It’s almost summer (although the weather would like to persuade us otherwise) and that means that soon, there should be opportunity to laze about outside with a book for an hour or two while children amuse themselves. Prepare for such a momentous event with the best books out this May, chosen by the gang at Mostly Books in Abingdon.
Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal (£14.99)
Following her debut The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal excels once again, creating a story shimmering with magic and illusion in which historical fiction meets the bizarre and the cruel. Circus of Wonders follows Nell, who picks violets for a living in a coastal village in southern England. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea. But when a circus arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising the showman his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship and family with the other performers, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her. Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas (£14.99)
Reminiscent of the film Sliding Doors, Freitas’ deeply moving novel explores nine possible outcomes when a woman who has never wanted children marries a man who gradually decides he does. Following the butterfly effect of one life-defining choice, nine times over, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano winds through all the paths and decisions that shape a life. It cuts to the heart of what it means to be a woman. Ambitious, compelling and provocative, it delves deep into motherhood, love and navigating the world as a woman when life takes unexpected turns, and the ways that fate intercedes when we least expect it.
Snowflake by Louise Nealon (£12.99)
Don’t be put off by the generational title – this wonderful debut will resonate with everyone who has ever questioned their sense of self while navigating the world into adulthood. Eighteen-year-old Debbie White lives on a dairy farm with her mother, Maeve, and her uncle, Billy. Billy sleeps out in a caravan in the garden with a bottle of whiskey and the stars overhead for company. Maeve spends her days recording her dreams, which she believes to be prophecies. This world is Debbie’s normal, but she is about to step into life as a student at Trinity College in Dublin. As she navigates between sophisticated new friends and the family bubble, things begin to unravel. Maeve’s eccentricity tilts into something darker, while Billy’s drinking gets worse. Debbie struggles to cope with the weirdest, most difficult parts of herself, her family and her small life. But the fierce love of the White family is never in doubt, and Debbie discovers that even the oddest of families are places of safety. A startling, honest, laugh-and-cry novel about growing up and leaving home, only to find that you’ve taken it with you.
Stronger: Changing Everything I Knew About Women’s Strength by Poorna Bell (£16.99)
An empowering and accessible book about women’s strength, Poorna Bell tells not only her own story but those of a range of women, investigating intersections of race, age and social background. Part memoir, part manifesto, Stronger explodes old-fashioned notions and long-held beliefs about getting strong and explores the relationship between mental and physical health. Stronger is thought-provoking and inclusive and will no doubt impact readers to question their views on strength, body positivity and fitness.
Careless by Kirsty Capes (£12.99)
A coming-of-age tale with a difference, Careless is an intense and gritty story about the importance of love. Written with tremendous empathy and compassion, Capes’ electrifying debut charts the maturing of Bess – teenage, pregnant and living on the edge of society – and what it means to be young and neglected in 21st-century Britain. Careless provides a distinctive voice, from a perspective little-explored of someone in care, which takes us on a visceral, emotional and nostalgic ride through a single hot summer and teaches the reader the integral difference between conditional and unconditional love. Perfect for fans of Queenie, Normal People and Everything I Know About Love.
The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (£12.99)
Soon to be a television series starring Julia Roberts, this domestic mystery takes a unique look at family, trust and loyalty. Addictive, suspenseful and emotional, fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng are sure to be gripped from the start. Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his new wife, Hannah: protect her. Hannah knows exactly who Owen needs her to protect – his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child and who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother. As her increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, his boss is arrested for fraud and the police start questioning her, Hannah realises that her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey might hold the key to discovering Owen’s true identity, and why he disappeared. Together they set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realise that their lives will never be the same again…
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (£14.99)
Hypnotic, propulsive and utterly transporting, Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an extraordinary debut novel. Ariadne, Princess of Crete and daughter of the fearsome King Minos, grows up hearing the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice every year. When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him, defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love. In a world where women are nothing more than pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne’s decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her a happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover’s ambition? Great for fans of Circe by Madeleine Miller and Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker.
How To Kidnap the Rich by Rahul Raina (£14.99)
A reliable blackmail formula mixes with the unpredictability of life in this brilliantly thought-provoking satirical thriller that shrewdly and riotously dissects the huge inequalities of Indian society. Set in Delhi, this is the story of Ramesh, a so-called ‘examinations consultant’ for the middle class. When Ramesh takes an exam for Rudi – an insufferably lazy but rich teenager – he accidentally scores the highest mark in the country, propelling Rudi into stardom. Ramesh devises a scheme to extort money from Rudi’s parents, but his plan backfires and chaos ensues. Kidnapping, double-kidnapping and reverse kidnapping… Can Ramesh make it out of this mess alive? Veering from absurd to heart-wrenching, Raina’s exhilarating debut is pure entertainment from start to finish.
Also noteworthy this month…
May sees the paperback publications of Richard Osman’s witty crime bestseller The Thursday Murder Club, as well as Pandora Sykes’ How Do We Know We Are Doing It Right? – a collection of essays covering a wide range of topics from consumerism to mindfulness.