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NEW YEAR, NEW READS: A sneak preview of the novels to devour in 2023

NEW YEAR, NEW READS: Coming soon to a bookshop near you: from Zadie Smith to Curtis Sittenfeld, from heart-throbs to hauntings, kidnaps and con artists, our top critics give a sneak preview of the novels they’ll devour in 2023

  • READ MORE: Our critics select the best of the year’s novels to slip under the tree 

LITERARY FICTION 

Anthony Cummins

I AM HOMELESS IF THIS IS NOT MY HOME

by Lorrie Moore (Faber, June)

One of America’s greatest writers, Moore couples the emotional acuity of Anne Tyler with an audacious experimental streak (in her 1998 story Real Estate, a cheated-on wife bitterly thinks nothing but ‘Ha! Ha!’ for two full pages). Her first novel in 14 years is billed as ‘a ghost story set in the 19th and 21st centuries’.

Our top critics give a sneak preview of the novels they’ll devour in 2023

THE LATE AMERICANS

by Brandon Taylor (Cape, June)

Taylor, 33, made the Booker shortlist two years ago for his satirical debut Real Life, about a self-absorbed science student navigating sexual and racial prejudice. His new novel focuses on the love lives of a group of young men and women in Iowa: expect knotty erotic and artistic quandaries throbbing with low-key comedy.

THE FUTURE FUTURE

by Adam Thirlwell (Cape, August)

Thirlwell, who broke out at 25 with 2003’s arty sex comedy Politics, strikes many readers as insufferably pretentious but his intellectual impishness is rare right now and I’m keen to see this ‘contemporary novel that somehow takes place in the 18th century’, involving the French Revolution and a trip to the Moon.

Stephanie Cross

GO AS A RIVER

by Shelley Read (Doubleday, April)

Billed as for fans of Where The Crawdads Sing and endorsed by Bonnie ‘Lessons In Chemistry’ Garmus, this lush, lyrical American debut will be inescapable next year. Its heroine is born in a Colorado peach orchard in 1949, and we follow her life over the course of decades, through desire, heartbreak and betrayal.

SPARROW

This doorstopper could be 2023’s A Little Life — only set in Roman times. It’s an at times brutal coming-of-age story that follows a young boy, Jacob

by James Hynes (Picador, May)

This doorstopper could be 2023’s A Little Life — only set in Roman times. It’s an at times brutal coming-of-age story that follows a young boy, Jacob, as he is raised into prostitution. Not for the faint-hearted, it’s the immersiveness of Hynes’s meticulously researched world that sets this apart.

THE FRAUD

by Zadie Smith (Hamish Hamilton, September)

You’ll have to wait nine months to get your hands on Zadie Smith’s first novel in seven years but it will be worth it. Set between 19th-century London and Jamaica and based on an actual deception that became a Victorian cause celebre, it’s already been hailed as a ‘landmark’ piece of literature.

Claire Allfree

The New Life 

by Tom Crewe (Chatto, January)

If you are a fan of Alan Hollinghurst’s big, bustling novels about personal freedom and social change you’ll enjoy this debut novel. Two men in Victorian England, both married and who have never before met, collaborate on a book in defence of homosexuality.

One has a lover; the other is in what he considers to be a progressive, revolutionary marriage. But it’s a precarious time: Oscar Wilde has just been arrested for sodomy. A novel that promises to scrape back the polished veneer of late 19th-century England.

Hungry Ghosts

by Kevin Jared Hosein (Bloomsbury, February)

The disappearance of a wealthy estate owner in 1940s Trinidad sets off a series of psychologically dramatic events in this highly anticipated novel from Trinidadian writer Hosein, who is well established in his native country but less so here.

That looks set to change: Hosein has a rich, lush writing style and Hungry Ghosts is billed as combining big social questions with deep emotional unease in the dying days of colonialism, as the mystery behind the disappearance deepens. I can’t wait for this one.

Birnam Wood

by Eleanor Catton (Granta, March)

A decade after becoming the youngest Booker winner, aged 28, Catton returns with her third novel, which tantalisingly references Macbeth in its depiction of a guerrilla gardening community in rural New Zealand.

The interests of a mysterious land-owning tech billionaire and that of the group’s founder, Leftie activist Mira, gradually converge and collide in this epic, which uses an old-fashioned, character-driven style to explore modern ideas about Utopia and technology.

HISTORICAL FICTION 

Eithne Farry

A Wild And True Relation

by Kim Sherwood (Virago, February)

Smugglers, a great storm, the hot-on-the heels revenue, revenge-fuelled lovers and an orphaned girl make for a vivid, narrative-packed splice of historical fiction, awash with the sea-faring sights and sounds of the 18th century, as Sherwood unravels the mystery of her central character, Molly, who lives her life onboard a ship as a boy.

