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There’s something about a debut. The team at LoveReading adore discovering a new favourite author. Can you imagine the blood, sweat, tears and love that has gone into the process of becoming an author? Here you can be in at the start and then recommend your favourites far and wide.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 | April 2017 Debut of the Month. Here is a woman, Mary, who desperately needs something and even we, the reader, are not entirely sure what. She has just split with a long-term boyfriend, Mark, the final bitter row being over commitment and not wanting a child. The next door neighbours have a toddler and a new baby girl. Mary babysits and forms an attachment with the baby which becomes complicated when the child is dumped on her later. It is the age old dilemma; no she does not want a child ... but then maybe she does. A magnificent dog fox appears in her overgrown garden, an area that backs onto a bit of scrub land. There are passages when we become aware of his thoughts and so eventually discover he is mourning his vixen. We are in East London. Mary develops an friendship with the fox, as indeed does he with her, or so we are led to believe. But again is he real or is she suffering from some delusion, edging on a mental breakdown? Is the fox a symbol for a need to care, nurture, protect, belong, or is he actually there? This is fascinating stuff. A tale of obsession which is unsettling, powerful and hypnotic. An original debut. I was fascinated to learn that there are ten thousand foxes roaming London.
April 2017 Debut of the Month. London 1895, gloriously brought to life in all its grizzly glory. Arrowood is a weathered Private Investigator with a soft heart and a weakness for a drink. He shares the same skies as the famous, revered detective, Sherlock Holmes and yet he can only dream of sharing the same accolades and financial rewards. The cases Arrowood and his long suffering assistant Barnett work are deadly, sleazier and of poor pay. Still carrying the ghost of a disastrous investigation that left a man violently beaten to death, they take on a seemingly straightforward missing person case. Before long a simple investigation turns into a dangerous step into the world of political violence and dealings with the very same crime boss involved in their earlier case. Anxious to keep a distance yet bound by obligation after the death of a young informant, they are soon deeply involved in something deadly. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes it was wonderful to revisit late Victorian London. The atmosphere Finlay creates is authentic and Arrowood’s animosity towards Holmes adds an interesting twist. Arrowood is a very different detective. Repulsive at times, yet sad and kind-hearted. I couldn’t help but warm to him. His assistant and our narrator Barnett, leads us through the case right to the thrilling climax that had me on the edge of my seat.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Provocative, sharply witty and rather beautiful, Ithaca is a breathtaking read. 11 year old Jason, full of attitude and bravado seeks to escape the here and now of the world around him. The first sentence, paragraph, then chapter, roared into my mind, Jason tells his own story, his personality doesn't just light up the page, it sets fire to it. All of the characters teeter on the edge of being larger than life, Alan McMonagle fills them full of vivid colour, and zips the bulging seams tight. Words ganged up into one swaggering rioting mass and assaulted my senses. While laughing my soul weeped, while sitting in shock my fist pumped the air, I wanted to hug Jason tight, and as a piece of my heart broke apart, I handed it to him. ‘Ithaca’ filled me full of contrary feelings then gave them a good shake, what a wonderful, heart-breaking, mesmerising read this is. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017. A surprising, emotional, and courageous novel, one where the words and feelings gradually unwind from the page and take up residence in your mind. Set in Nigeria during the 1980s, this is a story that at first feels like a window into another world, yet one that is somehow recognisable, as feelings are translatable, wherever they may be felt. Yejide desperately wants a child, her entire world collapses when her in-laws insist on her husband Akin marrying a new wife, in order to bear him children. We see the couple, feel their thoughts, the hurt and sorrow on both sides. I couldn't stop reading, yet the rawness, the pain was in every turn of the page. Unexpected revelations smacked into my awareness, turned my thoughts, captivated me further. Ayobami Adebayo, in her debut novel, writes with a clear and simple intensity. ’Stay With Me’ is utterly compelling, provocative, and a truly beautiful read. ~ Liz Robinson March 2017 Debut of the Month. Click here to read Ayobami Adebayo discuss her debut novel Stay with Me. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. A thoroughly perturbing, provocative, yet riveting read. Single parent Ruth wakes one morning to find her two children missing, almost immediately she is surrounding by judgement and condemnation. The first few pages set you in a time, a situation that allows understanding to settle, before you are thrust into 1965 and Ruth’s life just before her children disappear. Emma Flint allows us to see beyond the obvious, gradually peeling away layer after layer, slowly encouraging truth to creep out from where it is hidden. I wanted to throw preconception out of the window, to stamp and howl at assumptions, and yet questions hovered at the back of my mind. ‘Little Deaths’ isn't an easy comfortable read, it jolts and jars at your senses as it takes hold and doesn't let go. Poignant and immensely sad, this well written novel is a truly captivating read. ~ Liz Robinson
