Fiction to watch in 2022 | fiction

Wwhether it’s a hangover after a few years of the pandemic, a sign that writers have had particularly productive lockdowns, or maybe it’s the many centenarians to come – Odysseus, Land of waste and Jacob’s bedroom – but 2022 moans positively with great novels. We will leave the ObserverThe unrivaled debut feature film to cover new UK novels and focus largely on books published in the first half of the year.

Prepare your hearts, because Douglas Stuart is back. After the extraordinary success of Shuggie Bath, his second novel, Young Mongoose (Picador, April), is another beautiful and moving book, a gai Romeo and Juliet set in the brutal world of Glasgow housing estates. Hanya Yanagihara also follows a painfully moving predecessor, whose In Paradise (Macmillan, January) gives us three stories far removed in space and time, but each unique in its power to summon the joy and complexity of love, the pain of loss. I’m not sure I’ve ever missed a book’s world as much as I miss it In Paradise now I left it. A new Kamila Shamsie novel is always worth celebrating, but Best of friends (Bloomsbury, October) is something else: an epic story that explores the bonds of childhood friendship, the possibility of escape, the way the political world interferes with the personal, all through the prism of two well-drawn protagonists.

Tilted Axis Press is home to some of the most incandescent and urgent writings from all corners of the globe. I had never heard of Monique Ilboudo, who manages to be both Burkina Faso’s ambassador to Scandinavia and a prolific author. So Far from my life (September) is the story of Jeanphi, a young man from the fictional West African town of Ouabany. It is beautifully translated by Yarri Kamara and the best book on the hope and despair of the migrant experience that I have read. The second novel by NoViolet Bulawayo, Glory (Viking, March), takes place in the fictional state of Jidada. Here the “father of the nation” – an old horse – rules over the other farm animals, which tell the story. Robert Mugabe is only there by name in this striking allegory – a Farm animal it shows how stories of liberation and self-determination curdle under the power of a dictator. There is another very different Africa in that of Marlon James Moon Witch, Spider King (Penguin, March), the second of its Black Star trilogy. Even more captivating and inventive than its predecessor, the 177-year-old witch Sogolon’s story is like Tolkien on ayahuasca.

Two debuts in the United States to watch. The immortal king Rao by Vauhini Vara (Grove Press, June) is a brilliant and beautifully written book on capitalism and patriarchy, on Dalit India and digital America, on power, family and love. Honorée Fanonne Jeffers is a famous poet, but W’s love songsEB Wood (HarperCollins, January) is her first novel, and what a novel it is. Spanning the generations, it traces the history of an African-American family from slavery to the present day, all centered on (another) fictional city: Chicasetta, Georgia.

Akwaeke Emezi’s beginnings, Fresh water, announced them as an explosive new voice in 2018. That they are already in their seventh book – and this at 34 years old – shows the unbridled energy of their work, the extent of their vision. Their third novel for adults, You made a fool of death with your beauty (Faber, May), is the story of Feyi, an artist, and her best friend, Joy. It follows Feyi through a wild summer of creation and destruction, art and music, and lots of sex. Is Deesha Philyaw The Secret Life of the Ladies of the Church (Pushkin Press, May) a novel? Is it a collection of related stories? Either way, it’s glorious – the clever, sad, and very funny portrait of several generations struggling with their desires and faith. Jessica Andrews’ debut novel, Salt water, was wonderful. The follow-up, Deciduous teeth (Hodder, July) is even better. A story of young love and desire that is full of the most magnificent writing.

Alex Pheby’s Bitten was a resounding success for the brilliant Galley Beggar Press. Now he goes on with another super clever piece of literary fantasy, Malarkoi (August), set in the middle of the ruins of Mordew and with the protagonist of the first novel, Nathan Treeves, dead. I love Sandra Newman’s work and the short stories she is currently writing Julia, a feminist account of One thousand nine hundred and eighty four, excited me a lot. Before that, however, is Men (Granta, June), a dazzling work of speculative fiction that imagines a world in which all men, overnight, disappear from the Earth.

Monica Ali’s long-awaited fifth novel, Love marriage (February, Hachette), was worth the decade it took to arrive. The strong and independent Yasmin Ghorami is about to marry Joe Sangster, the libertine son of a prominent feminist. It’s a real family saga, both deliciously old-fashioned and full of surprising twists. Patrick Gale’s latest, Mother’s boy (Mars, Headline), delivers a characteristic and tender novel about a young man who grows up in the shadow of one war and the whispers of the next, with his mother, the indomitable Laura, always there to watch over him.

A few last books to look forward to … Guardian football journalist Jonathan Wilson wrote a clever, cinematic short story, Streltsov (Blizzard Media, January) about Soviet football star Eduard Streltsov, arrested on the eve of the 1958 World Cup. If you are looking for this century Odysseus, look no further than that of Patrick McCabe Poguemahone (Unbound, April), a surprisingly lyrical free-verse novel set in Margate and in the minds and memories of Dan and Una Fogarty. It might sound like a chore at over 600 pages, but it’s a blast. Perhaps best known so far for her news, in These days (Faber, March) Lucy Caldwell has written a novel with a huge heart; full of light passages in prose, this tale of the Belfast blitz is breathtaking. Finally, there is Karen Campbell’s Paper cup (Canongate, June), the story of a homeless woman crossing Scotland to return a lost engagement ring. It is beautiful and devastating and I am writing about it.


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