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The Waterstones Round Up: March's Best Books

Posted on 5th March 2020 by Mark Skinner

Thursday 5 March sees one of the biggest publications for many a year, as Hilary Mantel's The Mirror & the Light is released into the world. But, much as anticipation is at fever pitch for the conclusion of the celebrated Thomas Cromwell trilogy, that should not distract from other superb books emerging in the same month. Indeed, with more immersive historical fiction from Maggie O'Farrell and Jane Healey, blockbuster fantasy from Sarah J. Maas and a fascinating document of life in the Thunberg household, March is a bumper month for hotly anticipated publishing.  

Fiction

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The triumphant conclusion to a modern classic, The Mirror & the Light carries the reader spellbound through the final, tragic era of Thomas Cromwell’s eventful life.
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One of our greatest living novelists resurrects the short life of Hamnet Shakespeare, the Bard’s only son, in a profoundly moving account of grief, family and genius in an era where life was ever precarious.
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A gloriously gothic extravaganza, perfect for fans of Sarah Perry and Bridget Collins, Healey’s darkly atmospheric tale of a wartime menagerie haunting the corridors of the eponymous stately home is a masterclass in slow-burning tension.

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Tackling the contentious issue of sexual abuse with unflinching enquiry and emotional complexity, My Dark Vanessa interrogates the blurred lines between consent and manipulation and how both memory and context can shift alarmingly over time. Perfect for fans of Lisa Taddeo’s groundbreaking Three Women, My Dark Vanessa is disturbing and unputdownable.

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From the winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction comes a psychologically astute and emotionally devastating story about the messy dynamics of family and the damage long-buried truths can do when they explode into the open. As wise, perceptive and bittersweet as An American Marriage, Silver Sparrow resounds with delicate grace and poignant subtext.

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Exquisitely rendered in Sebastian Barry’s rhapsodic prose, A Thousand Moons continues the tale of Winona - featured in the author’s Costa Award-winning Days Without End – as she makes her way through the forbidding and treacherous world of post-Civil War America.
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Written with Trollope’s keen eye for family relationships and all-too-human foibles, Mum and Dad puts a bittersweet generational power grab under a compassionate and absorbing spotlight. Dealing with complex emotions and nuanced characters with an assured lightness of touch, this is a winning return to form for the bestselling novelist.

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A complex coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the Iranian coup of 1953, Hozar’s debut brilliantly evokes the Middle East at a time of tumult and intrigue.
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The author of Waterstones Fiction Book of the Month The Sixteen Trees of the Somme and the bestselling Norwegian Wood, Lars Mytting returns with a magnificent tale of loyalty, longing and a young woman’s quest for individual freedom in a remote Norwegian village.

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Crime & Thrillers

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The twenty-ninth Brunetti novel is just as engrossing and elegant as the first, as the maverick detective is drawn into a sinister conspiracy prompted by a troubled widow’s dying words. With Venice as ever a main character in its own right, Trace Elements is a brilliantly plotted return from a crime writing maestro.

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Temperance Brennan is back and faced with a particularly vicious series of murders even by her blood-soaked standards. Boasting Reichs’s innate storytelling verve and a breakneck pace, A Conspiracy of Bones is a worthy addition to this seminal crime series.
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Dean’s Tuva Moodyson series has become a word-of-mouth sensation in crime writing circles and Black River immerses the reader once more in an impeccably crafted Swedish psychodrama. Missing friends and small town secrets pervade the narrative of this compelling latest installment.
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Science Fiction & Fantasy

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The bestselling writer of YA fantasy delivers her adult debut in impressive style with an immersive mystery set in a richly drawn phantasmagorical landscape. A sweeping epic packed full of romance and adventure, House of Earth and Blood is a bold, brilliant opening chapter in what promises to be a spectacular new series from Maas.

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A mesmerising novel from a giant of modern science fiction writing, The City We Became furnishes New York City with a quintet of souls before unleashing an ancient evil upon the futuristic metropolis. Brimming with Jemisin’s customary imaginative flair and luminous prose, this is a glorious slice of speculative fiction.