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Inventively entertaining, niftily plotted first novel set in New York during the city’s effervescent infancy. It’s 1746 and a young man by the name of Smith arrives in New York from London with an order for £1000. He takes it to a Lovell, a banker based on Golden Hill Street, in order to have it cashed. “Lord love us,” Lovell exclaims at the sight of so large an amount. “This is a bill for a thousand pound”. Speculation is duly aroused: what on earth is Smith planning to do with such a quantity of cash? And what’s his purpose in the city? But Smith emerges from the counting house as “a young man with money in his pocket, new-fallen to land in a strange city on the world’s farther face”. The depiction of place is gratifyingly sensory. New York and its citizens are vibrantly evoked, from the “perfumes of hot bread and well-ground beans” on Smith’s morning meanderings, to the “African footmen with wigs powdered to the colour of icing-sugar” he sights in a church congregation.While the puzzle at the heart of the novel is not revealed until the very last pages, the plentiful and nimbly executed plot twists provide much satisfaction throughout. Part mystery, part homage to eighteenth century literature, this is an exuberant literary delight with all the readability of a page-turner. ~ Joanne Owen Winner of the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2017 | Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017 | Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017 | Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2016. The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘Pre-revolutionary New York, and a stranger arrives in town, where he finds a ferment of social jostling, politics and money that invites adventure. A great, unruly city is being born. Francis Spufford creates a world that is hypnotic and believable, brought to life in sparkling prose and pitch-perfect dialogue, and tells a gripping story that's full of tension and surprise, with characters who live on after the book is closed. His non-fiction writing has been much-admired. This first novel is an astonishing achievement because his novelist's voice is already enticing, rich and mature. An eighteenth-century treat.’ Costa judges' comment: “This spirited, wonderfully witty novel sets sparkling characters and a lively plot against a richly-realised backdrop.”
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017. Traversing continents and generations, this sublime debut explores identity, self-sacrifice and dislocation with elegance and wit. It’s 1968 and Yuki Oyama decides to stay in New York with her friend, Odile and her friend’s mother, Lillian, when her parents return to Japan. “I wouldn't belong”, she muses, plus “she didn't want to be her mother following a sad man around the world”. Despite sharing a bed with Odile, Yuki never feels close to her. Odile is wrapped up in forging a modeling career, and then heads to Italy, abandoning Yuki to Lillian and her violent boyfriend. Abandonment, loneliness, and seeking solace from loneliness are recurring themes. Some years later, when she has a home, a husband who loves her, a baby son, and the talent to be an artist, Yuki remains unsettled, and feels a desperate desire to leave. A sense of longing - and never quite belonging - is poignantly evoked as the narrative alternates between Yuki’s story through the seventies, and her son’s life in 2016, culminating in a tense, bittersweet reconciliation in Berlin, where she’s made her home. While this novel’s language treads soft, it leaves a deep imprint, and makes for a powerfully, memorable reading experience. ~ Joanne Owen
A gorgeously eloquent and powerfully expressive novel, ‘The Essex Serpent’ explores an unusual relationship in the 1890’s. This isn't exactly a love story, it is rather, a tale about love, in all its different forms. While Cora and Will form the heart of this novel, every member of the surrounding cast is as important as these two, each fitting into a perfectly formed relationship jigsaw. At times they may not be likeable, they may have their quirks, their differences, yet they are so well formed, it is possible to feel empathy as you question a decision or comment made. The Essex serpent coiled and waiting, exploits fear and mistrust, creating a fascinating setting in which connections flourish and wither. Sarah Perry’s ability to paint a picture with her beautifully chosen words is extraordinary. At times the Victorian setting vanished and the relationships felt very current and modern, while at others the different time period proclaimed the complications and difficulties faced by anyone judged as being different. ‘The Essex Serpent’ isn't a story to be rushed, it should be savoured, and valued, and most of all, enjoyed for the truly beautiful novel it is. Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016. Costa judges' comment: “This is the best kind of historical fiction – brimming with ideas and energy.” A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'As an editor, there are books to which you become deeply connected. And then there are those books that you become so close to that you almost feel as though they are a part of you. The Essex Serpent, the second novel by Sarah Perry, is one such rare book, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world. It is a sumptuously imagined novel of lives playing out against bigger historical moments, and it is the most unusual and moving love story I have ever read. It confirms Sarah Perry’s place among the finest novelists of her generation.' ~ Hannah Westland, Editor, Serpent's Tail
