I’ve never particularly kept up with new releases – most books I read have been around for a while before I discover them, or I find out about them just after they’ve been released (as they end up taking over the displays in bookshops!). However, over the past few months I’ve spent more time actively looking for book recommendations, often via book blogs and YouTube videos as well as general pottering about on the internet, and for one reason or another I’ve come across several books that are being released this year that I cannot wait to read.
Looking at the list, these really fall into two categories – new books by authors I already love, and new releases in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.
Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All, by Jonas Jonasson
This is one of the rare occasions where I have pre-ordered a book because I know that I want to read it as soon as possible. Jonas Jonasson is the author of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden – both of which I absolutely adored. He has such a distinctive style, with outrageous page-turning plots that take numerous unexpected directions and characters unlike any I’ve read about before. I’m expecting more of the same in this new novel!
This Must Be The Place, by Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors. I love her writing and the way she gets under the skin of her characters. Her novels often have dual storylines in different times which gradually intersect, or stories where you flit back and forth in time, both of which are styles I really enjoy – I like picking up clues and trying to piece together the history of the characters. This Must Be The Place looks like its going to be more of the latter style. An extract has just been published on the Waterstones book blog which gives a feel for this new book – https://www.waterstones.com/blog/extract-maggie-ofarrell-this-must-be-the-place.
I’m very much looking forward to reading a new Maggie O’Farrell, but the only question is how patient I’m feeling. Do I wait for the paperback, to match the rest of my collection as I only have paperback copies of her books – or, am I feeling too impatient to read it in which case I will just have to mix it up and get a hardback copy!
Paradise Lodge, by Nina Stibbe
Nina Stibbe’s 2014 novel Man At The Helm was hilarious. I absolutely loved the characters, the story, the style. It’s about a single mother in the 1970s, moving to a rural village with her three children, and the protagonist is nine year old Lizzie Vogel (the eldest) – as their mother falls apart she decides they need to find her a new man. The humour is wry, deadpan, with laugh-out-loud moments. Yet also poignant and sad in places. Highly recommended!
Paradise Lodge isn’t described as a sequel, but the blurb does say that this the story of fifteen year old Lizzie Vogel – so I’m assuming that’s it’s picking up the same character! Lizzie is working in an old people’s home (‘because she wanted a new phase and it seemed too exhausting to commit to being a full-time girlfriend or a punk.’
Read more at https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/288986/paradise-lodge/#hl1oYDpSRxG2yBZD.99) and I’m hoping for another funny, eccentric story. Think this will need to be pre-ordered soon!
Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler
Vinegar Girl is the third release in the Hogarth Shakespeare project, which is a series of books where well-known authors are retelling eight of Shakespeare’s works. This is a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which isn’t a play I’m that familiar with – I only know the general plot thanks to the classic teen film 10 Things I Hate About You! The story centres around Katerina (Kate in this book), who forthright, straight-talking, independent. From the blurb, it seems her father is plotting her marriage for his advantage. It seems to fall under the romantic comedy bracket, but I believe the original play also looks at society’s role in marriage, as well as the roles people play in society – the expectations and reality of these roles – so I hope this will be touched on. Given the play involves a father controlling the love lives of his two daughters, and the ‘taming’ of an independently-minded woman, I’ll be interested to see how Anne Tyler has interpreted this story in a modern setting.
Hag-Seed, by Margaret Atwood
Hag-Seed is also part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series and is The Tempest, retold by Margaret Atwood. Again, I don’t know particularly know the story as I’ve never seen or read the play – I do remember there was a book I loved as a teenager, where the protagonist was starring in her sixth form production of The Tempest (annoyingly I cannot remember the name of the book!) and this gave me an idea of the tone and story of the play. I know the play is set on an island and there’s a magical element to it (perhaps in a similar way to A Midsummer Night’s Dream?). I believe the story involves themes of justice and revenge. In Atwood’s retelling, the protagonist is staging a production of The Tempest – a concept that excites me as I love when there is a ‘play within a play’, which occurs in more than one of Shakespeare’s works, and sounds like an interesting way of including and referencing the original play in this reimagining. I’m particularly looking forward to this release in the series!
The Hogarth Shakespeare project (http://crownpublishing.com/hogarth-shakespeare/) really interests me. I love Shakespeare plays but I’m only really familiar with a handful (mostly the ones I studied at school, along with a couple where I’ve seen productions or film adaptations). My feeling with plays is that they are there to be enjoyed as a performance rather than sitting down to read them, but I think I need to change my attitude as there is a lot to be gained from reading the original works of Shakespeare. Given the fact the only plays I’ve read out of the eight being retold during this series are Macbeth and Hamlet, I think it would be really interesting to read at least some of the others before I read these adaptations, in order to have a deeper insight and understanding of the stories and how these reimaginings work in conjunction with the plays.
I also found my own reaction to the series interesting in comparison to my reaction to the Jane Austen project, which is a similar concept whereby famous authors are adapting her novels in contemporary settings. I was very sceptical about the value and necessity of retelling Jane Austen’s novels, given the timeless qualities to her stories and her iconic style of writing. I’ve yet to read any of the books which have been released in the series, although I do have a curiosity to see just how Austen’s novels have been interpreted, so at some point I expect I’ll check them out. Conversely, as soon as I found out about the Hogarth Shakespeare series I couldn’t wait to read them in order to see how these authors had interpreted his plays. I think for me there are two main differences with these projects – firstly, plays are there to be reinterpreted and retold with each production, so creating a retelling of the story in the form of a modern novel seems like a natural extension of this. Secondly, as I’m less familiar with Shakespeare plays compared to Austen novels, I’m less attached to how the story ‘should’ be! Perhaps I need to maintain this open-mindedness with the Austen project?
Are there new releases that you’re looking forward to this year?