MEMORIAL by Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books £14.99, 320 pp)


by Bryan Washington (Atlantic Books £14.99, 320 pp)

Barack Obama chose Lot, a prize-winning collection of short stories by this 27-year-old Texan author, as a favourite book and this highly anticipated debut novel is just as brilliantly engaging.

Ben and Mike have been together for four years and share a flat in Houston. They come from different backgrounds but both their families are messed up and neither is thrilled to have a gay son.

Mike invites his mother, whom Ben has never met, to come and stay from Japan. Then Mike flies there to see his estranged dying father, leaving Ben and his mum alone.

The action transports us from Houston to Osaka, from the inside of Ben’s head to Mike’s, allowing us to understand that neither protagonist is quite the person they pretend to be. I can’t stop thinking about it.


by Olivia Sudjic (Bloomsbury £14.99, 272 pp)

I adored this beautifully written, powerful exploration of how past trauma is never far from the surface, however deeply one tries to stifle it.

Anya escaped war-torn Sarajevo as a child and moved to Glasgow to live with relatives. She’s now in London with English fiancé Luke but never tells him about her childhood or family or how she really feels.

He is distant and prone to vanishing for hours, which she rarely mentions as she is desperate for security.

Sudjic uses words sparingly to portray Anya’s edgy awkwardness and it works brilliantly, making what is not said often more important than what is. It’s about relationships and borders of all kinds, the breakdown of beliefs and how the desire to fit in can perversely embed alienation.

Deep, accomplished and often thought-provoking.

THE CHARMED WIFE by Olga Grushin (Hodder £17.99, 288 pp)


by Olga Grushin (Hodder £17.99, 288 pp)

This adult retelling of the Cinderella story focuses on her marriage to Prince Charming, 13 years after their extravagant wedding.

Happy ever after is proven to be a lie as they live separately in the castle with no meaningful communication. The prince shows no interest in their two children, and belittles and cheats on her constantly.

Cinderella belatedly realises how dangerous it was to believe her life would follow those childish stories about romance and happiness; how following all those rules was akin to self-harming.

She is so unhappy she wants him dead. She enlists the help of the witch and her bubbling cauldron to cast a spell.

Magic cannot solve all, however, and our heroine must appreciate the power of making her own choices.

Different and compelling.

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