One of our Books of the Year 2016. Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2016. A gorgeously eloquent and powerfully expressive novel, ‘The Essex Serpent’ explores an unusual relationship in the 1890’s. This isn't exactly a love story, it is rather, a tale about love, in all its different forms. While Cora and Will form the heart of this novel, every member of the surrounding cast is as important as these two, each fitting into a perfectly formed relationship jigsaw. At times they may not be likeable, they may have their quirks, their differences, yet they are so well formed, it is possible to feel empathy as you question a decision or comment made. The Essex serpent coiled and waiting, exploits fear and mistrust, creating a fascinating setting in which connections flourish and wither. Sarah Perry’s ability to paint a picture with her beautifully chosen words is extraordinary. At times the Victorian setting vanished and the relationships felt very current and modern, while at others the different time period proclaimed the complications and difficulties faced by anyone judged as being different. ‘The Essex Serpent’ isn't a story to be rushed, it should be savoured, and valued, and most of all, enjoyed for the truly beautiful novel it is. June 2016 Book of the Month and eBook of the Month. Costa judges' comment: “This is the best kind of historical fiction – brimming with ideas and energy.” A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher... 'As an editor, there are books to which you become deeply connected. And then there are those books that you become so close to that you almost feel as though they are a part of you. The Essex Serpent, the second novel by Sarah Perry, is one such rare book, and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world. It is a sumptuously imagined novel of lives playing out against bigger historical moments, and it is the most unusual and moving love story I have ever read. It confirms Sarah Perry’s place among the finest novelists of her generation.' ~ Hannah Westland, Editor, Serpent's Tail
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2017. A fascinating heart-breaking debut novel full of attitude and aching tension. Set over a decade and more, we see events unfold in the Bosnian war, and separately watch the relationship between two people ebb and flow before events converge in one unforgettable moment. At the end of the second chapter, a shiver of chills and understanding sliced through me as I began to see a vivid, striking picture emerge. David Savill writes with true compassion and unflinching honesty, his knowledge of two major events, from very different parts of the world, creates a sincere and provocative tale. Zigzagging around in time, between the three main characters, left me feeling unsettled, and a sense of foreboding hovered over the pages. ‘They Are Trying to Break Your Heart’ connects to the intimate, the personal, creating hushed stillness and reflection in a tumultuous world, what a truly captivating novel this is. ~ Liz Robinson
Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016. A wonderfully unconventional and thought-provoking read, where a mystery waiting to be solved shelters behind a penetrating and wryly emotional family tale. The first paragraph, short as it is, marks itself indelibly in your minds eye, it also encapsulates the detached and challenging personality of Morwenna, the narrator. The family from ‘The House at the Edge of the World’ hold ambivalent feelings towards each other and their home. As the story ponders the weight of family expectations it also peeks at the tricky complexity that is imagination versus recollection and how often the two blend into a murky uncertainty. Julia Rochester has a fascinating way with words, words to make you stop, think and consider, she captures your thought processes and then hurls them in an unexpected direction. This is an intelligent, discerning and surprising debut novel and deserves to be highly recommended. ~ Liz Robinson Desmond Elliott Chair of judges Iain Pears said: “Rochester’s writing is quite wonderful – she is particularly strong on her sense of place. She brings the landscape to life just as she does her characters. We all felt we were with them at key points in the book.”
Shorlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016. Longlisted for the HWA Goldsboro Debut Crown Award Longlist 2016. ‘Mrs Engels’ is a stimulating and rather glorious peek at the life of Lizzie Burns, who lived alongside and supported the two men who founded Marxism. Set between 1842 and 1878, Gavin McCrea has planted this story in fact, and then weaved a magical yet earthy tale. Lizzie Burns was a woman of practical strength and determination, she takes the reader into her confidence and tells her own story, and what an amazing tale it is! Gavin McCrea not only transported me back in time, he also had me hanging on to every single word that came out of Lizzie’s mouth. The language surprises on occasion, and may cause a raised eyebrow, it is so full of attitude and down to earth. The story flowed between Lizzie’s past and present, until it felt as though it was one moment in time. Lizzie Burns was a woman who would have been extraordinary today, the voice McCrea has created is startling, and this is a simply wonderful and entirely captivating debut. Chair of judges Iain Pears said: “McCrea has cleverly included just enough historical detail to set a very evocative scene, then lets his cast tell the story. The writing always surprises, his characters are compelling without having to be likeable and, as all of we judges noted, Mrs Engels is perhaps the most feminist novel we read for the Prize.” Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.