Ana Kinsella shares seven books she’s watching out for in 2020 – from Sophie Mackintosh’s devastating and inventive Blue Ticket, to Marieke Lucas Rijneveld’s astonishing (and really quite disgusting) The Discomfort of Evening
A new year tends to bring resolutions, and yours is probably full of things that fall under the general heading of self-improvement: exercise, healthy eating, and less of your favourite vice.
Consider, instead, ditching those boring forms of capitalist self-optimisation and settle simply for reading more. Reading is often mistaken for another form of self-improvement, but don’t get it twisted. Books are fun. They fill your commute, distract you from your flatmates and can even help you develop opinions of your own, if you’re in need of some. They also give you something to talk about in the office kitchen. Do you really need any more convincing? Here are some eagerly anticipated books to look out for in the coming months.
Blue Ticket by Sophie Mackintosh (May 2020, lead image)
In a world where every girl is “relieved of the burden of choice” by being assigned a role in a motherhood lottery, Calla finds herself in uneasy revolt. Like Mackintosh’s first novel The Water Cure, this is a dark and dystopian novel that captures many of the anxieties of our own age. Devastating and inventive, Blue Ticket explores motherhood, free will and feminine identity in a new and startling manner.
Indelicacy by Amina Cain (May 2020)
Indelicacy takes the happy-ever-after myth and turns it on its head, as the narrator Vitória, a former cleaner who marries a rich man and loses sight of herself, dances along the fault lines of gender, class and privilege. Cain writes with elegance on art and friendship, creating a fictional world that feels more like a painting than a book. I inhaled this strange and shimmering novel in a single sitting.
Hurricane Season opens on the murdered corpse of the so-called Witch, a woman shunned by the Mexican town of La Matosa, and from there the novel descends through tiers of violence, misogyny and poverty. Powerfully written and already highly regarded in the author’s home country, this is a remarkable and resonant story told with an unflinching gaze.
Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik (out now)
The literary world has been in a state of frenzy over Eve Babitz, the fast-living and ferocious Los Angeles foil to icy Joan Didion, since the reissue of her novel-memoirs Eve’s Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company, during the 2010s. But it was Vanity Fair writer Lili Anolik who got close enough to the writer and cultural icon to see what made her so captivating. The goddaughter of Igor Stravinsky, the sometime paramour of Jim Morrison, Ed Ruscha and Harrison Ford, Babitz has some stories worth telling, and Anolik’s twisting, immersive biography will keep you hooked to the last page. A strange and dazzling read about a Hollywood legend with a white-hot intellect.
Parallel Lives is, at the outset, a group biography of five famous Victorian couples, first published in the 1980s (this year reissued with a new introduction by Sheila Heti). But it’s also much, much more than that: it’s a robust investigation of what marriage is for and why humans like to be in couples (or don’t). It’s also a compelling argument in favour of gossip, and of recognising the role it can play in our lives. If marriage is one way of putting a narrative plot on the mayhem of life, what do we do when that plot falls apart at the seams?
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (March 2020)
To call this book a Lolita for the #MeToo era would be too easy, yet there are long and graceful shadows of Nabokov’s infamous book throughout this elegant novel about a student-teacher affair at a prestigious East Coast boarding school. Everyone who reads My Dark Vanessa will have an opinion on this book, thanks to the unblinking way it handles issues like consent and sexual politics, but it’s Kate Elizabeth Russell’s deft use of language and perspective that really make this novel a must-read.
The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (March 2020)
Already a hit in the author’s native Netherlands, this unsparing debut, set on a Dutch dairy farm, shows with total absorption how one family reacts when confronted with the burden of grief. Marked by intense, poignant imagery and the stirring narration of middle daughter Jas, Marieke Lucas has done something extraordinary with this astonishing (and really quite disgusting) novel, which will stay in the mind long after reading.