Lady MacBethad

by Isabelle Schuler (Raven Books, March)

Brimful with suspense, packed with power plays and sinister subterfuge, Lady MacBethad is the origin story of Shakespeare’s devious Queen. Reclaimed by Schuler from the footnotes of history, her ambitious Queen Gruoch, descended from Druids, daughter of an ousted king and fully her own person, tackles the politics of Duncan’s 11th-century Scottish court with steely aplomb.

The Red Bird Sings

by Aoife Fitzpatrick (Bloomsbury, April)

Based on a real-life murder trial in 1897 Virginia, this dazzling debut arrives with a Southern Gothic slant and a feminist spirit, as an unconventional spiritualist and an ambitious reporter uncover the truth behind young Zona Shue’s death at the hands of her new husband — a handsome blacksmith, much beloved in their small town.

POPULAR FICTION 

Wendy Holden

Hold My Girl

by Charlene Carr (Welbeck, February)

This tense, emotional story about racial identity, loss and betrayal follows an egg switch at a fertility clinic. A fierce custody battle ensues. Just what does it mean to be a mother?

A Secret Garden Affair

by Erica James (HQ Stories, March)

Libby catches her fiance in flagrante. Fleeing London for the countryside, she finds a beautiful old house with a magical garden. Can it heal her broken heart?

The Other Side of Mrs Wood

While Mrs Wood is London’s most celebrated contact with the Other Side, she must spice up her brand to stay relevant. She takes on young Emmie Finch, with unforeseen consequences

by Lucy Barker (4th Estate, June)

This unusual debut is a comedy about Victorian mediums. While Mrs Wood is London’s most celebrated contact with the Other Side, she must spice up her brand to stay relevant. She takes on young Emmie Finch, with unforeseen consequences.

The Housekeepers

by Alex Hay (Headline, July)

Mrs King runs the grandest house in Edwardian Mayfair. But she was born into a world of con artists and thieves and has no intention of leaving her criminal past behind.

SCI-FI & FANTASY 

JAMIE BUXTON

The Luminaries

by Susan Dennard (Daphne Press, January)

A small town on the forest’s edge, enough nightmare monsters in said forest to fill an encyclopaedia, secret guardians that kill the monsters, a teenage outsider desperate to become a secret-guardian-monster-killer. Touching and gore-spattered, a real gem.

Infinity Gate

by M.R. Carey (Orbit, March)

M.R. Carey places complex, deeply affecting characters at the heart of his dystopian worlds. Infinity Gate promises all that in a hard sci-fi exploration of an empire of multiple Earths — and their existential AI threat.

Ascension

by Nicholas Binge (HarperVoyager, April)

We love an epistolary narrative and Ascension delivers. When a mountain appears in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a team is sent to explore it. But the discovery of a cache of their letters home reveals a tale of madness and violence. Gripping and intriguing.

Ink Blood Sister Scribe

by Emma Törzs (Century, July)

The blurb says ‘Not all books should be opened . . .’ Not this one. Set in Vermont forests, this puzzle-lover’s debut concerns a library of magical tomes, whose guardianship is held by estranged sisters. There are wrongs to right and secrets within secrets to uncover . . .

CONTEMPORARY

Sarah Lawrence

The Happy Couple

by Naoise Dolan (Orion, May)

BY the author of 2020’s bestseller Exciting Times, this latest is a deep dive into love, betrayal, monogamy and sexuality. Set over the course of a year leading up to a wedding, it charts the lives of the bride and groom, best man, bridesmaid and a guest as their lives intersect. Sensational.

The Anniversary

by Stephanie Bishop (W&N, March)

Novelist J.B. Blackwood is on a cruise with her husband, former university professor Patrick, to celebrate their anniversary. He is a director of cult films whose success is fading whilst J.B.’s star is on the rise. When a storm hits and Patrick falls overboard, hidden truths behind their power dynamic begin to emerge. Gripping.

Romantic Comedy

Here, a TV script writer thinks she’s done with love until an unlikely encounter with a heart-throb popstar causes her to perform a 180

by Curtis Sittenfeld (Penguin, April)

Sittenfeld is known for her fresh, beautifully observed novels and sharp eye for satire. Here, a TV script writer thinks she’s done with love until an unlikely encounter with a heart-throb popstar causes her to perform a 180. Would someone like him really date someone like her? She’s about to find out.

PSYCHO THRILLERS 

Christena Appleyard

The Villa

by Ruth Kelly (Pan, June)

This is an intriguing debut from an author who is already a bestselling ghost-writer. One of her writing credits is for Big Brother, so we can expect a real insider feel from this story revolving around ten contestants in a reality TV programme on a private island. Laura, a journalist, goes undercover as a contestant and gets more than she bargained for.

