Book Reviews of Debuts Week

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

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It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and time again by the police. At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home once afternoon.

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia’s is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children.

As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.

Intoxicating and compulsive, Heatstroke is a darkly gripping, thought-provoking novel of crossed boundaries, power and betrayal, that plays with expectations at every turn.

‘Barkworth is excruciatingly good… An impressive first book’ OBSERVER.
HEAT magazine’s READ OF THE WEEK – ‘the evocative one’
‘Painfully real, and so beautifully written I wanted to stay within its pages forever’ CLARE MACKINTOSH
‘Stylish and sensual’ KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth us published by Headline £16.99

The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves

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Frank hasn’t spoken to his wife Maggie for six months.

For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.

Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet, but it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.

Is this where their story ends?
Or is it where it begins?

With characters that will capture your heart, THE SILENT TREATMENT celebrates the phenomenal power of love and the importance of leaving nothing unsaid.

‘An original and moving debut from a talented new voice.’ SANTA MONTEFIORE

‘This is an extraordinarily tense yet tender portrait of a marriage … written with assurance and agonising insight, and the characters of Maggie and Frank will stay with me for a long time’ Daily Mail

‘Beautifully written in Greaves’s unique voice… Poignant, heart-breaking and insightful.’ Woman & Home

The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves is published by Cornerstone £12.99

Beach Read by Emily Henry

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January is a hopeless romantic who narrates her life like she’s the lead in a blockbuster movie.
Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.

But January and Gus have more in common than you’d think:

They’re both broke.
They’ve got crippling writer’s block.
And they need to write bestsellers before summer ends.

The result? A bet to swap genres and see who gets published first.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…

Set over one sizzling summer, Beach Read is a witty love story that will make you laugh as much as cry, for fans of The Flat Share and If I Never Met You.

‘Reader, I swooned! Beach Read is a breath of fresh air. My heart ached for January, and Gus is to die for – a steamy, smart and perceptive romance. I was engrossed!’ Josie Silver, author of bestselling One Day in December

Full of banter, heat, and sexual tension, I felt the thrill of falling in loveright alongside January and Gus. A gorgeous page-turner of a novel that provided the perfect escapist romp’ Laura Jane Williams, author of Our Stop

Beach Read by Emily Henry is published by Penguin £7.99

Love after Love by Ingrid Persaud

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With an unconventional family unit at its heart, Persaud’s novel explores the intricate connection between love and trust, and what happens to the former when the latter is disrupted. Heartfelt, sincere and hopeful, Love After Love exposes poignant crossroad moments in human relationships with compelling lyricism.

Meet the Ramdin-Chetan family: forged through loneliness, broken by secrets, saved by love. Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household, happy in their differences, as they build a home together.

Home: the place where your navel string is buried, keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world. Happy and loving they are, until the night when a glass of rum, a heart to heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.

Brave and brilliant, steeped in affection, Love After Love asks us to consider what happens at the very brink of human forgiveness, and offers hope to anyone who has loved and lost and has yet to find their way back.

‘Restless, heart-breaking and intensely spellbinding, Love after Love will stay with you long after the last page.’ – Andre Aciman

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud is published by Faber and Faber £14.99

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

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Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children.

Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than ‘I like you a great deal’.

Enter Edith, a lawyer. Refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest, Edith takes Ava to the theatre when Julian leaves Hong Kong for work. Quickly, she becomes something Ava looks forward to.

And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong… Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?

Politically alert, heartbreakingly raw, and dryly funny, Exciting Times is thrillingly attuned to the great freedoms and greater uncertainties of modern love. In stylish, uncluttered prose, Naoise Dolan dissects the personal and financial transactions that make up a life-and announces herself as a singular new voice.

‘The book of the summer … Kept me rapt until the final page’ THE TIMES

‘A sharp, smart, witty modern love story. I loved it’ David Nicholls, author of ONE DAY

‘More than lives up to the hype … Likely to fill the Sally-Rooney-shaped hole in many readers’ lives’ IRISH TIMES

‘Exciting Times, which was acquired in a seven-way bidding war, more than lives up to the hype … It teems with insight around class, race, language and sexuality. Likely to fill the Sally-Rooney-shaped hole in many readers’ lives.’ – Irish Times 

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan is published by W&N £14.99

Looking for Eliza by Leaf Arbuthnot

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Ada is a widowed writer, navigating loneliness in Oxford after the death of her husband. She has no children. No grandchildren. She fears she is becoming peripheral, another invisible woman.

Eliza is a student at the university. She finds it difficult to form meaningful relationships after the estrangement of her mother and breakup with her girlfriend.

After meeting through Ada’s new venture, ‘Rent-a-Gran’, and bonding over Lapsang Souchong tea and Primo Levi, they begin to find what they’re looking for in each other. But can they cast off their isolation for good?

An exquisite story of connection and loss, and how a person can change another person’s life. Full of heartache yet joyful and life-affirming, this is for fans of Normal People, Expectation and Sarah Winman’s Tin Man.

‘Leaf’s writing is warm and lyrically funny – she has an eye for details both sublime and ridiculous.Looking for Eliza is an intelligent and big-hearted read with the human condition at its core.’ – Harriet Walker, The Times

‘Clever, warm and funny’ – ADAM KAY, bestselling author of This is Going to Hurt

‘Beautifully rendered, thoughtful and original’ – Pandora Sykes

‘A marvellous read’ – Ruth Hogan

Looking for Eliza by Leaf Arbuthnot is published by Orion £14.99

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten

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Lover. Murderer. Mother. Meet TSARINA, the most powerful woman history ever forgot. Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run. A world away, Russia’s young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process. Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter’s court, and more importantly, Peter himself?

”With its sprawling canvas and huge cast … it’s an entertaining romp through the endless intrigue, violence and debauchery of court life.” The Mail on Sunday.

“A vivid page-turner of a debut.” The Times

“Alpsten’s colourful narrative does full justice to her extraordinary career.” Sunday Times .

“This is the ultimate Cinderella story of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes the empress of Russia. It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme. “ Daisy Goodwin

Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten is published by Bloomsbury £16.99

God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim

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Maya grows up in Germany knowing that her parents are different: from one another, and from the rest of the world. Her reserved, studious father is distant; and her beautiful, volatile mother is a whirlwind, with a penchant for lavish shopping sprees and a mesmerising power for spinning stories of the family’s former glory – of what was had, and what was lost.

And then Kojo arrives one Christmas, like an annunciation: Maya’s cousin, and her mother’s godson. Kojo has a way with words – a way of talking about Ghana, and empire, and what happens when a country’s treasures are spirited away by colonialists. For the first time, Maya has someone who can help her understand why exile has made her parents the way they are. But then Maya and Kojo are separated, shuttled off to school in England, where they come face to face with the maddening rituals of Empire.

Returning to Ghana as a young woman, Maya is reunited with her powerful but increasingly troubled cousin. Her homecoming will set off an exorcism of their family and country’s strangest, darkest demons. It is in this destruction’s wake that Maya realises her own purpose: to tell the story of her mother, her cousin, their land and their loss, on her own terms, in her own voice.

‘I read this novel very slowly. I didn’t want to miss anything … It is a rich, beautiful book and when I got to the end, I wanted to start again’ Chibundu Onuzo

‘Meditative, gestural, philosophic: a brave reinvention of the immigrant narrative … Unprecedented’ Taiye Selasi

The God Child by Nana Ofroriatta-Ayim is published by Bloomsbury £16.99

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