50 books we’re looking forward to in 2019 (Pt 5)

What more can we add to the reams that have already been written about The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale? (Cue: Ooh so exciting / How dare she? / Hope it’s better than Season 2 of the series / How dare she? / Doesn’t she know the story doesn’t belong to her anymore? / How dare she how dare she how dare she etc). What else do we know? Well, we have what Atwood herself has told us: ‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’ Colour us excited.

Originally published in 2015, Janice Galloway’s short story collection Jellyfish is getting a timely reissue in 2019. Given that we said this = “Janice Galloway tells it like it is. She is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects and gets to the heart of things in a way that can make the reader feel uncomfortable, but which is all about passion and skillful writing. She writes with a clarity and realism that is hard-hitting and rare” – about her Collected Stories, you can rest assured we’re looking forward to reviewing this too.

First there was The Power of the Dog. Then there was The Cartel. Now, finally, Don Winslow closes out the trilogy with The Border, another weighty tome that we expect will crack along at a whipsnapping pace to round out the story of Art Keller and the Sinaloa Cartel. “In a story that moves from deserts south of the border to Wall Street, from the slums of Guatemala to the marbled corridors of Washington, DC, Winslow follows a new generation of narcos, the cops that fight them, the street traffickers, the addicts, the politicians, money-launderers, real-estate moguls, and mere children fleeing the violence for the chance of a life in a new country…” You liked Sicario, you’ll like this.

We know that lots and lots of you started worshipping at the shrine of Kate Atkinson with her debut Behind the Scenes at the Museum all those years ago. Because we’re stubborn sorts, it took us a while but these last few years (with Life After Life, A God in Ruins and Transcription) we’ve come to count ourselves as fans. In a recent Guardian interview, she talked about a ‘big’ book she’s working on and which we thought would be her ‘next’ book… but it looks like we’ll have to wait a while longer for that because (calloo callay) Jackson Brodie is back. Atkinson’s detective hasn’t been seen for nine years (if you can believe it), not since Started Early, Took My Dog. Big Sky is currently scheduled for September…

You don’t have to read too many fairytales to see the strange grip gingerbread appears to have on some rudimentary part of the unconscious. In her latest book (called Gingerbread, in case we’re being obtuse), Helen Oyeyemi creates a world influenced by the tantalising witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel and the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can to fashion “a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe”.

It’s the end of the world (“you don’t say!” every Bookmunch reader in the world says, glancing away from the news a second) but that’s not enough for Hanna Jameson whose novel The Last is published in January 2019. A small group of tourists are holed up in a hotel in Switzerland – and then one of them is murdered (like the end of the world isn’t enough?!) and historian Jon Keller is called upon to investigate (as the lights go out over Europe). People are already saying Stephen King meets Agatha Christie…

Before his Booker-nominated Hystopia, there was A Quick Kiss of Redemption, The Secret Goldfish and The Spot. David Means cut his teeth on short stories and now he’s back with a new collection called Instructions for a Funeral. David Keenan describes this book thus: “No one can give voice to the silence of the moment like David Means. These are short stories from the margins, from the edges of the world, the voices of lovers, drifters, cops, Raymond Carver, Kurt Cobain; and they speak of hope and regret, of beginnings and endings, and of the possibilities of now, and then, with spare power, and grace. A beautiful book, and one that catches in the heart.” Sign us up for a double helping!

We loved Fleabag when it was on TV last year and so the description of Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie had us at hello: “Queenie Jenkins can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long-term boyfriend, Tom. That’s definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling. She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?”

There is probably a graph somewhere of Bolano fandom that resembles your average change curve (starts high with lots of love for 2666 and then gradually peaks and declines in the wake of all of those reissues and unearthed writings…). Thankfully there’s been a bit of a break and we’re all ready for some ‘new’ (well, not ‘new’, but rather ‘new to us’) Bolano writing and so we have The Spirit of Science Fiction, “a tale of bohemian youth on the make in Mexico City”. It may be “a kaleidoscopic work of strange and tender beauty, and … an indispensable addition to an ecstatic and transgressive body of work” but it’s also short (clocks in at 176 pages) which makes it eminently doable – even if it’s one of his barmier reads….

One of those books that was bought after a ferocious bidding battle, Un-su Kim (described as ‘the Korean Henning Mankell’ by those in the know)’s The Plotters takes readers into a shadowy Seoul underworld of carefully orchestrated contract killings. What we have here is basically an existential John Wick as a hitman called Reseng finds himself in trouble after letting one of his targets choose her own method of death. “Could he be at the centre of a plot bigger than anything he’s ever known?” DB Swan has called it Kill Bill meets Murakami. That’s enough to entice us…

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