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Natasha Pulley returns grateful readers to the singular universe of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street in this bewitching sequel set in a gloriously gothic Japan. Bizarre hauntings and electrical storms blight a Tokyo mired in mystery and mayhem, as The Lost Future of Pepperharrow dazzles and beguiles with fast-paced plotting and quirky characterisation.

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Biography

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A fascinating insight into life in one of the world’s most famous families, Our House is on Fire is an account of parents coming to terms with both their daughter’s autism and the environmental crisis that Greta’s activism has so successfully highlighted. Essential reading for all those keen for a greater understanding of this influential and controversial clan.
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Provocative despatches from the heart of Britain’s leading political family, Rake’s Progress sees Rachel Johnson trying to make sense of Westminster, Whitehall and the wider country – and her own part in the chaos of the last few years. Disarmingly candid and self-aware, and bursting with juicy anecdote and revelation, this is breezy, informal autobiography of the most entertaining kind.

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An engrossing piece of literary detective work, House of Glass details the lives of Hadley Freeman’s grandmother and her siblings across the globe and through a turbulent twentieth century.
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The coming-of-age story from popular music journalist Pete Paphides brings together his experiences as a child of Cypriot parents growing up in Birmingham and his early immersion in pop music in vivid and poignant prose.
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America’s premier essayist documents the formative years of her activist engagement in a typically eloquent and impassioned memoir-cum-polemic.
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The second volume of Morris’s consistently charming and penetrating diaries skips nimbly from the inconvenience of ageing to the torture of Brexit. A wonderfully sharp-eyed companion through the madness of modern life, the legendary travel writer makes for a superb commentator and critic also.
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An intoxicating dissection of one man and his time, Gopnik's sumptuous and meticulously researched biography gets to the heart of the pioneer of Pop Art.
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Home & Lifestyle

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The mother-daughter duo from the hit podcast Table Manners transform their genial family banter and utterly delicious recipes into a beautifully presented, warm and witty cookbook of the same name.
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Riley’s inspiring recipe guide contains dishes specifically geared to those whose taste-buds have been dulled by chemotherapy and other medical treatments. Incorporating cutting edge medical science and highly nuanced work around texture and the senses, The Life Kitchen is a remarkable achievement of enlightened gastronomy.
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Dan Toombs, aka the Curry Guy, has forged a reputation as one of the most accessible and versatile cooks around and his latest recipe guide takes all the delicious, spicy flavours of his earlier work and brings down the carbs and calories. Fun, fresh and extremely tasty, The Curry Guy Light is healthy eating with a kick.
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History, Politics & Economics 

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Marshalling all of Preston’s vast knowledge of his subject, the doyen of Spanish history delivers a magisterial account of the making of modern Spain and how its people have been repeatedly oppressed by institutions supposed to protect them.
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Revealing and enlightening, Kate Fall’s account of eleven years at the heart of the Cameron administration alights on the key topics of recent times and the coterie of ministers who, for better or worse, changed the face of British politics. As one of the former PM’s most trusted advisors, Fall is uniquely placed to provide a fascinating snapshot of the Westminster bubble.
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In the withering Three Years in Hell, the bestselling author of Heroic Failure takes a scabrously funny scalpel to everything that came after the game-changing EU referendum result of 2016.
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In turbulent times such as those we are currently living through, the uncertainty of the future can seem truly terrifying. Kay and King’s incisive, rigorously researched volume challenges the accepted strategies used to cope with uncertainty and utilises many cogent examples from history, philosophy and economics to argue for a radical new model for embracing the unknown.
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Popular Science & Nature

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Deeply fascinating and alive with a sense of exploratory wonder, Bond’s thoughtful dissection of how the human brain enables us to keep orientated wears its meticulous research with an eloquent lightness of touch. Articulate, considered and genial, Wayfinding makes the perfect companion on any long trek.
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From stately gardens to skyscrapers, The Accidental Countryside unearths a multitude of nests and homes created by enterprising creatures, as testament to the ingenuity and survival instinct of our bugs and beasts.
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