Limberlost by Robbie Arnott (Atlantic Books)
Ned West dreams of sailing across the river on a boat of his very own. To Ned, a boat means freedom – the fresh open water, squid-rich reefs, fires on private beaches – a far cry from life on Limberlost, the family farm, where his father worries and grieves for Ned’s older brothers. They’re away fighting in a ruthless and distant war, becoming men on the battlefield, while Ned – too young to enlist – roams the land in search of rabbits to shoot, selling their pelts to fund his secret boat ambitions.
But as the seasons pass and Ned grows up, real life gets in the way. Ned falls for Callie, the tough, capable sister of his best friend, and together they learn the lessons of love, loss, and hardship. When a storm decimates the Limberlost crop and shakes the orchard’s future, Ned must decide what to protect: his childhood dreams, or the people and the land that surround him…
At turns tender and vicious, Limberlost is a tale of the masculinities we inherit, the limits of ownership and understanding, and the teeming, vibrant wonders of growing up. Told in spellbinding, folkloric spirit, this is an unforgettable love letter to the richness of the natural world from a writer of rare talent.
Robbie Arnott, Limberlost (Atlantic Books)
Robbie Arnott is the author of the novel Flames, which won the Margaret Scott Prize, was short-listed for the Victorian Premier's Literary Prize for Fiction and was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and The Rain Heron, which won the Age Book of the Year 2021 and was shortlisted for Miles Franklin Literary Award. He has been named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. He lives in Tasmania.
[Photo credit: Mitch Osborne]
Seven Steeples by Sara Baume (Tramp Press)
It is the winter following the summer they met. A couple, Bell and Sigh, move into a remote house in the Irish countryside with their dogs. Both solitary with misanthropic tendencies, they leave the conventional lives stretched out before them to build another--one embedded in ritual, and away from the friends and family from whom they've drifted.
They arrive at their new home on a clear January day and look up to appraise the view. A mountain gently and unspectacularly ascends from the Atlantic, 'as if it had accumulated stature over centuries. As if, over centuries, it had steadily flattened itself upwards.' They make a promise to climb the mountain, but - over the course of the next seven years - it remains un-climbed. We move through the seasons with Bell and Sigh as they come to understand more about the small world around them, and as their interest in the wider world recedes.
Seven Steeples is a beautiful and profound meditation on the nature of love, and the resilience of nature. Through Bell and Sigh, and the life they create for themselves, Sara Baume explores what it means to escape the traditional paths laid out before us - and what it means to evolve in devotion to another person, and to the landscape.
Sara Baume, Seven Steeples (Tramp Press)
Sara Baume is the author of four books. Her novels have been widely translated and won awards such as the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Rooney Prize for Literature and the E.M. Forster Award. In 2020 her non-fiction debut, handiwork, was shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize and in 2022 her third novel, Seven Steeples, was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. She is based in West Cork where she works also as a visual artist.
[Photo credit: Kenneth O'Halloran]
God's Children Are Little Broken Things by Arinze Ifeakandu (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
A man revisits the university campus where he lost his first love, aware now of what he couldn’t understand then. A daughter returns home to Lagos after the death of her father, where she must face her past – and future -relationship with his longtime partner. A young musician rises to fame at the risk of losing himself and the man who loves him.
Generations collide, families break and are remade, languages and cultures intertwine, and lovers find their ways to futures; from childhood through adulthood; on university campuses, city centres, and neighbourhoods where church bells mingle with the morning call to prayer.
Arinze Ifeakandu, God's Children Are Little Broken Things (Orion, Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Arinze Ifeakandu was born in Kano, Nigeria. An AKO Caine Prize for African Writing finalist and A Public Space Writing Fellow, he is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is pursuing his PhD at Florida State University. His work has appeared in A Public Space, One Story, and Guernica.
God's Children Are Little Broken Things is his first book.
[Photo credit: Bec Stupak Diop for Black Rock Senegal]
Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies by Maddie Mortimer (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
Something gleeful and malevolent is moving in Lia’s body, learning her life from the inside out. A shape-shifter. A disaster tourist. It’s travelling down the banks of her canals. It’s spreading.
When a sudden diagnosis upends Lia’s world, the boundaries between her past and her present begin to collapse. Deeply buried secrets stir awake. As the voice prowling in Lia takes hold of her story, and the landscape around becomes indistinguishable from the one within, Lia and her family are faced with some of the hardest questions of all: how can we move on from the events that have shaped us, when our bodies harbour everything? And what does it mean to die with grace, when you’re simply not ready to let go?
Maddie Mortimer, Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies (Picador, Pan MacMillan)
Maddie Mortimer was born in London in 1996. She received her BA in English Literature from the University of Bristol. Her writing has featured in The Times and her short films have screened at festivals around the world. She is co-writing a TV series currently in development with Various Artists Ltd. In 2019 she completed the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is her first novel.
