Edna O’Brien - Girl
Captured, abducted and married into Boko Haram, the narrator of this story witnesses and suffers the horrors of a community of men governed by a brutal code of violence. Barely more than a girl herself, the narrator must learn how to survive as a woman with a child of her own. Just as the world around her seems entirely consumed by madness, bound for hell, she is offered an escape of sorts - but only into another landscape of trials and terrors amidst the unforgiving wilds of north-eastern Nigeria, through the forest and beyond; a place where her traumas are met with the blinkered judgement of a society in denial.
Sayaka Murata - Convenience Store Woman
Keiko has never really fitted in. At school and university people find her odd and her family worries she’ll never be normal. To appease them, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store. Here, she finds peace and purpose in the simple, daily tasks and routine interactions. But in Keiko’s social circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend all her time stacking shelves and re-ordering green tea. As pressure mounts on Keiko to find either a new job, or worse, a husband, she is forced to take desperate action. A best-seller in Japan (and now round the world), and the winner of the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, Convenience Store Woman marks Sayaka Murata’s English-language debut.
Alia Trabucco Zeran - The Remainder
Set in Santiago, Chile where the city is covered in ash, three children of ex-militants are facing a past they can neither remember nor forget. Felipe sees dead bodies on every corner of the city, counting them up in an obsessive quest to square these figures with the official death toll. He is searching for the perfect zero, a life with no remainder. Iquela and Paloma, too, are searching for a way to live on. When the body of Paloma’s mother is lost in transit, the three take a hearse and a bottle of pisco up the cordillera for a road trip with a difference. Intense, intelligent, and extraordinarily sensitive to the shape and weight of words, this remarkable debut novel from Alia Trabucco Zeran presents a new way to count the cost of a pain that stretches across generations.
Yaa Gyasi - Homegoing
Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, Homegoing is the story of two sisters separated at birth and the subsequent effect on their descents, tracing the two families lives through their ups and downs. Following a different descendant of an Asante woman named Maame in each chapter, the novel begins with her two daughters, who are half-sisters, separated by circumstance: Effia marries James Collins, the British governor in charge of Cape Coast Castle, while her half-sister Esi is held captive in the dungeons below. A heartbreakingly beautiful portrayal of lives and families effected by the slave trade, Homegoing is, as Diana Evans in the Guardian argues, ‘a hugely empathic, unflinching portrayal of west Africa’s role in the transatlantic slave trade’.
See our full review here.
Akwaeke Emezi - Freshwater
Ada has always been unusual. Her parents prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry. Their troubled child begins to develop separate selves and is prone to fits of anger and grief. When Ada grows up and heads to college in America, a traumatic event crystallises the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind, these ‘alters’ - now protective, now hedonistic - take control, shifting her life in a dangerous direction.
Jesmyn Ward - Sing, Unburied, Sing
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power - and limitations - of family bonds. Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love. Marked by Jesmyn Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America.
Jokha Alharthi - Celestial Bodies
Set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, Celestial Bodies centres on three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, Celestial Bodies is the story of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.
The one on our wish list: Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other