March officially welcomes the start of spring, as well as a host of exciting new fiction books. A number of acclaimed authors are making their long-awaited returns, with Kazuo Ishiguro drawing particular buzz for the release of Klara and the Sun, his first novel since he won the Nobel prize for literature in 2017. But there are also plenty of exciting debuts, from Thomas Grattan’s family saga set in post-Berlin Wall Germany, to Megan Nolan’s startling depiction of a toxic relationship gone awry. Here, we’ve rounded up our pick of the new fiction books to add to your bookshelf this month.
Faber & Faber (£20)
The Nobel prize-winning author returns with his highly anticipated new novel, his first in six years. As with his acclaimed novels Never Let Me Go and The Remains of the Day, Ishiguro’s latest work is concerned with matters of the heart, but this time, the story is told through the eyes of an AI robot.
Klara is an Artificial Friend who has superhuman observational skills, and as she watches visitors and passersby from her place in a shop, she tries to determine what will convince a customer to choose her. Ishiguro’s new release promises to be a haunting tale of love, connection, and the implications of AI for human relationships.
Little, Brown Book Group (£18.99)
The author who’s been heralded as one of America’s most exciting contemporary writers returns with his long awaited sequel to The Sympathizer. Following the same, nameless protagonist as in the previous work, The Committed sees the North Vietnamese hero arrive in Paris as a refugee, desperate to escape his past and carve out a new future for himself.
Drawn into the seductiveness of Paris, the protagonist turns to drug dealing to make his way, and as he begins to socialise with a group of left-wing intellectuals and politicians, he finds a customer base that sets him up with a thriving business. Part thriller, part satirical observation, The Committed unpacks the complex consequences of his new life, the dark forces of capitalist power and the struggle for redemption.
Hodder & Stoughton (£14.99)
From the award-winning, Man Booker Prize shortlisted author Fiona Mozley comes this steamy second novel that perfectly captures the bustling, rowdy nighttime streets of London’s Soho. Although set in contemporary London, Hot Stew has a Dickensian feel, as we follow the inhabitants of a Soho brothel in their fight to stop a property developer from kicking them out of their townhouse.
Tracing familiar Soho spots from Dean Street to L’Escargot, this vivid picture of Soho life captures the core conflicts in the neighbourhood, between gentrification and history, licentiousness and tourist-friendly virtuousness. Peering into the lives of all the townhouse’s residents and visitors, this bold novel is a confident and engrossing read.
Penguin Books (£12.99)
The second novel from the award-winning author of Homegoing details the harrowing, troubled experience of a Ghanian family that immigrated to the American South. At the centre of the story is Gifty, who as a child relied on mythical tales of heroism to make sense of the family’s move to Alabama, and as an adult is struggling to unpack the trauma of her brother and father’s deaths.
Rejecting her childhood love of myths, Gifty pursues a career in science, prompted in part by a desire to understand the opioid addiction that claimed her brother’s life. But during a visit from her mother, Gifty begins to realise that the truth of her family’s experience in America was far darker and more complex than she could have imagined. Beautifully written and never overly sentimental, Transcendent Kingdom offers a powerful and moving depiction of the immigrant experience in America.
Bloomsbury Publishing (£14.99)
Lisa Harding’s portrait of motherhood, loss and love has already drawn comparisons to Douglas Stuart’s award-winning novel Shuggie Bain. Tightly written and intimate, Bright Burning Things follows the journey of a mother, Sonya, as she struggles with addiction and her fight for recovery.
Once living the glamorous life of an actor, Sonja is struggling to adjust to motherhood and is constantly overwhelmed by the responsibility of taking care of her son, Tommy. But with neighbours watching and her blackout episodes becoming more frequent, she must overcome her demons or risk losing Tommy forever.
This debut work from American author Thomas Grattan follows a German family who return to an East German town after the fall of the Berlin Wall and must each navigate their own evolution in this now unfamiliar place.
Following the tearing down of the Wall, Beate Haas, who had fled to New York City with her parents as a child, is surprised to hear that she has inherited her family’s home in Kritzhagen, Germany. Recently divorced, Beate decides to move with her two children to the town, only to discover once there just how much it has changed. Through the novel’s chapters, Grattan traces not only the struggles of Beate and her children, who tackle internal conflicts concerning sexuality and their home country’s history, but also the evolution of the town as it tries to recover from decades of war and poverty.
