February is packed to the rafters with literary fodder. Lynne Truss is back for the first time in 10 years with her new novel Cat Out of Hell. If you liked Child 44 by Rob Smith, he’s got The Farm coming out just before Valentine’s Day this month, and, if that wasn’t enough, Paul Theroux’s son, the broadcaster and novelist Marcel, is releasing his fifth book, Strange Bodies.
For my five picks this month, I’ve chosen a sultry love story thrumming with female sexuality in Helen Walsh’s The Lemon Grove, a stark look at the history and reality of a soldier’s life in In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds – one of Granta’s Young British Writers 2013 – and a story of ageing authors clashing with new industry blood in Hanif Kureishi’s The Last Word.
At the other end of the spectrum there’s a moving window into the life of a lesser-known literary subject in Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, which Colm Tóibín called a “fiercely original act of creation,” and Joanne Harris’ (Chocolat) The Gospel of Loki, an exploration of Norse mythology through one of it’s most mischievous characters. Happy February reading bookworms!
The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh. Tinder Press
“Each summer, Jenn and her husband Greg return to Deia, on Mallorca’s dramatic west coast. This year the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her new boyfriend Nathan threatens to upset their equilibrium. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that puts lives and relationships in jeopardy. For Jenn, after this summer, nothing can ever be the same.” Tinder Press
The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi. Faber & Faber
“Mamoon is an eminent Indian-born writer who has made a career in England – but now, in his early seventies, his reputation is fading, his book sales have dried up and his new wife has expensive tastes.
Harry, a young writer, is commissioned to write a biography to revitalise Mamoon’s career and bank balance. Harry greatly admires Mamoon’s work and wants to uncover the truth of the artist’s life. Harry’s publisher seeks a more naked truth, a salacious tale of sex and scandal that will generate headlines. Meanwhile Mamoon himself is mining a different vein of truth altogether.
Harry and Mamoon find themselves in a battle of wills, but which of them will have the last word?” Faber & Faber
In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds. Jonathan Cape
“Set in North Africa and Sicily at the end of the last war, In the Wolf’s Mouth follows the Allies’ botched ‘liberation’ attempts as they chase the Germans north towards the Italian mainland. Focussing on the campaigns of two young soldiers – Will Walker, an English Field Security Officer, ambitious to master and shape events, and Ray Marfione, a wide-eyed Italian-American infantryman – the new novel from Adam Foulds contains some of the best battle writing of the past fifty years. Particularly eloquent on the brutish, blundering inaccuracy of war, this is a sensual, intimate experience: the immediacy of the prose uncanny and unforgettable.
A novel about many things, including the impossibility of good and evil, In the Wolf’s Mouthshows how individual fates and truths are lost in the writing of history – lost, along with all tenderness and humanity. At the same time, Adam Foulds has remade a history: lifting it out of newsreel and back into its raw and helpless flesh and blood.” Jonathan Cape
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. Grove Atlantic
“Aaliya Sohbi lives alone in her Beirut apartment, surrounded by stockpiles of books. Godless, fatherless, childless, and divorced, Aaliya is her family’s “unnecessary appendage.” Every year, she translates a new favorite book into Arabic, then stows it away. The thirty-seven books that Aaliya has translated over her lifetime have never been read—by anyone. After overhearing her neighbors, “the three witches,” discussing her too-white hair, Aaliya accidentally dyes her hair too blue.
In this breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman’s late-life crisis, readers follow Aaliya’s digressive mind as it ricochets across visions of past and present Beirut. Colorful musings on literature, philosophy, and art are invaded by memories of the Lebanese Civil War and Aaliya’s own volatile past. As she tries to overcome her aging body and spontaneous emotional upwellings, Aaliya is faced with an unthinkable disaster that threatens to shatter the little life she has left.” Grove Atlantic
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris. Gollancz/Orion Books
“The novel is a brilliant first-person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods – retold from the point of view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from the underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard itself.” Gollancz/Orion Books