Love, magic and reimaginings of famous myths are all on offer in April’s new fiction books, and the arrival of warmer weather means there’s never been a better time to find an engrossing new read to enjoy in your garden or the local park. From Morgan Jenkins’ debut novel about Harlem healers, to Jennifer Sant’s highly anticipated retelling of the story of Ariadne, Theseus and the Minatour, April’s new novels are brimming with mystical escapism and moving portrayals of complex relationships. Here, we’ve rounded up the most promising new fiction books to order now.
Faber & Faber (£14.99)
Told over the course of just one day, this magical realist tale of love, addiction and the one that got away is a beautiful meditation on relationships. Set on the imagined Caribbean archipelago called Popisho, the story focuses on two star-crossed lovers who try to find their way back to each other over 24 hours. Meanwhile, the other residents of the island have their own objectives for the day, including preparing a wedding feast to prepare and investigating an infidelity.
Playful and imaginative, Leone Ross manages to weave into this tale of love an exploration of post-colonial politics, tying together a romantic story with an atmospheric depiction of island life. With quirky characters and enchanting language, it’s a daring and incisive read.
Headline Publishing Group (£12.99)
Following a number of successful reimaginings of Greek myths including Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls and Madeline Miller’s Circe, Jennifer Sant enters her own contribution with her retelling of the story of Ariadne, Theseus and the Minatour. The story opens with the Princesses of Crete, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra, in their father King Minos’ palace, haunted by the cries of the Minatour in the labyrinth below. When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete to be offered as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne finds herself falling in love and faces the prospect of betraying her family and country.
A powerful and gripping new look at one of the most famous myths from the female perspective, Sant’s debut novel tracks Ariadne’s struggle to decide whether, in a world where women are only considered the pawns of men, she is willing to betray her people for her own happiness.
Swift Press (£14.99)
An eerily timely look at a family’s response to catastrophe, Jessie Greengrass’ follow-up to the highly acclaimed Sight is a brief but prosaic imagining of the close bonds that can develop in ominous circumstances. At the centre is Francesca, a scientist who can see the slow-moving catastrophe approaching and decides to prepare. She returns to the high house, her holiday home which she decides to turn into an ark, taking with her her son Pauly and stepdaughter Caro, to prepare for disaster.
Preparations are gradual, as we follow the small unit gathering and storing seeds, preparing the generator and watching the weather for signs of change. As time rolls by, the family’s previously tenuous bonds are reexamined and put under a microscope. It’s a moving examination of a family facing the unthinkable, and who we’d choose to save when crisis hits.
Barbara Erksine transports readers to the Saxon period, where a story of forbidden love unfolds in the halls of King Offa’s Mercia. Driven by unfeeling ambition, King Offa has arranged the marriage of his youngest daughter Eadburh, but she is in love with a young Welsh prince, a man she can never be with. When he is taken from her, Eadburh’s ruthless spirit reveals itself, and her determination to make her own way risks drawing her people into a terrible war.
Meanwhile, in 2021, Bea Dalloway is helping Simon Armstrong who had retreated to a remote Welsh cottage to find peace, only to be struck with visions and haunting noises. When Bea begins to hear and see the same chilling images, both must find the ability to resist the mystical voices telling them to finally give the past the revenge it desires.
Simon & Schuster (£12.99)
The You psychological thriller series gets its latest addition with the new installment, You Love Me. Stalker and protagonist Joe Goldberg is back, this time in a new town, determined to start a family and a new life. But, as can only happen to Joe, the woman that catches his eye already has a life — including her own family. Told from Joe’s chilling, creepy perspective, he begins a mission to prove to Mary Kay DiMarco that she is meant to be with him.
Following its successful Netflix adaptation, the You series has become a verified hit, and the latest installment promises to be just as addictive. Disturbing from the very beginning, Caroline Kepnes makes it clear that while Joe may be in a new environment, he’s certainly not a new man.
The award-winning author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things returns with a chilling tale of an Antarctic research expedition gone wrong. Back home, the families are left to deal with the consequences but little explanation of what happened out in the snow. The only survivor, Robert ‘Doc’ Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, is the only one who holds the answers, but the accident has left him unable to communicate.
