Fight Night by Miriam Toews
The latest novel from the author of Women Talking and (one of my all-time favourites) All My Puny Sorrows, Fight Night tells the story of three generations of a single family and their determination to live, love and laugh despite everything. A love letter to Toews’ own grandmother, Elvira, this novel is by turns heart-breaking, uplifting and snort-your-tea-through-your-nose funny. I adored it.
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his books of 2021, Intimacies is the story of an unnamed young woman from New York who travels to the Hague to work as an interpreter at an international court. When she is assigned to the trial of a deposed West African president accused of crimes against humanity, she finds herself pulled deeper and deeper inside his head. Sharp and unsettling, this coolly devastating novel asks deep questions about language, love and the dynamics of human power.
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
A slim novella at just over 100 pages, you can read Small Things Like These in a couple of hours but I defy you to forget it. It tells the story of Bill Furlong, a decent, kind coal merchant from County Wexford who, as Christmas approaches, must decide how to act on a secret that could destroy his family. Keegan’s take on the national scandal of the Magdalen laundries, where between the 18th and 20th centuries an estimated 30,000 Irish girls were incarcerated, is a masterclass in taut understatement. Quietly devastating.
Weather by Jenny Offill
One of the questions I had when I wrote Trespass was whether it was possible to write a satisfying novel about climate change that was neither a dystopia nor a political polemic. As with the brilliant Dept of Speculation, Offill pares down her narrative to the bone, telling her story in a series of taut, tight paragraphs that both glance over the impending catastrophe and send an arrow straight to the heart. Extraordinary.