The Kind Worth Saving

by Peter Swanson (Faber, March)

There’s nothing like a sequel to a blockbuster hit to look forward to. This book’s title is a nod to the The Kind Worth Killing, the Richard and Judy pick of the year in 2015. The brilliant Private Detective Henry Kimball returns with a new mystery and some old characters. Unmissable.

The Only Suspect

by Louise Candlish (S&S, February)

Candlish hasn’t written a flop yet, so a new one is a dependable treat. This time the author of hits like The Swimming Pool turns her attention to the Britpop era and the story of a seemingly perfect husband whose past starts to catch up with him. Nostalgia and menace — a perfect mix.

By Geoffrey Wansell

CRIME AND THRILLERS

The Last Remains

by Elly Griffiths (Quercus, February)

After 15 years, the talented Griffiths is bringing her Dr Ruth Galloway series to a close, having decided that the forensic archaeologist has run her course over 15 books, almost all of them best-sellers.

For her finale, builders renovating a cafe in King’s Lynn find human bones, and Galloway identifies them as belonging to a young female archaeology student who went missing in 1990. Will she solve the mystery, and then perhaps even come back? After all Sherlock Holmes did.

A Pen Dipped In Poison

by J. M. Hall (Avon, March)

Retired school teachers Liz, Pat and Thelma are back at their usual table in the Thirsk Garden Centre cafe in Yorkshire attempting to solve a mystery. Curious white envelopes have been delivered to friends and neighbours divulging dark secrets. As a result careers are ruined and marriages wrecked, provoking the three ladies to investigate who is behind the letters. Could someone be tempted to kill to silence the poisonous writer? This promises to be delightfully cosy crime.

Death Under A Little Sky

by Stig Abell (HarperCollins, April)

A former London detective inherits a house in the country and decides to retire there, but after a few months a village treasure hunt turns deadly and he finds himself forced into becoming a detective again as he attempts to track down a killer. A tribute to the great era of crime with a literary twist or two.

The Beach Party

by Nikki Smith (Penguin, July)

The year is 1989 and there is a wild beach party on Mallorca after a group of university friends arrive for a post-graduation holiday. On the surface everything is wonderful. The sun shines, the yachts bob on their moorings and the group dance the night away — until tragedy strikes.

The party of a lifetime turns into a nightmare, but the memory is buried until, 25 years later, someone is called upon to pay for what happened. Perfect reading for a sun lounger.

All The Dangerous Things

by Stacy Willingham (HarperCollins, February)

A year ago Isabelle Drake’s young son Mason disappeared – taken from his bedroom for no apparent reason.

Since then she has hardly had a full night’s sleep and is haunted by his loss, but everyone else seems to have given up on the enquiry: the police, her husband, the press. So Isabelle recruits a true- crime podcaster to help her to investigate.

Until Proven Innocent

The story asks the question — is it possible to defend the indefensible and, if so, who should do it? Timely and thought-provoking, it keeps the reader guessing until the very end

by Nicola Williams (Hamish Hamilton, March)

Written by a practising female criminal barrister about a fictional female criminal barrister, Lee Mitchell, this courtroom drama oozes authenticity. A black Pastor is shot and the evidence points to a corrupt white police officer, but Mitchell is persuaded to defend the officer amidst cries of Black Lives Matter.

The story asks the question — is it possible to defend the indefensible and, if so, who should do it? Timely and thought-provoking, it keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

STRANGE 

Sally Diamond

by Liz Nugent (Sandycove, March)

Reclusive Sally Diamond cannot understand why everyone thinks she is strange — simply because she put her father’s body out with the rubbish, exactly as he had asked her to do. Now she finds herself the centre of attention from the police and the media, and it mystifies her.

Undeterred she takes tentative steps into the outside world, but then hears from a stranger who seems to know more about her past than she does herself. Enigmatic and entertaining, Sally will not be quickly forgotten.

The Ugly Truth

by L. C. North (Bantam, March)

This startling thriller with a sharp edge is told not in narrative but in interviews, transcripts and diary entries to explore the influence of social media on public opinion and private lives.

Melanie Lane has disappeared, and her father Sir Peter insists she’s been admitted to a clinic because she is a danger to herself. Not everyone agrees, including her husband Finn and her best friend Nell, who say she’s been kidnapped. Who is telling the truth? Fast and compelling, it leaves you gasping for breath.

READ MORE: 

Big writers on their best reads of 2022: From a satire on 1940s Hollywood to a sweary Welsh detective story – books top authors curled up with this year 

Hot on sex… cold on emotion: From a steamy account by John le Carré’s mistress to Justin Webb on his snobbish but loving mother, the stand-out memoirs of 2022

Health books: How to be a happy, healthy Super-Ager, according to a psychology coach 

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