10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World, A Suffragette in America, A Year in Books, Alexander Baron, Amanda Konkle, Benjamin Levy, Bette Howland, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, Casey Cep, Cash Carraway, Colson Whitehead, Dolores, Edna O'Brien, Elif Shafak, Ernesto Quinonez, Eve Babitz, Furious Hours, Girl, Guzel Yakhina, Hallie Rubenhold, Harper Lee, I Used To Be Charming, Inland, Jack the Ripper, Janine Booth, Kali Fajardo-Anstine, Kamala Markandaya, Kerry Hudson, Latin Writers, Lauren Aimee Curtis, Lowborn, Marilyn Monroe, Minnie Lansbury, Murray's Cabaret Club, Nicole Flattery, Nowhere Man, On Swift Horses, Profumo Affair, Sabrina & Corrina, Selina Todd, Shannon Pufahl, Shelagh Delaney, Short Stories, Show Them a Good Time, So We Live, Some Kind of Mirror: Creating Marilyn Monroe, Sylvia Pankhurst, Taina, Tea Obreht, The Five, The Nickel Boys, Turkey, With Hope Farewell, Zuleikha
First published in 2015 as Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes and now available in English, Zuleikha tells the story of a Tatar woman whose brutish husband and vindictive mother-in-law treat her as a slave. This all changes around 1930 when along with other peasants and Leningrad intellectuals – a motley crew of ‘enemies of the state’ – Zuleikha is transported to a gulag in Siberia. Beside the age-old themes of tyranny and suffering, Zuleikha offers a surprisingly hopeful vision of how ordinary people can keep their wits and capacity for love, even in the direst circumstances.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s debut collection, Sabrina & Corina, is set among the Hispanic and Indian communities of America’s South-West, exploring the hardships faced by women and girls especially, but also boys and men: domestic violence, addiction, broken relationships. It’s a bittersweet read, but what is also striking is the characters’ zest for life despite the odds. There is also an emphasis on home life, and the trappings of femininity – make-up, housework – as self-defense against the world and its chaos. The stories flow together softly and seamlessly, but their impact is quietly powerful.
The Five looks at the lives of Jack the Ripper’s ‘canonical victims’ in turn, and reveals a great deal about how difficult life was for working-class women in Victorian England, no more so than in London’s East End. As a feminist historical text, and much-needed corrective to over a century of misrepresentation, The Five is a compelling new account which will leave you both deeply moved, and rightly furious.
While her early death made her a legend, Marilyn Monroe was already an icon of American popular culture in her lifetime. In Some Kind of Mirror, Amanda Konkle shows how the ultimate star resisted being merely a sexpot by holding up ‘some kind of mirror’ to her audience.
With her latest novel, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World, Turkish author and dissident Elif Shafak recreates the dying moments of Leila, a rebellious middle class girl rejected by her family and forced into sexual slavery, and the efforts of her devoted friends – and fellow outcasts – to redeem her savage death. (See also: Shafak’s 2012 novel, Honour.)
Alexander Baron, a working-class Jewish London writer of the mid-20th century, was all but forgotten when he died in 1999. Radical Nottingham publisher Five Leaves helped the revival by reissuing his powerful 1952 novel of post-war antisemitism, With Hope, Farewell, earlier this year (alongside a critical anthology, So We Live.)
Another ‘rescued’ modern classic, Kamala Markandaya’s Nowhere Man (1972) tells the tale of Srinivas, a Brahmin who flees colonial India for England, only to find the nation he reluctantly embraced turning its back on the world.
Shannon Pufahl’s debut, On Swift Horses explores the secret lives of two misfits, a newlywed waitress and her shiftless brother-in-law, both gambling on love and money in 1950s California.
While readers may be more familiar with the autobiographical fictions of Eve Babitz, a child of Hollywood and lover of LA, I Used to Be Charming collects her assorted journalism, from bittersweet memories of Jim Morrison to a frank account of the horrific accident which cut short her brilliant career.
With the sumptuous Murray’s Cabaret Club, Benjamin Levy uncovers the flashy history of the Soho club whose denizens included Mandy Rice-Davies and Christine Keeler, the showgirls at the centre of the Profumo Affair.
Also this year, Téa Obreht returned with a heady Western, Inland; Colson Whitehead unpicked the grisly history of America’s reform schools in The Nickel Boys; and Edna O’Brien retraced Nigeria’s mass abduction in Girl.
Irish writer Nicole Flattery’s debut collection, Show Them a Good Time, veers between horror, tragedy and hilarity; while Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, from rediscovered Chicago writer Bette Howland, blends memoir and journalism into fiction.
More outstanding works from Latin writers including Dolores, an inscrutable debut from Australia’s Lauren Aimee Curtis; and Nuyorican Ernesto Ernesto Quiñonez’s enchanting Taína.
Social historian Selina Todd gave us Tastes of Honey, a new biography of Salford playwright Shelagh Delaney; and in Furious Hours, Casey Cep follows the trial of Harper Lee’s abandoned true-crime opus.
Novelist Kerry Hudson looks back in anger with her memoir of childhood poverty, Lowborn; while Cash Carraway’s remarkable debut, Skint Estate, channels her travails as a single mother in austerity Britain.
Two inspiring studies of women in politics: Minnie Lansbury, Janine Booth’s biography of a neglected figure from history; and A Suffragette in America, collection of writings by Sylvia Pankhurst.
And finally, Seaside Photographed offers candid snapshots of a cherished, albeit vanishing aspect of English culture (accompanying a touring exhibition of the same name.)
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