, a farrier, has also come back to take shelter here, fleeing a life filled with guilt over the secrets of her past. Circumstance compels the two women to live together and confront their sense of identity, as well as reassess their views on the true meaning of home. A moving novel for fans of Maggie O’Farrell.
£14.99 (Little, Brown)
Told in vignettes that alternate between the US and the Middle East, Zaina Arafat’s powerful debut is about a Palestinian-American girl longing for both love and a sense of home. Tracing her progress from blushing teen to creative yet confused woman, Arafat’s protagonist navigates queerness, love and reckless relationships, while trying to overcome both past trauma and present demons. Her story explores what happens when one woman is caught between her cultural, sexual and religious identities in a coming-of-age story that was hotly tipped in 2020 for good reason.