By Maisy Twaddle, Anna Robinson, Georgia Wells and Jamie Butler
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
2 March, Granta Publishing
New from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries, comes this eco-centred psychological thriller.
Shakespearean in wit, drama and rich characterisation, Birnam Wood follows the guerrilla gardening group set up by Mira Bunting. Completely unregulated, the group is sometimes criminal, sometimes philanthropic as they plant crops where no one will notice; on the sides of roads, in neglected gardens or forgotten parks. For the five years they’ve been running, the activist collective has struggled to break even, but when a landslide blocks the Korowai Pass and cuts off the town of Thorndike, Mira stumbles on a way to finally set them up long term.
The Birnam Wood group are not the only people with their eye on Thorndike, however. Robert Lemoine, an enigmatic American billionaire has purchased the land to build his end-times bunker or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira, the gardening group and their entrepreneurial spirit, Robert suggests that they work the land. Can he be trusted? As they test their ideals and ideologies, can the members of the group trust each other?
A truly gripping thriller, Birnam Wood is a brilliantly constructed consideration of intentions, actions and consequences and unflinchingly examines the human instinct of survival.
French Braid by Anne Tyler
16 March, Vintage Publishing
Anne Tyler – Pulitzer Prize winner and Booker shortlisted author – returns to the literary scene with a new novel that paints a triumphant and painfully truthful portrait of family life. Beginning in the 1950s, the story takes us deep into the folds of one family’s existence and the observations and changes they face as the Garretts move towards the 21st century.
The Garretts take their first and last family holiday in the summer of 1959. They rarely venture far from home, yet have never been further apart from one another. Mercy is struggling to resist her desire to be a painter, drifting from her matriarchal home duties – something her husband, Robin is struggling with. Their teenage daughters, Alice and Lily, are polar opposites. Their son, David, is already planning his escape from the family, though they do not understand why.
Yet, as these lives advance across decades and we follow the family through social and personal change, the Garretts' influence on one another cannot be ignored and passes through each generation. This insightful novel is as hilarious as it is heart-breaking and places a spotlight on the complexities, delicacies and horrors of life within a family. The novel conveys the anguish of leaving those we love most and the innate closeness of family groups that those within its walls rarely ever notice.
Lone Women by Victor LaValle
21 March, Random House USA Inc
It’s 1914 and Adelaide Henry must carry the weight of an overwhelming secret locked away in an enormous steamer trunk. The trunk must remain closed if she wants to keep those around her safe.
Adelaide has lost her parents to the secret and now she must flee her home in California in search of safety in Montana. Dragging the trunk along with her, she walks an isolated journey as a “lone woman.” The government offer her free land, with the only catch being that she must look after it. So, Adelaide must face the difficult decision of whether to open her trunk in order to survive the dangerous lands.
Shining a light on the struggles of life in early 20th century America, LaValle tells the story of sisterhood in the face of brutality. Lone Woman looks at the story of a woman struggling to accept her past and find a way to redeem herself.
Above Ground by Clint Smith
28 March, Little, Brown and Company
In Above Ground, Smith’s second collection of poetry after Counting Descent, Smith explores the nuances of fatherhood. He ponders how each of our lives is shaped as we grow up by both internal and external sources. Becoming a parent is a humbling, sacred experience and a chance to see the world and find meaning in an entirely new way. Simultaneously, it can be a terrifying endeavour, filled with worry and uncertainty.
Smith interweaves poems detailing his own children’s lives with ruminations on the world they will be inheriting. Smith beautifully captures the emotional rollercoaster it is to be raising children, especially in our world today. He cradles each emotion on the spectrum between joy and devastation and in so doing, reveals the earnest truths that carry each of us through this life. For an intimate look into the beautiful mess of societal and familial relationships from the perspective of a young father, look no further than this sweet new poetry collection. Smith’s latest work is sure to be enjoyed by all, whether or not you’re a parent yourself.