Little, Brown Book Group (£14.99)
This powerful novel is a complex tale weaving together narratives around sexuality, gender, immigration and family. The protagonist is Oto, an intersex twin living in Nigeria who is forced to live as a boy by their rich and domineering family, despite believing that they are a girl. Desperate to escape the cruelty and oppression of their family home, Oto goes to boarding school. But as they begin to fall for their roommate, they are forced to make a drastic decision that will shake their powerful family to its core.
A unique coming-of-age story, Buki Papillon draws on African mysticism and mythology to unpack the family struggle, and, when Oto decides to move to the US, the trials of the immigrant experience. Deeply moving, it manages to be uplifting and inspiring even while laying bare the heartbreak of fighting for acceptance.
Vintage Publishing (£14.99)
Irish columnist Megan Nolan makes her fiction debut with this searing depiction of a toxic relationship that is destroying everything in the narrator’s life. Told from a nameless young woman’s perspective, her love and obsession with a handsome man consumes her, until her desire verges on addiction.
As things begin to become increasingly unhealthy, her interior monologue reveals how her childhood and teenagehood affected her sense of self-worth and her need for love. It’s these experiences that mean when things finally do blow up, she still finds herself unable to let go, to her own detriment. A poignant portrait of vulnerability and toxic relationships, this vividly written debut is the perfect anti-romance novel.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (£18.27)
This startling novel from Argentinian writer Pola Oloixarac has hints of Michaela Cole’s hit TV series I May Destroy You in its unsettling depiction of a woman trying to put together the pieces of an assault. The novel opens with Peruvian Stanford doctoral candidate Mona waking up on a train platform in Palo Alto, Calif., unable to remember how she got there or how her body ended up badly bruised. She quickly pulls herself together so she can catch her flight to Sweden, where she has been nominated for a literary award. Once there, however, memories of how she sustained her injuries begin to return.
While the ending makes a somewhat abrupt verve into fantasy, the majority of the novel oscillates between the mystery of Mona’s injuries and her cynical observation of the literary world gathered for the award ceremony. Rooted in her sharp and sardonic opinions on her fellow writers, Mona is an unexpected and absorbing depiction of a woman facing down the patronising elite of the writing world and the demons of her past.
Vintage Publishing (£18.99)
Following the success of the Patrick Melrose novels, Edward St Aubyn returns with this expansive, thought-provoking novel about inheritance, freedom and friendship. Set between London, Cap d’Antibes, Big Sur and Sussex, the story follows three friends through a transformative year. Olivia’s world is expanding — her new lover, Francis, a committed naturalist living off-grid, is startling and absorbing. They meet just as Olivia’s friend Lucy returns from New York with news of her own, and the trio quickly form an intense and complex bond.
But things quickly get complicated, thanks to the interference of Lucy’s boss Hunter, Olivia’s psychoanalyst parents, and the arrival of a young man named Sebastian. Deeply compassionate and with playful touches, St Aubyn’s latest work is an intriguing exploration of interconnectedness.
Headline Publishing Group (£14.99)
A bittersweet coming-of-age story from the author of Escape Routes, Common Ground shares the story of two childhood friends who leave their small-town home to forge a new life in London. As boys, Charlie and Stan were already extremely different. Struggling after the death of his father, Stan’s loneliness at a new school was relieved when he became friends with Charlie, a fearless and brilliant extrovert who taught Stan to be curious about the world and develop the strength to stand on his own two feet. But when, years later, the two reunite in London, the roles seem to have reversed — while Stan has flourished in the city, Charlie is at a standstill.
A rare examination of male friendship and the strains it faces through the process of growing up, Naomi Ishiguro’s beautifully written and moving novel traces the challenges of dependency and the importance of loyalty.
Profile Books (£14.99)
This apocalyptic, chilling tale may feel a little too close to home in its depiction of a pandemic-riddled world, but it’s gripping depiction of a fight for survival is immediately engrossing. Under the Blue weaves together two tales — the first is a reclusive artist’s road trip across a post-pandemic Europe to join two young sisters, while the second is a pair of computer scientists hiding in a remote location, educating their AI programme (which they consider their baby) and debating with it the future of the human race. As Oana Astride gradually works to bring the two stories together, she unpacks unsettling questions about humanity’s place in the world.
A startling eco-thriller that tackles Artificial Intelligence, climate change and the value of human life, this suspenseful novel is a frightening, yet vital, work.