Book reviews by Dawn McGuigan

Spring is on its way and it’s bringing with it a gorgeous range of new books. Here are my top picks for what to read in March. 

Gingerbread by Helen OyeyemiGingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Release date: 7 March

I adored Oyeyemi’s short story collection What is Not Yours is Not Yours and her new novel looks set to continue her mastery of bewitching storytelling. Inspired by fairy tales, Oyeyemi’s work is eerily familiar while being utterly unique. She’s certainly worth a look.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Perdita Lee may appear your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor flat with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. In fact, the world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval – a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.

Years later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story, as well as a reunion or two. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value.

Lanny by Max PorterLanny by Max Porter

Release date: 7 March

Porter’s first novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers was a worldwide hit, bagging him a tonne of awards, critical acclaim and rave reviews from readers. So, no pressure for his second novel then? Well, he hasn’t let us down with Lanny. It’s a tale about community and identity, soaked in folklore and delivered with stunning lyricism. It’s a real treat from one of the most exciting writers in the UK right now.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

There’s a village sixty miles outside London. It’s no different from many other villages in England: one pub, one church, red-brick cottages, council cottages and a few bigger houses dotted about. Voices rise up, as they might do anywhere, speaking of loving and needing and working and dying and walking the dogs.

This village belongs to the people who live in it and to the people who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, a figure schoolchildren used to draw green and leafy, choked by tendrils growing out of his mouth.

Dead Papa Toothwort is awake. He is listening to this twenty-first-century village, to his English symphony. He is listening, intently, for a mischievous, enchanting boy whose parents have recently made the village their home.

Daisy Jones and the SixDaisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Release date: 5 March

This is the story of a 1970s band’s rise to fame and even more infamous break-up. Focusing on the enigmatic lead singer, it explores friendship, love and the truth of what really happens behind the scenes. Something tells me a Fleetwood Mac playlist will be the perfect companion for this one – or you can enjoy Spotify’s ready-made playlist while reading.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The EulogistThe Eulogist by Terry Gamble

Release date: 7 March 

This evocative work of historical fiction explores identity, immigration and the horrors of slavery. Gamble’s beautiful writing combines depth and tenderness and will have you hooked from the start.

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Emigrating from Ireland in search of a prosperous life in America, the Givens family travels down the Ohio River to the burgeoning village of Cincinnati, Ohio, where they encounter Jacksonian populism, a resurgent tide of religious evangelism, an industrial revolution hearkened by the steam engine, and most starkly, the fact of slavery on the opposite bank.

Olivia, the too-tall, too-thin narrator, envies the freedom enjoyed by her brothers James, a businessman, and Erasmus, a profligate minister. At a debate about God and Reason, Olivia exerts her independence when she rises from her seat in support of Reason and becomes known as the woman who stood.

Taking note of Olivia’s courage, a local doctor invites her to attend clandestine autopsies, a partnership that culminates in marriage after several setbacks, the death of Olivia’s sister-in-law, and the doctor’s accepting a slave girl as collateral for his inheritance. When the doctor suddenly dies from an infection, Olivia accompanies his body to Kentucky where she meets his family and encounters the horrors of slavery firsthand.

After a disastrous failed attempt to help a slave gain her freedom, Olivia goes to live with Erasmus at a camp by the Ohio River the borderlands between freedom and slavery where Erasmus and his son have begun aiding escaped slaves, and the Givens family, initially indifferent toward slavery, will begin actively working for its end.

 

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