Prime number of books

Obsessions, family history, ecological disaster,art, religion and war are just some of the themesauthors are exploring in fiction in the new year

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The End of Nightwork, Aidan Cottrell-Boyce*
(Granta, 5 Jan) 
Pol suffers from a rare hormonal disorder that ages him erratically. During obsessive research into a 17th century puritan prophet who predicted ecological disaster he discovers a radical movement predicting an imminent inter-generational conflict. Debut fiction from the Liverpool-born son of screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

The Things We Do To Our Friends, Heather Darwent*
(Viking, 12 Jan)
Debut novel from Yorkshire-born Derwent following Clare as she moves from Hull to Edinburgh for university and becomes entangled in a toxic friendship with the alluring Tabatha and her clique. Themes of obsession, revenge and desire collide in a twisty, dark and delicious feminist thriller.

History Keeps Me Awake At Night, Christy Edwall
(Granta, 2 Feb)
Married and with a degree, but aimless and adrift, Margit becomes obsessed with the desaparecidos, a group of 43 Mexican students who are ambushed by police before disappearing without a trace. Heading down a rabbit hole of research, this is an intelligent and zeitgesty debut that asks whether it’s possible to recover what is lost without losing yourself.

Are You Happy Now, Hanna Jameson
(Viking, 2 Feb) 
At a wedding in New York on a sweltering summer night four dissatisfied people watch as one of the guests sits down and refuses to get back up. Soon it’s happening across the world. Is it a choice or an illness? Speculative fiction that captures a mood of hopelessness as Yun, Emory, Andrew and Fin continue to go about their lives despite an unfolding crisis.

Weyward, Emilia Hart 
(Borough Press, 2 Feb)
A woman fleeing an abusive relationship heads for Weyward Cottage and makes a startling discovery about her ancestors. Spanning the lives of three women across five centuries, this promises to be a spellbinding debut novel of female resistance and the legacy of witchcraft.

Brutes, Dizz Tate
(Faber, 2 Feb)
Against the strange Floridian landscape of theme parks and swamps a gang of 13-year-old girls become obsessed with the older and beguiling Sammy, daughter of the local preacher. When Sammy goes missing the girls begin to discover a dark secret about their fame-hungry town. A debut literary thriller wrapped up in a coming-of-age story about the violence and joy of girlhood.

The Home Scar, Kathleen MacMahon 
(Sandycove, 9 Feb)
A dramatic storm in Galway brings half-siblings Cassie and Christo back to the last glorious childhood summer before their mother died but their journey uncovers memories of less happy times with tragic consequences. A story about the inheritance of loss from the author of Nothing But Blue Sky.

Hungry Ghosts, Kevin Jared Hosein 
(Bloomsbury, 16 Feb) 
In colonial Trinidad, Dalton and Marlee live in luxury unrecognisable to the families that live in barracks in their shadow. When Dalton goes missing, a farmhand is employed as a watchman but as the mystery of Dalton’s disappearance unfolds their lives become hellishly entwined and the small community are altered forever. A debut novel about violence, religion, family and class.

Dazzling, Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ  
(Wildfire, 16 Feb) 
Treasure meets a spirit who promises to bring her father back – but she has to do something for him first. Ozoemena’s destiny is to defend her people by becoming a leopard. Nigerian myth and legend inform the magical realist debut about two girls coming of age to inherit a legacy made by their fathers.

Benjamin Myers’ new novel Buddy is out in March. Photo: Rebecca Lupton

Cursed Bread, Sophie Mackintosh 
(Hamish Hamilton, 2 March)
Unremarkable and plain, baker’s wife Elodie becomes enchanted by a charismatic new couple who move to town just as strange things begin to happen. The town is gripped by hysteria and Elodie grasps her role in it. Based on the true story of an unsolved historical mystery, from the author of the Booker-nominated The Water Cure.

Nothing Special, Nicole Flattery 
(Bloomsbury, 2 March) 
A debut novel by Irish short story writer Flattery, set in Andy Warhol’s Factory against a backdrop of social change for women in America. Two girls are employed by Warhol to transcribe his interviews with famous New York characters and find themselves in a surreal and dangerous world although still living at home with their mothers.

