Good as they are, we’re swerving this month’s big starry biographies from the likes of Michelle Obama and Michael Perry in favour of immersive, transportive fiction that – fittingly for a month most of us want to spend tucked up inside – have hearth and homes (literal and metaphorical) at their centre.
From a sumptuous retelling of a Mitford classic to a ballerina’s-eye view of 1980s New York, rounded off with a high-stakes erotic thriller (got your attention now, haven’t we?) – here are six books to curl up with this November.
Aspiring ballet dancer-turned-choreographer Carlisle Martin gets a call summoning her to New York where her father, Robert, lies dying. Having not spoken to him or his partner James for almost two decades, she prepares to return to the Greenwich Village apartment that loomed so large in her youth. The narrative flips expertly between Carlisle’s current life in LA and 1980s New York, unpicking the events that led to their estrangement with devastatingly poignant clarity. A former ballet dancer herself, Howrey is an expert guide through that world, much as trained singer Imogen Crimp brought opera alive in A Very Nice Girl earlier this year. A deeply intelligent tale of love, grief, family and forgiveness.
2022 has been a good year for the fans of the short story, with notable collections including George Saunders’ recent release, Liberation Day. This one, by Argentinian writer of (Man Booker International-longlisted and Netflix-adapted) Fever Dream, is a quiet, off-centre gem. The houses in question all – naturally – serve as foils for the delicate psychology of those who live in or pass through them, the objects inside them equally freighted with emotion. Disquieting and dark it may be, but it is lifted with sly humour and sharp observation, related in clear, plain-speaking prose that leaves lots for the reader to fill between the lines.
The rush that saw people moving from cities to rural locations in search of the ‘good life’ in the wake of the pandemic makes Northedge’s taut new psychological mystery feel particularly timely. Jess, Mark and their young family swap city for country when a break-in at their London home pulls the trigger on a simmering dissatisfaction about their quality of life. The Maple House is an enormous ‘project’ buy that seemed like a good idea, but very quickly becomes a fever dream of isolation and things going bump in the night. But who’s really pulling the strings and why?
Raynor Winn and her husband, Moth, were evicted from their home of two decades the same week Moth received a debilitating – and ultimately fatal – diagnosis. Rather than give into despair, the pair set off on a 630-mile walk that, as Winn outlines in this new book, ‘gave us a route forward, a purpose, a reason to go on into the next day when all other reasons had fallen away’. That journey, documented in bestseller The Salt Path, left the pair reinvigorated. It also – miraculously – turned the clock back on Moth’s illness. In this, their third marathon adventure, Moth is once again in the grip of an acceleration in his symptoms. Can another walk – this time 1,000 miles from north-west Scotland to southern Cornwall – work the magic it has before? A glorious read about nature and the ties that bind.
This sumptuous retelling of Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love is the literary equivalent of settling into a plush velvet sofa loaded with plump, feather cushions and cosy throws. It is rich and luscious with plenty of warmth and good humour. Head of the family, Matthew, has been updated to be a retired (and very wealthy) rock star happily and chaotically raising his family with wife Sadie (daughter of an Indian diplomat) in their sprawling Norfolk farmhouse. There are big-C characters galore, with sideswipes at everyone from fashion dahlings and Insta influencers to snobs and UKIPers – all told through the eye of narrator, cousin Fran – as sister Linda’s search for true love continues.
Crime writer Gran serves up a titillatingly erotic thriller set in the rarefied world of antiquarian books. Lily, a down-on-her-luck writer stuck in a tragically sexless marriage, is barely able to pay her bills when she’s offered a sizeable commission if she can track down an extremely rare book. The tome in question? An occult guide to sex magic. Her quest becomes a high-stakes and increasingly dangerous game that leads Lily across international cities and into multiple millionaires’ sex rooms. It’s the emotional and psychological acuity with which Gran balances the tragedies of Lily’s personal life with the wilder aspects of the plot, however, that lifts this pacey thriller. A riot.
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Catherine is a freelance writer, editor and copywriter. As a freelance journalist, she wrote for titles including The Times, The Guardian and The Observer before spending eight years as commercial editor for Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire and Elle Decoration.
Books, art and culture of all stripes are a particular passion. Since returning to freelance in 2019, she has turned her skills to branding and full-service content creation for a broad range of luxury, arts and lifestyle brands, alongside more creative projects, such as book- and script-editing.
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