Updated: Dec 31, 2022
Recommendations for the New Year...
Hope you all had some book-shaped parcels this Christmas! I know I’ve got a new TBR pile to attack - but in the meantime, here are my Top Ten picks for the 2023, taking UK readers from January to July. Some of these books are still on Netgalley, so if you’ve got an account, download a couple to keep you busy until the new year - and get these pre-ordered to sweeten your 2023.
We All Want Impossible Things - Catherine Newman (January 2023)
Edi is in her early forties, and dying. She has always asked a lot from her friends, but repaid them with the type of fierce love that makes them want to be their best selves. Now it’s her best friend Ash’s turn to step up, taking Edi upstate to a hospice. Things are complicated by Ash’s desperate need not to feel anything while Edi declines, obliterating her feelings through wild sex with randoms, including Edi's sexy Tony Soprano lookalike doctor and her daughter's (female) former substitute teacher.
Amazing Grace Adams - Fran Littlewood (January 2023)
Perimenopausal, estranged from her teenage daughter and trying to carry a Love Island-themed cake across London, Grace Adams isn't feeling particularly amazing. As Grace's turbulent Falling Down-style day unfolds, we learn more about her. Grace is a fascinating person who started out as a prizewinning, polyglot 'superwoman' and TV personality, and ended up as a largely invisible mum who ''missed the boat'. But nothing's impossible...not for Grace, anyway.
Love & Other Scams - PJ Ellis (March 2023)
This wicked new rom-com from debut author Ellis shines like a Ritz-sized diamond. A hilarious heist story with Black and queer representation, Love & Other Scams hits all the right notes in a slice of pure enjoyment reminiscent of a young Chrissie Manby or Marian Keyes.
A House for Alice - Diana Evans (April 2023)
In this sequel to her brilliant Ordinary People, Evans takes us through the neglected parts of London (Catford, Gipsy Hill, Merstham - and Grenfell Tower, in that hellish night that opens the book and haunts its pages). The vista broadens to Nigeria, as Alice, a woman nearing the end of her life, makes preparations to go home. But what is home, or a house? What is marriage? Who are we, and how much is that shaped by the needs of the people we love? While I wouldn't go so far as to say the book argues for an afterlife, there are a couple of hints that, while some things stay lost forever, they can also be found.
Pineapple Street - Jenny Jackson (April 2023)
Sasha Rossi grows up middle-class (or 'poor' in the words of her husband Cord's family) in Rhode Island. Cord is sweet and unpretentious but his sisters call Sasha a gold digger and his mother is pathologically obsessed with tablescapes. Meanwhile, romantic-but-private sister Darley is keeping her husband's humiliating and undeserved firing a secret from the family, contributing to tensions between them, and little sister Georgiana, working for a non-profit, is about to begin an affair that will tear apart and re-shape her life.
Preloved - Lauren Bravo (May 2023)
I love charity shops, so even though the novel wasn't a hard sell for me (like many of the items in the unloved, unremarkable charity shop in the novel) Preloved exceeded my expectations. The author convinced me with her fluid, emotionally literate writing and really knowing her stuff about vintage and second-hand goods. I particularly liked how some objects - a gold clock, a pair of white shoes, a lawyer's designer handbag - kept popping up throughout the book, and how open-minded the author was about depicting the stories of the shop’s lesbian, gay and non-binary customers. These things matter!
We Can Be Heroes - Paul Burston (June 2023)
An original memoir from the journalist, novelist and salonniere, We Can Be Heroes is a must-read for lovers of It’s a Sin. Driven by the desire to get out of his small Welsh town and, later, an awareness of mortality brought on by the ravages of HIV/AIDS in the gay community, Burston had achieved a great deal by the age of thirty - while partying very hard. An inspiring book, even if you wish life had been a bit easier for this sweet small-town boy, and a moving, gossipy, spicy read with pacing that recalls Burston's thrillers and society comedies but with a loving, angry heart all of its own.
The Three Of Us - Ore Agbaje-Williams (May 2023)
A young married couple endure (and in the wife’s case, enjoy) the company of anarchic friend Temi, who hasn't given up hope of her best friend returning to the carefree dreams of their youth, before marriage and the prospect of kids. Surrounded by sex, wine and doomed attempts at getting some work done, their quiet evening at home unravels in an Abigail's Party style. This would also be ideal as a mini-series of short, bite-sized episodes on TV, like ‘Cheaters’ or ‘State of the Union.’
My Own Worst Enemy - Lily Lindon (June 2023)
Emmeline Clooney (no relation to George) loves acting. She graduated at the top of her class at drama school, and is determined to be the No. 1 Short-Haired Female Actor in the UK. Then she meets Mae Jones, her charismatic doppelganger and instant frenemy, in the loos during an audition for a production based on (what else)? Tipping the Velvet. As Emmy tries to beat Mae at her own game, she meets a new woman, glamorous, femme theatre critic Heather, who can make - or break - them both.
My (extra) Ordinary Life - Rebecca Ryan (January 2023)
Emily Turner worries that she is a little too average. Having lost her twin at the age of eight, she has always felt lost and out of place, worried that her sister would have made a better job of having a bigger, brighter, shinier life. Emily vows to step out of her comfort zone and take steps - some small, some big - towards self-actualisation.
Any recommendations from you? Contact me on Twitter @sophiablackwell. Can't wait to hear!