February sees no less than 200 books being published some of which are highly publicised while others very few have heard of. This month alone Stacey Halls’ second book, The Foundling is published alongside The Sister’s Grimm by Menna van Praag, Saving Missy by Beth Morrey and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara. All of these titles are highly anticipated new releases. We also need to consider alongside this, however, the lesser-known releases of Dreaming of Verona by T.A. Williams, The Jane Austen Dating Agency by Fiona Woodifield and The Harlech Beach Killings by Simon McCleave which will appeal to many readers.
Therefore where should we start this month?
To help with your reading decisions we have asked Alison Barrow, PR Director for Transworld Books, to share with us what her most anticipated reads of the month are. She has also included some of her all-time favourite reads, just in case anyone feels a need to add even more to their reading pile.
Alison is an award-winning senior book publicist with experience of launching writing careers, managing major figures and creating global brands with a proven track record in establishing global bestselling writers and coordinating major international events. She is responsible for leading a team of publicists and developing and implementing creative, tailored and impactful cross-platform campaigns.
Amongst her major fiction campaigns are those for No. 1 bestsellers The Girl on The Train, Before I Go To Sleep, The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, Never Greener, Dan Brown’s thrillers and all of Kate Atkinson’s novels.
Alison, before we look at your recommendations for this month, what is your favourite book(s) of all time?
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (but it is really hard to choose just one, frankly!)
What book(s) have you enjoyed most so far in 2020?
Apart from all the writers with books that I am working on you mean?
#1 Actress by Anne Enright
Katherine’s life is a grand performance, with young Norah watching from the wings. But this romance between mother and daughter cannot survive Katherine’s past, or the world’s damage. As Norah uncovers her mother’s secrets, she acquires a few of her own. Then, fame turns to infamy when Katherine decides to commit a bizarre crime.
Actress is about a daughter’s search for the truth: the dark secret in the bright star, and what drove Katherine finally mad.
Brilliantly capturing the glamour of post-war America and the shabbiness of 1970s Dublin, Actress is an intensely moving, disturbing novel about mothers and daughters and the men in their lives. A scintillating examination of the corrosive nature of celebrity, it is also a sad and triumphant tale of freedom from bad love, and from the avid gaze of the crowd.
#2 Here We Are by Graham Swift
It is Brighton, 1959, and the theatre at the end of the pier is having its best summer season in years. Ronnie, a brilliant young magician, and Evie, his dazzling assistant, are top of the bill, drawing audiences each night. Meanwhile, Jack – Jack Robinson, as in ‘before you can say’ – is everyone’s favourite compère, a born entertainer, holding the whole show together.
As the summer progresses, the off-stage drama between the three begin to overshadow their theatrical success and events unfold which will have lasting consequences for all their futures.
Rich, comic, alive and subtly devastating, Here We Are is a masterly piece of literary magicianship which pulls back the curtain on the human condition.
#3 My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.
Vanessa is horrified by this news because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.
Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim and just one of many.
Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age.
#4 Why Women Read Fiction by Helen Taylor
Taylor explores why women are the main buyers and readers of fiction, members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, and organisers of days out to fictional sites and writers’ homes. The book analyses the special appeal and changing readership of the genres of romance, erotica, and crime. It also illuminates the reasons for British women’s abiding love of two favourite novels, Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.
Taylor offers a cornucopia of witty and wise women’s voices, of both readers themselves and also writers such as Hilary Mantel, Helen Dunmore, Katie Fforde, and Sarah Dunant. The book helps us understand why-in Jackie Kay’s words-‘our lives are mapped by books.’
#5 You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy
When was the last time you listened to someone or someone really listened to you?
This life-changing book will transform your conversations forever.
At work, we’re taught to lead the conversation.
On social media, we shape our personal narratives.
At parties, we talk over one another. So do our politicians.
We’re not listening.
And no one is listening to us.
Now more than ever, we need to listen to those around us. New York Times contributor Kate Murphy draws on countless conversations she has had with everyone from priests to CIA interrogators, focus group moderators to bartenders, her great-great-aunt to her friend’s toddler, to show how only by listening well can we truly connect with others.
Listening has the potential to transform our relationships and our working lives, improve our self-knowledge, and increase our creativity and happiness. While it may take some effort, it’s a skill that can be learnt and perfected.
When all we crave is to understand and be understood, You’re Not Listening shows us how.
What are your top predictions for new releases in February 2020?
Outside of the great books we are publishing at Transworld, of course, I highly recommend:
#1 Grown-Ups by Marian Keyes
They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.
Johnny Casey, his two brothers, Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.
Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much…
Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.
In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?
#2 The Guest List by Lucy Foley
It starts with a party. On a remote island, guests gather for the wedding of the year – the marriage of Jules Keegan and Will Slater.
Old friends. Past grudges.
Happy families. Hidden jealousies.
Thirteen guests. One body.
The wedding cake has barely been cut when one of the guests is found dead. And as a storm unleashes its fury on the island, everyone is trapped.
All have a secret. All have a motive. It’ll end in murder.
#3 The Foundling by Stacey Halls
Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst – that Clara has died in care – the last thing she expects to hear is that her daughter has already been reclaimed – by her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why. Less than a mile from Bess’ lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.
From the bestselling author of The Familiars, and set against the vibrant backdrop of Georgian London, The Foundling explores families, secrets, class, equality, power and the meaning of motherhood.
If you could only re-read one book, which one would you choose?
I re-read A Month in the Country by JL Carr every year – it’s the perfect novel. But otherwise, I would say I would re-read Life after Life by Kate Atkinson (also the perfect novel).
What books are you planning to read this month?
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