I’ve been reading stacks of new books and holy heck there’s some goodies hitting the shelves these days. Today I want to talk about three new novels that have completely captivated me – I’ve got two Australian novels and a big international debut for you. I think there’s amazing potential in each of these books and they’re all available to read today.
Read on to see my picks!
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri
If there was one debut novel that I had to bet money on to take off and become an international sensation in 2019, it would be The Beekeeper of Aleppo. This astonishing novel of raw, unfettered emotion charts the extremities of human experience like no other.
Nuri is a beautiful soul – a passionate beekeeper and one of the last to try and make it out of Aleppo as Syria collapses into civil war. His wife, Afra, is an artist blinded by the horrors of war. This novel ebbs and flows between their death-defying escape from the conflict across the Mediterranean and the first bewildering and deeply haunted days as refugees in the south of England. How did they get there and just what has happened to damage them so much? You’ll beg for answers to these questions as this remarkable story unfolds.
I suspect you’re going to be hearing a lot about this powerful new novel, and if you’re wise you’ll be racing to get your hands on a copy (we managed to temporarily sell out of this one before it even hit the shelves). I won’t go into any further detail except to say that the acts of love and unbridled kindness in times of darkness in this book will rock you to your core. Read it. You’ll see I’m not exaggerating.
Bodies of Men
by Nigel Featherstone
I thought this novel had promise when I picked it up after a meet-and-greet with the author, Nigel Featherstone, but little did I know just how much this book has to give. Bodies of Men transports readers to the sands of Egypt in 1941 where a convoy of Australian recruits is ambushed by Italians. Pinned down in the firefight, twenty-one-year-old corporal William March is rescued by an estranged figure of his childhood, James Kelly. Marsh is then assigned to a desert outpost far from the action of Tobruk and is quietly warned that James has gone AWOL. The purpose of Marsh’s desert mission remains shrouded in mystery, as do the lives of the Jewish family that have taken the injured James Kelly into their home in Alexandria. When Marsh leaves his post to be reunited with Kelly the two men find themselves and those who have cared for them at great risk.
Bodies of Men is a captivating and moving love story that acutely measures the deep paradox of the masculine condition – acts of tenderness, cruelty, affection, and fury all cascade upon one another as the lives of these men pulsate through the mind of the reader. Featherstone brings it all together in refined, unpretentious prose – war writing without sentimentality or hyperbole. I was totally absorbed by this book, I think it’s just the thing for readers of Sebastian Faulks. There are even some ethereal notes of Michael Ondaatje in this. It’s that good.
Room for a Stranger
by Melanie Cheng
This book was a joy to read. I sincerely want as many people as possible to read Room for a Stranger and experience for themselves Melanie Cheng’s simple, generous, and witty storytelling that so deftly portrays contemporary Australian life as it is lived by so many on the unkind edges of poverty and irrelevance.
I want readers to meet Meg, alone in her childhood home with only her African grey parrot and the occasional cappuccino excursion with her aging friends to keep her occupied. Meg’s interior life is drawn so eloquently on the pages of this book – every page seems to drip with the author’s unhindered empathy for her. And I want them to meet Andy, the quiet but restless young Hong Kong expat who becomes Meg’s unlikely lodger. I want them to see his pained efforts to succeed at his studies in which his troubled and tormented family have invested so much. I want readers to see the uneasy journey into manhood that lies before him in a society whose casual racism is matched only by its cost of living.
In almost desperately unhappy circumstances Cheng shines light into these lives with crafty humour and astute observation. Employing a strict economy of words, she gives so much more than she asks of you. This little novel is essential.
About the Contributor
Ben is Booktopia's dedicated fiction and children's book specialist. He spends his days painstakingly piecing together beautiful catalogue pages and gift guides for the website. At any opportunity, he loves to write warmly of the books that inspire him. If you want to talk books, find him tweeting at @itsbenhunter