[Photo credit: Ben Mankin]
Phantom Gang by Ciarán O'Rourke (The Irish Pages Press)
With lyric grace and meditative clarity, Phantom Gang offers a daring dissection of civilizational violence in a variety of contexts – from the intimate atavisms and inequalities of Irish history to the insidious growth of the global Big Tech economy in the present day – alongside deep, sensually delicate explorations of broken love and salvaged memories.
Honouring the work of a range of writers and photographers, including John Clare (1793-1864), Martín Chambi (1891-1973), Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), and Gerda Taro (1910-1937), these poems unsettle the boundaries between past and present, elegy and tribute, folkloric remembrance and political reportage, interweaving each with all to create a compelling vision of a world in motion and a consciousness alive to change – as spectral voices and still-living presences seep “into the open echo-chamber / of poetry”, casting light on the inner and outer landscapes of the poet’s life in time.
Following his acclaimed first collection, The Buried Breath, O’Rourke here expands and enriches the thematic concerns of his early work to accommodate new forms of portraiture and moral questioning, while further honing the “clean-boned” music of his poetic style, lit always by a profound emotional charge. Phantom Gang confirms O’Rourke as a leading new voice in Irish poetry.
Ciarán O’Rourke, Phantom Gang (The Irish Pages Press)
Ciarán O’Rourke was born in 1991 and took a degree in English and History at Trinity College, Dublin. He received a Masters in English and American Studies from Oxford in 2014, as well as a doctorate on William Carlos Williams at his alma mater in Dublin in 2019. His first collection, The Buried Breath, was published by The Irish Pages Press in 2018 and highly commended by the Forward Foundation for Poetry the following year. His second collection, Phantom Gang, was published in 2022 by The Irish Pages Press. He currently lives in Dublin.
Things They Lost by Okwiri Oduor (Oneworld)
Set in the fictional Kenyan town of Mapeli, Things They Lost tells the story of four generations of women, each haunted by the mysterious curse that hangs over the Brown family. At the heart of the novel is Ayosa Ataraxis Brown, twelve years old and the loneliest girl in the world.
Okwiri Oduor’s stunningly original debut novel sings with Kenyan folklore and myth as it traces Ayosa’s fragile, toxic relationship with Nabumbo Promise, her mysterious and beguiling mother who comes and goes like tumbleweed: lost, but not quite gone.
Okwiri Oduor, Things They Lost (Oneworld)
Okwiri Oduor was born in Nairobi, Kenya. At the age of 25, she won the Caine Prize for African Writing 2014 for her story 'My Father’s Head'. Later that year, she was named on the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 African writers under 40 who would define trends in African literature. She has been a MacDowell Colony fellow, and she received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has a story forthcoming in Granta, and Things They Lost is her debut novel. She lives in Germany.
[Photo credit: Chelsea Bieker]
Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu (Canongate Books)
Driven by a deep-seated desire to understand his mother’s life before he was born, Derek Owusu offers a powerful imagining of her journey. As she moves from Ghana to the UK and navigates parenthood in a strange and often lonely environment, the effects of displacement are felt across generations.
Told through the eyes of both mother and son, Losing the Plot is at once emotionally raw and playful as Owusu experiments with form to piece together the immigrant experience and explore how the stories we share and tell ourselves are just as vital as the ones we don’t.
Derek Owusu, Losing the Plot (Canongate Books)
Derek Owusu is a writer, poet and podcaster from North London. In 2016 he joined the multi-award-winning literature podcast Mostly Lit. He also produced the well-received This Is Spoke podcast for Penguin Random House and Freemantle Media. His essay on Black men and insecurities was the second-most-read article on Media Diversified in 2018, and his essay on language was picked up by BBC Newsnight to be turned into a short documentary. In 2019 Derek collated, edited and contributed to Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space. His debut novel, That Reminds Me, won the Desmond Elliott Prize.
[Photo credit: Josima Senior]
I'm a Fan by Sheena Patel (Rough Trade Press)
In I'm A Fan single speaker uses the story of their experience in a seemingly unequal, unfaithful relationship as a prism through which to examine the complicated hold we each have on one another. With a clear and unforgiving eye, the narrator unpicks the behaviour of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world, in turn offering a devastating critique of access, social media, patriarchal heteronormative relationships, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.
In this incredible debut, Sheena Patel announces herself as a vital new voice in literature, capable of rendering a range of emotions and visceral experiences on the page. Sex, violence, politics, tenderness, humour—Patel handles them all with both originality and dexterity of voice.
Sheena Patel, I'm a Fan (Rough Trade Press)
Sheena Patel is a writer and assistant director for film and TV who was born and raised in North West London. She is part of the 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE collective, has been published in 4 BROWN GIRLS WHO WRITE (Rough Trade Books) and a poetry collection of the same name (FEM Press). In 2022 she was chosen as one of the Observer's Top 10 best debut novelists. This is her first book.
[Photo credit: Salem Zaied]
Send Nudes by Saba Sams (Bloomsbury Publishing)
In ten dazzling stories, Saba Sams dives into the world of girlhood and immerses us in its contradictions and complexities: growing up too quickly, yet not quickly enough; taking possession of what one can, while being taken possession of; succumbing to societal pressure but also orchestrating that pressure. These young women are feral yet attentive, fierce yet vulnerable, exploited yet exploitative.