In Memoriam, Alice Winn 
(Viking, 7 March) 
A love story between two soldiers in the First World War, this accomplished debut follows Henry, Sidney and the rest of their boarding school classmates to the frontline. As the pair watch their friends dying around them they find moments of solace in each other but face their own private battles.

Cuddy, Benjamin Myers*
(Bloomsbury, 16 March) 
Myers returns to his native Durham and draws on history and mythology for a novel that breaks with realism for more experimental prose. Voices spanning centuries surround Durham Cathedral and its enshrined icon – St Cuthbert, source of the spread of Christianity in northern England.

Biography of X, Catherine Lacey
(Granta, 6 April) 
Author of Nobody Is Ever Missing, Lacy brings an ambitious and experimental literary adventure following CM, as she unfolds the mystery of her notable artist wife’s life after her death. Opening a Pandora’s box of secrets, betrayals and destruction, when she finally understands the scope of X’s defining artistic project, CM realises her wife’s deceptions were far more cruel than she imagined.

Shy, Max Porter 
(Faber, 6 April) 
From the bestselling author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Shy is the story of a few strange hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy. He is escaping Last Chance, a home for “very disturbed young men”, walking into the haunted space between his night terrors, his past and the heavy question of his future. A novel about being lost in the dark, and realising you are not alone.

Y/N, Esther Yi 
A debut novel about a Korean-American woman living in Berlin whose obsession with a K-pop idol leads her to writing Y/N fanfic – in which the reader inserts their name and plays out an intimate relationship with the unattainable star. But when that star fades from public view the anonymous narrator heads to Seoul, where art and life absurdly converge.

Close to Home, Michael MaGee 
(Hamish Hamilton, 6 April) 
Arriving home to Belfast after university where he was meant to escape for good, Sean is without a job or direction. One night he loses control and assaults a stranger at a party, forcing him to reckon with his past, his future and the relationships that shaped him, for better and worse. A moving debut exploring modern masculinity, class and trauma.

The Memory of Animals, Claire Fuller 
(Fig Tree, 20 April) 
In an attempt to escape grief and guilt, Neffy volunteers for a vaccine trial but finds herself trapped in a unit with four strangers with limited food and no idea what is happening in the outside world. Pioneering technology allows her to visit her past but at the risk of jeopardising her future. From the author of Unsettled Ground, a haunting novel about memory, love and survival.

Hotel 21, Senta Rich
(Bloomsbury, 27 April) 
Noelle hopes to make it a month working in her 21st hotel cleaning job before suspicions fall on her and her kleptomaniac ways. Her plans to collect souvenirs from the five star guests are disrupted by a group of new colleagues – women with lives full of happiness, worry, pain and joy – the kind Noelle has never known how to live. Dublin-based screenwriter Rich’s quirky debut.

Chrysalis, Anna Metcalfe 
(Granta, 4 May) 
Following the metamorphosis of one woman into an online phenomenon who gathers the power to influence for good and ill, this debut novel is told from the perspective of three people who knew her at different stages of her transformation. A contemporary story about an age-old search for answers.

Big Swiss, Jen Beagin 
(Faber, 18 May) 
A funny and offbeat novel in which the protagonist transcribes sex therapy sessions. The town’s secrets pour directly into Greta’s headphones and she is particularly drawn to the intimate details of one client’s life – a woman she nicknames “Big Swiss”. When she meets her in the local dog park a relationship begins that transforms both their lives.

Yellowface, RF Kuang 
(Borough Press, 25 May)
Literary darling Athena Lui’s just-finished masterpiece is an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese labourers to the British and French war efforts during World War I. But when she dies in a freak accident, struggling author June Hayward decides to steal it, rebranding herself as Juniper Song. A darkly funny literary thriller taking on cultural appropriation.

Avalon, Nell Zink* 
(Faber, 30 July) 
Bran is raised in a southern Californian Buddhist colony that doubles as a cover for a biker gang. Then she meets Peter, a beautiful, troubled and charming train wreck from the East Coast, who initiates her into literature and aesthetics. A volatile long distance relationship ensues and Bran’s happiness depends on learning to call the shots. A wild, blackly funny story of female emancipation and the journey to one’s own utopia by one of America’s most original novelists.

* Read a Q&A with Aidan Cottrell-Boyce in the next issue of Big Issue North and one with Heather Darwent on 16 Jan. Visit to read previous interviews with Benjamin Myers and Nell Zink 

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