Ring in 2020 with a great new book! Literary critic reveals top picks of titles that have defined the past decade
- Stephanie Cross picked out a selection of books that have defined the decade
- Her picks include Anne Enright’s Actress and Eimear McBride’s Strange Hotel
- She also suggests Amanda Craig’s The Golden Rule and Ali Smith’s Summer
THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT by Hilary Mantel (pictured)
You can be sure of one thing in 2020 — there will be no shortage of brilliant reads.
Heading the list of the year’s hottest titles are two novelists who have defined the past decade: Hilary Mantel finally returns in March with THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT, the feverishly awaited and triumphant conclusion to her Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall trilogy, while June brings The Neapolitan Quartet author Elena Ferrante’s THE LYING LIFE OF ADULTS, a potent, Nineties-set, coming-of-age tale focusing on the daughter of a wealthy Neapolitan family.
And many more treats are in store. Marian Keyes is back in February with GROWN UPS, the irresistible tale of an enviably glamorous family forced to confront itself.
The same month marks the return of two more Irish superstars. Anne Enright’s ACTRESS is the story of Irish theatre legend Katherine O’Dell, as told by her daughter — expect gripping drama and a pitch-perfect evocation of the stages of Seventies Dublin and London’s West End.
Meanwhile, Eimear McBride’s STRANGE HOTEL is an intense, unforgettable study of desire and solitude distilled into a mere 150 pages.
It’s set to be a bumper year for fantastic summer reading, with June and July bringing new novels from Amanda Craig, Ali Smith and Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell.
Craig’s THE GOLDEN RULE promises to be a typically sharp and hugely satisfying page-turner about two women who decide to murder each other’s husbands.
Smith’s SUMMER, the finale of her real-time Seasonal Quartet, guarantees more glintingly clever commentary on the way we live now.
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig (pictured)
And Mitchell’s UTOPIA AVENUE follows an obscure Sixties psychedelic band on a rock’n’roll odyssey, complete with sex, drugs, madness, ‘riots in the streets and revolutions in the head’.
Other notable names are turning the clock back further.
Set in 1865, Rose Tremain’s ISLANDS OF MERCY is a typically searching exploration of the human condition, split between Bath and Borneo’s wild forests.
Sebastian Barry revisits 19th-century America in A THOUSAND MOONS, the follow-up to his glorious, Costa prize-winning Days Without End. And in HAMNET, Maggie O’Farrell takes as her inspiration the heartbreaking family drama behind Shakespeare’s most famous play.
Meanwhile, fans of historical blockbusters will be spoilt for choice with new epics from Kate Mosse (THE CITY OF TEARS, May) and Ken Follett (THE EVENING AND THE MORNING, September).
And eye-catching debuts abound. THE WATER DANCER is the first novel from bestselling U.S. author Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Lauded by the late Toni Morrison and described by U.S. talk-show host Oprah Winfrey as ‘one of the best books I have read in my entire life’, it’s a spellbinding story of the son of a white plantation master and a black slave.
Also making his fictional debut is Peep Show star Robert Webb, whose ‘time-travelling story of love and adventure’, COME AGAIN, lands in March.
DJINN PATROL ON THE PURPLE LINE by Deepa Anappara
And in July, UK rapper Stormzy’s Merky Books brings us the eagerly anticipated WE ARE ALL BIRDS OF UGANDA by Hafsa Zayyan.
Moving between Sixties Uganda and present-day London, and based on real-life experiences, it promises to be a stunning and urgent novel that explores loss, love and the meaning of home.
Ingrid Persaud is a former winner of the prestigious BBC short story award. Set in Trinidad and America, her LOVE AFTER LOVE (April) is a hugely enjoyable, heart-wrenching tale of an unconventional household.
DJINN PATROL ON THE PURPLE LINE (January) is the first novel from Deepa Anappara, who worked as a journalist in Mumbai and Delhi before graduating from the University of East Anglia’s renowned creative writing programme.
Imagine The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time set in a slum, and you get some idea.
Last but not least is the Nigerian-set THE GIRL WITH THE LOUDING VOICE by Abi Dare (February), which has already won awards.
Following 14-year-old Adunni, it’s the story of one remarkable girl’s quest to overcome tragedy and oppression, and to speak for herself.
Crime and thriller fans can look forward to gripping new novels from Jo Nesbo (LITTLE BROTHER, June), Hari Kunzru (RED PILL, September) and Sophie Hannah, whose HAVEN’T THEY GROWN (January) is a fiendishly clever-sounding affair about some apparently ageless children.
And my final tip? A trio of our brightest talents.
Blue Tickey by Sophie Mackintosh (pictured)
Sophie Mackintosh was just 29 when her debut, The Water Cure, was nominated for the Booker Prize. Her chilling second novel, BLUE TICKET (May), is equally sure to make a splash.
Meanwhile, the acclaimed Nikita Lalwani’s YOU PEOPLE (April) is set in and around a small London restaurant where the chefs are Sri Lankan, the staff illegal immigrants, and the proprietor a kind of Robin Hood.
It’s been hailed by writer Kamila Shamsie as ‘an exceptional novel about the Britain we live in, even if we choose not to see it’.
And finally, Evie Wyld looks set to cement her position as one of our most distinctive and vital voices with THE BASS ROCK (March), which spans four centuries as it digs deep into the linked lives of three women.
With all this to look forward to, the future looks bright indeed.
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