Threading between clubs at closing time, pub toilets, drenched music festivals and beach holidays, these unforgettable short stories deftly chart the treacherous terrain of growing up – of intense friendships, of ambivalent mothers, of uneasily blended families, and of learning to truly live in your own body.
With striking wit, originality and tenderness, Send Nudes celebrates the small victories in a world that tries to claim each young woman as its own.
Saba Sams, Send Nudes (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Saba Sams has been published in the Stinging Fly, Granta and Five Dials, among others. She was shortlisted for the White Review Short Story Prize in 2019. Send Nudes won the Edge Hill Short Story Prize 2022, and ‘Blue 4eva’ won the BBC National Short Story Award 2022. She is from Brighton.
[Photo credit: Sophie Davidson]
Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head by Warsan Shire (Chatto & Windus, [Vintage])
With her first full-length poetry collection, Warsan Shire introduces us to a girl who, in the absence of a nurturing guide, makes her own stumbling way toward womanhood. Drawing from her own life and the lives of loved ones, as well as pop culture and news headlines, Shire finds vivid, unique details in the experiences of refugees and immigrants, mothers and daughters, Black women and teenage girls. These are noisy lives, full of music and weeping and surahs. These are fragrant lives, full of blood and perfume and jasmine. These are polychrome lives, full of moonlight and turmeric and kohl.
The long-awaited collection from one of our most exciting contemporary poets is a blessing, an incantatory celebration of survival. Each reader will come away changed.
Warsan Shire, Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head (Chatto & Windus, [Vintage])
Warsan Shire is a Somali British writer and poet born in Nairobi and raised in London. She has written two chapbooks, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth and Her Blue Body. She was awarded the inaugural Brunel International African Poetry Prize and served as the first Young Poet Laureate of London. She is the youngest member of the Royal Society of Literature and is included in the Penguin Modern Poets series. Shire wrote the poetry for the Peabody Award–winning visual album Lemonade and the Disney film Black Is King in collaboration with Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. She also wrote the short film Brave Girl Rising, highlighting the voices and faces of Somali girls in Africa’s largest refugee camp. Shire lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head is her full-length debut poetry collection and was shortlisted for the Forward Felix Dennis Prize 2022.
Twitter: @warsan_shire | Instagram: @warsanshiree
[Photo credit: Leyla Jeyte]
Briefly, A Delicious Life by Nell Stevens (Picador, Pan Macmillan)
In 1838 Frédéric Chopin, George Sand and her children travel to a monastery in Mallorca. They are there to create and to convalesce, to live a simple life after the wildness of their Paris days.
Witness to this tumultuous arrival is Blanca, the ghost of a teenage girl who has been at the monastery for over three hundred years. Blanca’s was a life cut short and she is outraged. Having lived in a world full, according to her mother, of ‘beautiful men’, she has found that in death it is the women she falls for, their beauty she cannot turn away from, and it is the women and girls who, over her centuries in the village and at the monastery, she has sought to protect from the attentions of men with what little power she has. And then George Sand arrives, this beautiful woman in a man’s clothes, and Blanca is in love.
But the rest of the village is suspicious of the newcomers, and as winter sets in, as George tries to keep her family and herself from falling apart, as Chopin writes prelude after prelude in despair on his tuneless piano, their stay looks likely to end in disaster...
Nell Stevens, Briefly, A Delicious Life (Picador, Pan MacMillan)
Nell Stevens writes memoir and fiction. She is the author of Bleaker House and Mrs Gaskell and Me, which won the 2019 Somerset Maugham Award. She was shortlisted for the 2018 BBC National Short Story Award. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Vogue, The Paris Review, The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Granta, and elsewhere. Nell is an Assistant Professor in creative writing at the University of Warwick. Briefly, A Delicious Life is her debut novel.
[Photo credit: Juliana Johnston]
No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib (Atlantic Books [Allen & Unwin])
Boston, 2017: When Hadi returns to his heavily pregnant partner Sama after a trip to Jordan to bury his father, he is stopped at border control - a hostile new immigration law has just been enacted - while she awaits him on the other side.
Worlds apart, suspended between hope and disillusion as hours become days become weeks, Sama and Hadi yearn for a way back to each other, and to the life they'd dreamed up together. But does that life exist any more, or was it only an illusion?
Achingly intimate yet poignantly universal, No Land to Light On is the story of a family caught up in forces beyond their control, fighting for the freedom and home they found in one another.
Yara Zgheib, No Land to Light On, (Atlantic Books [Allen & Unwin])
Yara Zgheib is the author of the critically acclaimed The Girls at 17 Swann Street, which was a People pick for best new books and received rave reviews from The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, and Bustle.
She is a Fulbright scholar with a master's degree in security studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in international affairs in diplomacy from Centre d' Études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris.
[Photo credit: Katerina Ivannikova]