The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
In a small town deep in the Irish midlands, the Barnes family is in crisis. Dickie’s car business is on the verge of going under. His wife Imelda, unhappy in their marriage, is spending half her time selling her jewellery on eBay. Their teenage daughter Cass, once a great student, has swapped revising for binge-drinking, and their 12-year-son PJ is planning to run away from home. The Bee Sting is another bittersweet, darkly funny tale from the author of the Booker-longlisted tragicomedy Skippy Dies, and a sweeping family saga that asks where did it all go wrong?
(Hamish Hamilton, £18.99)
This Thread of Gold by Catherine Joy White
Catherine Joy White is an adviser to the United Nations on gender equality, but this book introduces her as a writer to pay attention to. From Aretha Franklin to Alice Walker; Beyoncé to Audre Lorde, White uses the stories of remarkable Black women who have come before her as a lens to explore her own journey to self-discovery. This Thread of Gold also deftly shines a light on those who have been starkly missing from prevailing historical narratives, such as Malinda Russell, author of the earliest known cookbook by a Black woman. By turns fascinating, inspiring and movingly written, this is an essential new book.
Best of the rest
Limelight by Daisy Buchanan
Frankie has two versions of herself: in person, she feels invisible. Online, she posts risqué photos of herself. Then her sister is diagnosed with cancer and a nationwide fundraiser sees all eyes turn on Frankie’s racy online presence in this tale about sexuality, self-esteem, and sisters.
Watch Us Dance by Leïla Slimani
Following The Country of Others, Slimani has returned with the second instalment to the trilogy about an interracial family in 20th century Morocco. Watch Us Dance is another atmospheric read that sees them face the upheaval of the 1960s.
I Am Homeless if This Is Not My Home by Lorrie Moore
The first Lorrie Moore novel in 14 years is cause for celebration, and this compelling story about Finn, a middle-aged history teacher who heads on a road trip with a long-lost lover, is worth the wait.
The Birdcage Library by Freya Berry
In 1932, adventuress Emily Blackwood journeys to a ruined castle where a treasure hunt sees dark, long-buried secrets begin to unravel. The Birdcage Library is wonderfully gothic and immersive.
(Headline Review, £16.99)
Summer Skies by Jenny Colgan
Following a crash landing in her grandfather’s rickety old plane, Morag finds herself on a remote island where Gregor, a reclusive ornithologist, is the only inhabitant. Summer Skies is another dreamy romance from the beloved Scottish author.
Brotherless Night by V. V. Ganeshananthan
Sashi is a young Tamil woman growing up as the Sri Lankan civil war rages around her. This is a heart-rending book about connection and survival, and one that sweeps you up in its brilliant storytelling.
The Expectant Detectives by Kat Ailes
When there’s a murder in their Cotswolds antenatal class, Alice and her fellow soon-to-be mothers are suddenly suspects. Described as Motherland meets Midsomer Murders, The Expectant Detective is the epitome of fun and witty cosy crime.
The Rachel Incident by Caroline O’Donoghue
When Rachel falls for her married professor, she drafts in her friend James to help her seduce him. The Rachel Incident is a compulsive, all-consuming story about love, friendship and the messiness of being young.
The Missus by E.L. James
Can Alessia make her marriage to Maxim, the Earl of Trevithick, work when confronted by his lurid past? From the author of Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon comes the follow-up to The Mister – and another steamy, sexy read.
The Wild Card by Judy Murray
When Abigail finds herself competing in Wimbledon 20 years after she put her tennis career on hold to have her son, the press start digging into secrets from her past. Judy Murray’s debut is a high-stakes novel set in the world she knows best.
Speak of the Devil by Rose Wilding
Seven women discover the severed head of an awful man they all knew. They each had reason to kill him, but all deny they did. Speak of the Devil is a clever and utterly absorbing debut thriller that marks the arrival of an author to watch.
The Trial by Rob Rinder
Criminal barrister and TV personality Judge Rinder has written an Old Bailey-set mystery? Why of course! The Trial follows a maverick trainee lawyer determined to uncover the truth behind a poisoned policeman.
The Other Mothers by Katherine Faulkner
Tash is a journalist investigating a story about a drowned woman. As she gets closer to the wealthy group of mothers from her toddler’s playgroup, she gets a sense that there is more to them than meets the eye – and someone is trying to stop her getting to the truth.
(Raven Books, £14.99)
A Death in the Parish by Reverend Richard Coles
A heap of church politics, a small, torn apart community, and a shocking ritualistic killing; Death in the Parish could only be sequel to the number one bestseller, Murder Before Evensong, and another example of great cosy crime.
The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor
In the highly-anticipated new release from the author of the Booker Prize-shortlisted Real Life, a disparate group of young people lead complex intertwining lives in Iowa City. A lyrical and beautifully evocative read about sex and self-discovery.
