Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Lest we forget

As the final chapter closes on 2013, Hannah Stephenson previews next year's best reads, including a slew of First World War releases

Readers have a lot to look forward to in 2014, thanks to anniversaries, hot new debut writers and more than a smattering of old favourites.

Erotica is out, dystopia is still spreading, and well-established novelists are stepping out of their comfort zones to produce new works which break away from their usual genres.

On the agenda in both fiction and non-fiction is a plethora of titles pegged to the First World War, in the year of its 100th anniversary. Many factual titles have already been published.

However, when it comes to fiction, we will be seeing the knock-on effect of war rather than being in the thick of it, predicts Cathy Rentzenbrink, fiction previewer for trade magazine The Bookseller.

"The Lie by Helen Dunmore (published by Hutchinson), out in January, is exceptionally good," she observes. Set in Cornwall in 1920, it centres on a man who survived the war but is still living with the burden of it.

"A lot of the novels I'm seeing are not set in the trenches, they are set out of the war and are about people trying to cope with the aftermath.

"Because we are fighting a war currently (in Afghanistan), it's a very pertinent idea as to how people cope when loved ones are sent off to die."

Debut novels likely to make waves include Wake by Anna Hope (Doubleday), set in 1920, which charts how the Unknown Soldier became the Unknown Soldier and the war-damaged women left behind.

"The novel shows us three different women, all of whom have been damaged by war."

Watch out too for Spare Brides, the latest novel from bestselling author Adele Parks, known for her contemporary commercial fiction but who has veered from that for her latest book.

"It's also set in the early Twenties in a situation where the men are all dead or injured, and upper crust people go through these traumas. It's quite Downton Abbey-esque."

The First World War will be big in non-fiction too, says Caroline Sanderson, non-fiction previewer for the magazine.

While many First World War books were published in the autumn, watch out for the prose anthology No Man's Land: Writings From A World At War, edited by Pete Ayrton (Serpent's Tail, January), a diverse collection of First World War writings featuring 47 writers from 20 countries, including DH Lawrence, Willa Cather and Mary Borden.

"The Imperial War Museum galleries are re-opening in June and the BBC World War One programming runs from spring onwards, so there are bound to be books out to coincide.

"Other anniversaries which will spawn new non-fiction titles include the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the World Cup next year in Brazil, and books may extend to Brazilian life and cookery," she says.

Those into celebrity autobiographies should watch out for offerings from Andrew Sachs, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Collins, Vivienne Westwood and Coleen Nolan, while Fabulous Fashionista Baroness Trumpington (91) the oldest member of the House of Lords, could be a big seller with Coming Up Trumps (Macmillan) in April, Sanderson predicts.

In fiction, the popularity of dystopia, made popular by The Hunger Games, is widening as women become more interested in the genre, not just young adults, says Rentzenbrink.

Watch out for A Lovely Way To Burn by Louise Welsh (John Murray, published in March), the first of a trilogy, set in a near-future London where there's a pandemic called 'The Sweats'.

"There's some really intelligent dystopia next year," she says.

"It's still a really popular genre and it's spreading. Julie Myerson did well with The Quickening last year but there's some real high-end novels coming up.

"There's this whole thing about 'What would I do in an apocalypse if my iPhone wasn't working and how would I look after my children?'

"There's a whole market of women like me who are interested in that kind of dilemma."

The Fifty Shades brigade have had their day, she reckons, predicting that erotica's on the wane. "We've all had enough of sex."

Look out for famous authors who are stepping out of their usual genres this year.

Thriller writer James Patterson is bringing out First Love (Century) in January, a stand-alone novel about love inspired by his own history.

Tony Parsons, who brought us Man And Boy and other tales of contemporary relationships, is producing a crime novel called The Murder Bag (Century), a London-based thriller out in May, while Sophie Hannah will be writing a Poirot mystery in the autumn.

There's also a clutch of books which will explore the dark side of women, Rentzenbrink predicts.

"Last year we saw a lot of unlikeable female narrators do well, the whole Gone Girl thing – and I'm expecting to see transgressional women on the rise."

February will see the publication of The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh (Tinder), a short, intense, sultry novel about a woman who finds herself attracted to her step-daughter's boyfriend.

"Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty did well this year and it's a similar thing, about a woman behaving badly, who knows she's behaving badly, but it doesn't seem to stop her."

Resetting the feminist agenda may also play a part in new non-fiction titles, says Sanderson.

"In the wake of Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman, people have started to think about sexism again.

"There's a book called Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates (Simon & Schuster, May) which is coming out as a result of the @EverydaySexism Twitter site and the website www.everydaysexism.com. I think it's going to be a talking point next year."

As Facebook chief operations officer Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work And The Will To Lead, caused ripples in 2013, other females banging the drum next year include Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post Founder, whose forthcoming book Thrive (Harmony) talks about redefining what success means, focusing not only on career advancement, but on health and wellbeing.

Fictional tales of writers' lives will also feature heavily in 2014, including Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood (Picador), charting the story of Ernest Hemingway's four wives, while Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut (Atlantic) tells the fictional tale of EM Forster in 1912, on a journey to India, before he writes A Passage To India.

Further novels with a focus on literature include The Last Word by Hanif Kureishi (Faber & Faber) and Lost For Words by Edward St Aubyn (Picador, published in May)

The former is about a young biographer writing the memoir of an ageing literary sensation and the clash of wills between the publisher, who demands salacious details to drive sales, and the biographer, who just wants a true account. It's guaranteed good coverage as journalists will be trying to discover who the story is actually based on.

With all these and more, it's clear that a number of trips to the bookstore will be needed to enjoy just some of the gems of 2014.

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