5 new books to read this week

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

Scottish author Ali Smith is back after the success of her Seasonal Quartet…

Fiction

1. Companion Piece by Ali Smith is published in hardback by Hamish Hamilton. Available April 7th

After her ambitious Seasonal Quartet, Ali Smith returns with Companion Piece, centred on Covid-19 and the seemingly endless lockdown. Smith’s characteristic wordplay dominates as Sandy (aka Shifting Sand) confronts the anxieties of the times. As she cares from afar for a father in hospital, Sandy is contacted by former classmate Martina – it is clear they were never friends – who shares a strange experience, but won’t leave her alone until her entire family have taken over the house.

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Writing with a sharp wit and equally sharp tongue, Smith shifts between reality and vision, with the bookworm Sandy taking comfort in literary companions to guide her through, and responding to Martina’s question with a story drawing many of the strands together without tying them into a knot. In Companion Piece, Smith continues to ask the most important questions of our time.
9/10
(Review by Ian Parker)

2. Paradais by Fernanda Melchor, translated by Sophie Hughes, is published in paperback by Fitzcarraldo. Available now

Set in the author’s native Mexico, Paradais is a short but relentless read about a pair of dispossessed youths, whose all-consuming fury at their place within the social system leads them down a sinister path. Polo, a 16-year-old dropout is forced to work as a cleaner on the upper-class estate, Paradais. Here, he meets Franco, a rich but deplorable outcast, who Polo uses for free booze and cigarettes, while being forced to listen to Franco’s benign sexual fantasies about his middle-aged neighbour.

As the weeks pass, Franco becomes increasingly obsessed with the idea that he can conquer his neighbour, and Polo cannot resist tagging along for the ride. Written in an all-consuming, modernist style, Paradais immerses the reader in Polo’s thoughts, taking you with him down a spiral of loneliness that can only be filled with alcohol, rebellion, and a bitter nostalgia for his dead grandfather.
7/10
(Review by Scarlett Sangster)

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3. Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn is published in hardback by Viking. Available now

A young woman navigates a demanding family desperate to find her a husband, particularly as her younger sister was married before her. Yinka struggles to balance her family’s more traditional Nigerian culture, with her work in an investment bank. Although centred around finding a husband – or ‘huzband’ – it is quickly made evident there is more to Yinka than just her dating life.

Her story is told cleverly and wittily, with occasional cringeworthy moments, but the main character remains loveable – if slightly unbelievably naive – throughout the novel. The book is firmly rooted in its setting: London, specifically Peckham. Readers unfamiliar with the city may find it harder to relate to, but it’s still a funny and light-hearted novel overall.
7/10
(Review by Sonia Twigg)

Non-fiction

4. This Woman’s Work: Essays On Music edited by Kim Gordon & Sinead Gleeson is published in hardback by White Rabbit. Available April 7th

If approaching this collection expecting a feminist critique of the music industry, readers will be surprised but not necessarily disappointed to find a series of nostalgic ruminations from critics, essayists and industry professionals about the personal significance of music in their lives. This eclectic collection invites you to indulge in the fandom, influence and experiences (good and bad) brought about by the artists each contributor most admires.

A tip for readers – don’t read in order. You won’t know all of the artists and many are hard to track down on streaming libraries. This might be off-putting for some, and makes certain chapters more difficult to relate to – but if you can find them, listening to the artist as you read gives the collection a whole new level of immersion. Who knows, maybe future editions will be published with a mixtape.
7/10
(Review by Scarlett Sangster)

Children’s book of the week

5. The Drama Llama by Rachel Morrisroe, illustrated by Ella Okstad, is published in paperback by Puffin. Available April 14th

The Drama Llama is a bright and engaging picture book for pre-school children, touching on the burden of anxiety. Like most children, Alex Allen worries about things – but unlike others, his worries materialise into a real-life llama. As Alex tries to have fun, play and get on with his everyday life, he finds this cumbersome beast keeps getting in the way – but how can he shake his mischievous new companion and the associated frets?

Heart-warming, gentle and practical, The Drama Llama is an entertaining and colourful book, which even comes with age-appropriate tips on how to manage fears and anxiety. While it may not be an original in the market, it is certainly a sweet and worthy addition, and lots of fun, too.
8/10
(Review by Holly Cowell)

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