The Broken Places by Russell Franklin
A fictionalised account of the life of Ernest Hemingway’s third child Gregory – taking the reader on a journey from Kansas to Cuba, New York to Florida – The Broken Places is an enrapturing story about family and expectation.
The Unbroken Beauty of Rosalind Bone by Alex McCarthy
In a sleepy village deep in the Welsh Valleys, 16-year-old Catrin is beginning to question versions of the past she has been told, including why her mother’s sister really disappeared. 176 pages of quiet brilliance.
The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor
After an affair with a married government official ruins her prospects of becoming a writer, Bianca takes a job with an infamous and legendary make up artist. He becomes an unlikely ally in this warm Trinidad-set novel.
(Fig Tree, £14.99)
On Women by Susan Sontag
A posthumously published collection of feminist writing from one of America’s most revered intellectuals, On Women may have mostly been written in the 1970s but it’s as incisive and pertinent as ever.
(Hamish Hamilton, £16.99)
How to Survive a Crisis by David Omand
If anyone knows how to handle a catastrophe, it’s the former director of GCHQ. This book tells of his storied career, giving fascinating insight into real-world examples such as 9/11 and Chernobyl, and comes with vital lessons on resilience.
Fighting for Life by Isabel Hardman
Subtitled “The Twelve Battles that Made Our NHS, and the Struggle for Its Future”, this eye-opening book chronicles the last 75 years of our health service, cuts through the noise on how it really works, and explores what could happen next.
Wild Hope by Marisa Bate
Bate re-traces her mother’s footsteps to the US, back to the heady promise of the 1970s – a world of Gloria Steinem and a newly passed Roe v Wade – and delves into what has happened since. Interweaving the personal with the political, Wild Hope lyrical and rousing.
The Invention of Essex by Tim Burrows
According to Burrows, we have the connotations of Essex all wrong. Beyond reality TV and tabloid headlines, the county has a fascinating history – and where it leads, the rest of us follow. Richly researched and written with vim and humour, this book will change the way you see the infamous county.
Know Your Place by Dr Faiza Shaheen
Shaheen overcame a plethora of barriers to get to Oxford and become a leading statistician. In this thought-provoking read, she uses her own unlikely story to probe how society defines your chances in life – and what we can do about it.
(Simon & Schuster, £16.99)
Happy High Status by Viv Groskop
Offering a new way to look at confidence and brimming with practical advice on minimising self-doubt, Happy High Statues draws on the worlds of politics, comedy, TV and sport to give its masterclass in self-esteem.
Pageboy by Elliot Page
The award-winning actor movingly recalls his journey from finding stardom in Juno to discovering himself as a trans person, all while navigating criticism and abuse from Hollywood and beyond.
“Literary legend? I don’t feel like that at all”
There are few authors in translation who have quite the influence of Isabel Allende. Since publishing her Spanish language debut, the 1982 bestseller The House of the Spirits, the Chilean writer has become a global literary legend. Now 80 years old and best known for her historical fiction and use of magic realism, Allende’s prolific career has seen her turn her pen to everything from the Spanish civil war (A Long Petal of the Sea) to an Amazonian adventure (City of the Beasts), while also foraying into nonfiction and memoir with My Invented Country, The Soul of a Woman, and Paula.
Over time, no matter the story or genre, there are themes Allende returns to: patriarchy, history, women’s lives, migration and belonging. The latter is ever prominent in Allende’s most recent novel. The Wind Knows My Name is another richly layered tale that intertwines past and present by charting the journey of two children in the wake of both Kristallnacht and Trump’s family separation policy.
Not only is displacement a topic that continues to be prescient, but it is one that will always be close to the author’s heart. “There are millions of displaced people in the world and I have been one of them,” says Allende, who was forced to flee Chile for Venezuela during Augusto Pinochet’s coup in the 1970s. “This global humanitarian crisis has no apparent solution. We can’t really grasp the suffering of millions – that is just an abstract number.” And so, she writes. “When we see the face, learn the name and hear the story of one person, we can empathise, she explains. “We realise that we could be that person. That is what I try to do in my writing: connect people.”
Despite her lauded international status – as an author who has sold more than 75 million books, and been translated into more than 40 languages – she remains down to earth. “I don’t feel at all like a legend or an icon,” she says. “Celebrity happens in the periphery; I only feel it in a public event, like being on stage in front of a thousand people, but otherwise my life is simple and private.”
“Nothing has changed much for me,” she adds. “I still get up at 5.30am and work every day. I live in a small house, my car is old, and my dogs are rescue mutts. I am afraid that I am not a glamorous icon at all.”
The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende is published by Bloomsbury on 6 June