5 new books to read this week

5 New Books To Read This Week
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By Prudence Wade, PA

A Booker Prize-nominated novel and a new offering from a Pulitzer Prize-winning favourite, this week is jam-packed with great reads…


1. Bewilderment by Richard Powers is published in hardback by William Heinemann.



Astrobiologist Theo Byrne has spent his career searching the skies for life beyond the cosmos; he’s also a recent widow fighting to protect his 9-year-old from a system that wants him labelled with Asperger’s. When Robin is threatened with expulsion from school, Theo whisks him away to camp under the stars, painting new potential planets in the sky as he tries to convince them both life can thrive under even the most impossible circumstances. When they get home, Theo signs Robin up for an experimental neurofeedback therapy using recordings of his dead mother’s brain activity to help stabilise his emotions. Richard Power’s Booker Prize-shortlisted novel is both brutal and heart-warming, intimate and profound. A masterfully curated story of love, grief and loneliness, quietly building to an inevitable and devastating close.
(Review by Scarlett Sangster)

2. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is published in hardback by Fleet.



Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead can’t seem to stick to one genre, and his latest novel is something completely new. Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Harlem Shuffle is a noir thriller with a colourful cast of compelling characters. Hardworking Ray Carney has his own furniture shop – but he also has a criminal side inherited from his father, and this gets him into various scrapes and capers. While some of the writing is beautiful, other parts are bombastic – not everyone will like this, but it feels fitting for the type of tale Whitehead is trying to tell. The main drawback is the novel is in three parts, jumping a few years between each one; while it shows Carney creeping further into criminality, it threatens to hinder the flow and feels more like a series of short stories. While not as groundbreaking as some of Whitehead’s previous books, it’s fast-paced and fun – with the more serious background of racism and the 1964 Harlem riots.
(Review by Prudence Wade)

3. The Wolf In The Woods by Dan Brotzel is published in paperback by Sandstone Press.

Colleen and Andrew’s marriage is in trouble. A shared alcohol problem, conflict over their botched handling of a wayward son and general midlife malaise force them to ditch suburbia and head to a country cottage for a week of bucolic solitude and sobriety. However, in the woods, their seemingly jovial and endlessly accommodating landlord, the ‘wolf’ of the title – seems eager to steer their voyage past the rocks of impending divorce, but is all as it seems? Full of cutting insights into the reality of long-term relationships but not at all short on heart-warming humour, The Wolf In The Woods is a sometimes sinister but tenderly told tale of ‘be careful what you wish for’.
(Review by James Cann)


4. On Freedom by Maggie Nelson is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape.

Maggie Nelson continues to defy confinement to any genre with her new non-fiction title, On Freedom. Nelson’s complex breakdown of what it might mean to be free attempts to provoke the reader into very, very deep thought – so much so, it may put off those looking for lighter reading. The book looks at the many intricacies of freedom, through four concepts: art, sex, drugs and climate. She weighs up our complicated love affair with the very idea of how we define freedom itself, and how it may not just be a certain thing we can achieve at once, almost to a mind-boggling end. Nelson’s sharp segue into more academic language and heavy analysis proves slightly too much. While the narrative and overall question on freedom seems bold and broad, the topics on which she chooses to analyse it through narrows the book’s reach.
(Review by Sophie Hogan)

Children’s book of the week

5. Endgame by Malorie Blackman is published in hardback by Penguin.

If you were born in the late Eighties/early Nineties, you likely grew up with the protagonists of Malorie Blackman’s gripping, shimmering, groundbreaking YA novel, Noughts & Crosses. In 2001, Sephy and Callum entered our lives, bringing with them a familiar – but inverted – world of trauma and racial inequality, where Noughts (light-skinned people) are treated as less than Crosses (dark-skinned people). Love, strength and family abound and now, 20 years on, Blackman ties up their stories in the series’ last instalment, Endgame, but it’s not as satisfying a finale as perhaps hoped. It picks up where 2019’s Crossfire left off with a kidnapping, a murder and an impending court case, but the pace is sluggish. Sephy is back to set wrongs right, while her daughter Callie Rose tussles with her ex Tobey. And Sephy’s son Troy, trapped in a windowless cell, fights for survival, all while criminal gangs vie for power. The premise is tense, but too much focus goes on characters making plans, rather than actually doing something in the face of all this drama. As a series, Noughts and Crosses is glorious, important and powerful, but Endgame stumbles slightly – or maybe you just can’t bear for it to end.
(Review by Ella Walker)

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