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Staff picks

Letitia reviews: Yellowface. The new American bestseller Yellowface by Rebecca F. Kuang is a compelling story about an author who steals the manuscript of her much more successful and suddenly deceased “friend”. This very “now” novel is set against a background of cultural appropriation, social media and the publishing world. An engrossing story that will appeal to lovers of contemporary fiction and books about books. A great bookclub choice.

Zara reviews: August Blue Deborah Levy’s highly anticipated new novel is set across Greece, Paris, London and Italy. Elsa, a famous pianist fallen from grace, is a funny, obsessive protagonist and her navigation of childhood loss and personal identity is deeply moving. This book is an instant Levy classic.

Victoria reviews: Forbidden Notebook If you love Elena Ferrante, you’ll love this glorious book by Alba De Cespedes. It is a snapshot of a woman living in Italy in the 50s just after WWII. She shares her inner-most thoughts – her desires and fears – at a time when it was “forbidden” for a woman to show or share her discontent with her life of child-rearing and housework. With a foreword by Jhumpa Lahiri who sets the scene.

Andrew reviews: I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home. One of Lorrie Moore’s greatest short stories, People Like That Are the Only People Here, takes as its grim setting a paediatric oncology ward, and yet is a wickedly exciting tightrope walk, in which Moore deftly flits between pitch-black gallows humour and the monstrous tragedy of parents facing the likely death of their children. It is vertiginously, dizzyingly, funny and poignant. I’m pleased to say Moore consummately traverses similar terrain with this, her first novel in 14 years, it is set, firstly, in a Bronx hospice and centring on two brothers as one fights to stay alive, and then on a road trip to end all road trips. Moore is on fire with this perfectly calibrated, smartly funny, eagle-eyed, beautiful, and moving book.

Tilda reviews: Eta Draconis Eta Draconis is a binary star in the constellation Draco, which forms the shape of a wolf lying in wait for a camel’s foal. It sends meteors crashing to Earth and onto the two sisters at the heart of this blazing novel by Brendan Ritchie. Facing a world both familiar and unrecognisable, they undergo a fraught journey along the west coast of Australia from home to university. Along the way they relearn their shared past, and begin to understand what a future looks like in the midst of this cosmic threat.

Victoria reviews: The Year My Family Unravelled. This is the familiar story of a daughter who has escaped to the other side of the world to get away from her dysfunctional family but has had to go back to deal with ageing parents suffering from dementia. What is great about Cynthia Dearborn’s book is the emotion, tension, and the hope that shines through, despite the decline of the parents, and health system (a worldwide problem it seems). An enthralling book, right to the end.

Morgan reviews: Why We Are Here by Briohny Doyle. In a departure from her previous cli-fi novels, This Island Will Sink and Echolalia, Briohny Doyle brings us a poignant and life-affirming auto-fiction that ponders the big question: why we are here. COVID, lockdown, grieving, loneliness and the healing power of dogs all combine to riveting effect. For lovers of Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy.

Jane reviews: Ghosts of the Orphanage Christine Kenneally The incidents of murder, and physical, sexual and mental abuse in the worldwide orphanage system, as detailed in this book by Christine Kenneally, are shocking: it’s a story of evil, hatred, and unrelenting horror. It’s due to books like this, based on 10 solid years of research, that we are able to shine a strong spotlight on this issue. This is a monumental book. Not for the faint-hearted.