Focused on Robert’s struggle to come to terms with his inability to share his story, and his wife Anna’s navigating life as a carer, Jon McGregor’s moving and mesmerizing depiction of a survivor’s return also explores the notion of heroism, sacrifice and the importance of storytelling.
A complex and layered story of family connections, tradition and Black identity, Caul Baby is acclaimed writer Morgan Jerkins’ fiction debut. Spread over multiple generations, the story is centred around the Melancons, an old and powerful Harlem family with healing powers derived from their caul, a precious layer of skin full of magic. When Amara, an ambitious college student, gives birth to a child with a caul, the Melancons take the child as their own, as the matriarch, Maman, believes her powers will restore the family to its former glory.
Named Hallow, the child proves to be as special as Maman predicted. But as she grows up, the gifted Hallow begins to question where she belongs, and if the people who call themselves her family can be trusted. When she and Amara cross paths, Hallow must decide once and for all where she truly belongs. Full of dark twists and turns and plenty of intrigue, Caul Baby weaves together magic and real world questions to brilliant effect.
Granta Books (£12.99)
An ambitious examination of mother-daughter relationships, My Phantoms focuses on the complex and strained ties between Helen and her daughter Bridget. Even as a child, Bridget didn’t understand Helen, an extroverted, twice-divorced mother of two with few friends and countless toxic romantic liaisons. Now in her forties, Bridget keeps her mother at a distance, careful to not let her disrupt her perfectly constructed life as an academic. But when Helen makes it clear that she wants more, both women must look back on their relationship and long-buried hurt.
Subtly moving between humour and heartbreak, My Phantoms takes on the mammoth task of unpacking a tumultuous relationship between mother and daughter, opening a pandora’s box of betrayal, deception and cruelty felt on both sides.
Quercus Publishing (£14.99)
Written as an oral history of an imagined punk band, Dawnie Walton’s debut novel is a sharp depiction of Opal, a Black female punk rock singer in early 1970s New York determined to speak truth to power. Opal believes she’s meant to be a star, and when aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles suggests they work together to create groundbreaking punk music, she thinks she’s finally on her path to fame.
But just as she’s beginning to hit her stride, a rival band that’s also signed to her label displays a Confederate flag at a concert. When Opal decides to protest, a chain of events is set off that go far beyond her control, and prove the harsh repercussions that Black women face for going up against those in control. These consequences are what Opal reflects on in this imagined conversation taking place decades later with a music journalist, S. Sunny Shelton, as she sits on the precipice of deciding what exactly her legacy will be.
Those looking for a warm and funny tale about love are sure to be satisfied by Morning Riser. Jane is deeply in love with her husband Duncan, but she can’t help but feel uneasy about his exes — before they were together, Duncan had slept with nearly everyone in their Michigan town. Not only that, but he is still close with his ex-wife Aggie, who will frequently call on him to help her with any issue.
But when Duncan is involved in a devastating accident, Jane must reassess her priorities and find a way to make room in hers and Duncan’s life for those who love him and want to help both of them navigate their new normal. A tender and bittersweet look at family and the messiness of modern love, Morning Riser is a charming look at one household turning tragedy into an opportunity for a fresh start.
Another historical fiction entry for April, Cunning Women takes place in 17th century England during the Pendle Witch Trials, examining the wide-reaching effect of the persecution that saw women across the country scrutinised even more closely for signs of maleficence. At the centre of the story is the Haworth family, who live in an abandoned hamlet outside a small Lancashire village, simultaneously feared and needed by the locals who turn to them for their powerful healing powers. But when a number of villagers begin to suffer strange deaths, a magistrate arrives to investigate, and his attention quickly turns to the mysterious family.
Most at risk is the family daughter, Sarah, who is known to have a wild and untamable spirit — which is exactly what drew the villager Daniel to her. The two must hide their love, and hide Sarah from the sights of the magistrate who is determined to find a witch responsible for the tragedies.