A new year means new starts, and for bookworms, not just new books but a whole tranche of new authors to discover and enjoy. From new titles from established literary heavyweights to debut authors with books that might just change your life, 2023 has plenty to offer in the world of fiction.
A book that will resonate with anyone who has felt they are spinning more than their fair share of plates, this debut from Fran Littlewood will be devoured by those women who have been tempted to give it all up for a moment’s peace. Littlewood is a journalist-turned-author, and the mother of three teenage daughters, who firmly believes that there needs to be change in how we talk about women as they age. Amazing Grace Adams attempts to do that and with aplomb, a novel rooted in motherhood, marriage and female rage that isn’t afraid to delve into the female hormones of adult womanhood.
For American author Laura Warrell, writing Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm has been a labour of love. Warrell, who is 51, decided a few years ago to give up on love, having survived a marriage, a divorce, and a string of relationships with men who failed to commit to her. She channeled her experience into her debut novel, a swirling modern classic that brings together a cacophony of women’s voices who all have the same man in common: mixed-race jazz trumpeter Circus Palmer. Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm interrogates love – and its absence – from deep within these decade-spanning relationships, resulting in a book that is varied, insightful and beautiful.
Debut author Ore Abgaje-Williams wrote a first draft of The Three of Us during NaNoWriMo, in lockdown, and is set to be one of the annual writing challenge's greatest successes yet: the novel won a six-book auction to get a deal. The Three of Us twists domestic noir into one tight, tense and darkly funny day while exploring an uncomfortably familiar question: what happens when your spouse and your best friend hate one another? The Three of Us has won comparisons to I May Destroy You by Michaela Coel, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer and Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan.
Brandon Taylor’s third offering, after the Booker Prize-shortlisted Real Life and bestseller Filthy Animals is The Late Americans, a novel that places the endless intricacies of friendships, lovers and chosen family centre stage. Set in Iowa City around a potent friendship group of dancers, amateur pornographers, poets, landlords, meat-packing workers and mathematicians who occupy the city’s many facets, The Late Americans culminates in a reckoning that will change all of these young people’s lives.
Some love stories are so engrossing you can’t believe they’re not quite real. Claire Daverley’s debut novel is dedicated to Will and Rosie, who met as teenagers and, quite by accident, became one another’s great love story. But when tragedy strikes, obliterating any chance of their being together, the couple are drawn into an existence which neither can inhabit nor escape. Talking at Night is their captivating, heartbreaking tale.
Books you won’t want to put down
A must-read for fans of The Secret History, The Cloisters is an intriguing and mysterious novel with murder at its heart. Art historian and author Katy Hays was inspired by a real Tarot deck and the fascinating medieval history of the occult to create this gripping novel of class, academia, secrets and future-telling. You’ll never look at Tarot in the same way again.
International bestselling author Harlan Coben has been a tearaway on Netflix since his show Stay Close launched this summer, but it’s on the page that his stories are the most compelling – and his forthcoming novel is no different. In I Will Find You, the worst tragedy strikes a family of three when their toddler goes missing – and all evidence points to his father, Will, having killed him. So when his sister-in-law arrives five years later with a life-changing bombshell, Will is set on a mission to clear his name – and find his son.
Book editors often make excellent novelists (think Harriet Evans or Abigail Dean) and Jenny Jackson pours twenty years of experience into Pineapple Street, her debut. Gabrielle Zevin, Emily St. John Mandel, Katherine Heiny and Kevin Kwan are among the stellar names on Jackson's roster (Kwan told the New York Times, “It was like finding out your spouse is an Olympic equestrian”) but the story and style are all hers. This is a glossy family drama about a colossally wealthy family navigating the challenges from the choices each of the now-adult Stockton children have made with family finances. Cord married outsider Sasha without a pre-nup. Darley rebelled against the family wealth to raise her children on a 'normal' budget, and young Georgiana is out of her depth working at a non-profit organisation. This is a beach read only in the sense that you need to be somewhere you can inhale this in one go. No surprise that it's been optioned for a TV series.
As fans of Judge Rinder will know, Rob Rinder has seen enough courtroom trials in his career to know that truth can be stranger than fiction. No wonder, then, that his debut novel takes all of the drama he brings to proceedings and boils it down into a powerful thriller. Transporting the reader from the murky world of Chambers to the grandeur of the Old Bailey, Rinder’s character Adam Green, a trainee barrister who doesn’t quite fit in, is one to stick with.
Summer romances are the stuff of many a novel, but debut author and seasoned backpacker Katie Bishop twists this familiar scene on its head in her debut. Don’t let the title fool you: The Girls of Summer tackles dark subjects such as rape, suicide and trafficking through a dual-history narrative – one set in the London of today, the other on a Greek island 16 years ago. When Rachel thinks back on the first love she believed changed her life as an adult, she realises just how far she had fallen.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman (January)
Children’s and non-fiction author Catherine Newman turns her experienced hand to fiction for this delightful read about long-term friendship and what happens when the unimaginable occurs. Edi and Ash have been best friends for over 40 years, sticking side-by-side through first loves, teenage shenanigans, marriage, loss, fertility troubles, and children. So when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash sticks by her then, too. What unfolds is a novel that joyfully celebrates making the best out of life’s littlest things.
Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld (April)
Ever since she exploded onto the bestseller charts with Prep in 2005, author Curtis Sittenfeld has demonstrated a keen eye for satire and the ability to deliver a razor-sharp line. After nearly two decades of writing brilliant, witty and well-observed novels about high society, Sittenfeld is back with Romantic Comedy, about a loveless TV writer and her unlikely romance with a pop idol. After all, if average-looking men can bag beautiful, successful female dates, why can’t it work the other way around?
Yes, that Tom Hanks. This isn’t, however, a memoir, but the first novel from the beloved two-time Oscar winner. Hanks made his literary debut in 2017 with a collection of short stories that demonstrated the breadth and depth of the human condition. Now he’s back long-form with a novel that proves Hanks is as serious a writer as he is an actor. The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece spans eight decades as a host of characters come together in an attempt to make Hollywood magic – with the priceless pedigree of an insider’s knowledge.
A read that’s as transportive as it is beautiful, Go As a River offers a story of female resilience and power against a breathtaking landscape. Five generations of author Shelley Read’s family have lived in the Elk Mountains of the Western Slope of Colorado, and it’s this deep heritage that has inspired the bold story at the heart of her novel. Victoria Nash, her 17-year-old heroine, has her life turned upside down after a chance encounter with a mysterious drifter. When she follows, she risks losing everything she holds most dear.
As an editor at the London Review of Books, Tom Crewe knows a thing or two about what to read. He also knew about what he wanted to write before A New Life came on the scene: “This is the book I knew I wanted to write long before I actually wrote it,” he explains. Crewe’s intention was to “reveal to readers an unfamiliar Victorian England that will surprise and provoke”. A New Life follows two men and the queer relationships they are trying to make a better world for – even if it throws their lives into danger in the process.
Brigitte Reimann was one of East Germany’s most daring authors, whose life imitated that of her fearless fictional heroines. In Siblings, she takes the reader back to 1960, where the border between East and West Germany has closed, and with it relationships within one family. While the young painter Elisabeth sees the GDR as her generation’s chance to build a brave new future, her brother Uli sees it as a place of oppression. Fear and opportunity collide in this groundbreaking classic of post-war East German literature.
Modern retellings of Greek myths are having a moment, and into the arena enters Clytemnestra, debut novelist Costanza Casati’s passionate and poised retelling of the story of Greek mythology’s most notorious heroine. Casati studied Ancient Greek and Ancient Greek literature in Italy for five years, so she brings deep expertise to Clytemnestra, which is told from the vengeful queen’s perspective. Power, prophecies, hatred and love all combine in this fiery novel.
As those familiar with her YouTube channel, Books and Things, may know, Katie Lumsden has been a fan of Victorian fiction for decades. Now, she’s written her own take on 19th-century gothic: Secrets of Hartwood Hall. A must-read for fans of Dickens, Austen, and the Bronte sisters, Lumsden’s debut is a gripping and full-bloodied manor-house mystery. Young widow Margaret Lennox takes a governess position at the titular hall in 1852, but rather than having the chance to leave her past behind, she finds even more secrets, some of which threaten her very being.
C. E. McGill took inspiration from one of the greatest novels of all time for this sumptuous gothic horror story. At its heart is Mary, great-niece of Victor Frankenstein, who knows of her uncle’s disappearance in the Arctic but not much more. Along with her husband, Mary is trying to find fame as a paleontologist, but neither have the connections or cash needed in 1850s London for such a feat. When Mary goes rummaging in some family papers, she discovers what her great-uncle really got up to: but will this knowledge be the couple’s meal ticket, or their demise?
TikTok star Bea Fitzgerald has won a devoted audience for her Greek myth parody videos over on @chaosonolympus, and now she’s taking to the page with YA novel Girl, Goddess, Queen. Taking the conventional telling of the Persephone story and having an absolute riot with it, Fitzgerald’s debut novel re-imagines one of the best-known myths as a love quest in which Persephone actively pursues Hades. It’s a plan that will shake Mount Olympus to its very core.
Kirsty Logan has made a name for herself as a purveyor of chilling stories, and Now She Is Witch is no different. A witch story unlike any other, Logan entwines the narratives of two searingly drawn female characters: Lux and Else, who are united in their mission to avenge a man who wronged them. Fearless, cunning and familiar with the art of poisoning, these are two women not to be underestimated.
The acclaimed novelist has tackled the epic form for this immersive saga of love, adventure and myth. Set in 14th-century southern India, Victory City recreates the foundations of a utopian society from the mind of one remarkable child: nine-year-old Pampa Kampana. Grief-stricken after witnessing the death of her mother, Pampa becomes a vessel for the goddess Parvati, who challenges her to make the impossible real: a world of gender equality. In her quest, civilisation shifts, with wild consequences.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Harding is back with this extraordinary novel that imagines the final days of a once-thriving racial utopia. This Other Eden tells the stories of the Apple Islanders, a civilisation born of race and science, and in particular Ethan Honey, a man spared destruction because of his artistic skills and fair skin. Harding challenges us to consider mercy and tolerance in this visionary and shimmering novel, as otherworldly as the landscape it imagines.
In Emma Torzs’s world, magic exists – and that’s exactly why it needs to be protected. Ink Blood Sister Scribe is the story of a woman left behind with the heritage and heavy debt of the magic that formed – and destroyed – her family. Joanna Kalotay has been upholding her family’s reputation as the librarians of books capable of doing dark magic, but when her estranged sister returns to the family home, the pair must fix their relationship to stop devastating harm from taking place.