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The Waterstones Roundup: April's Best Books

Posted on 23rd April 2019 by Martha Greengrass

April’s selection brings all the highlights from a month that brings a crop of brilliant debuts, McEwan’s AI alt-history, expert advice on How to Fail and an intriguing mystery of a Lost Dog.  

Fiction

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The mercurial imagination behind Atonement rewinds the clock on an alternative eighties Britain for a spry and accomplished new novel. Set in a place where Tony Benn has swept into office and radical technology spawns a new generation of artificial humans, it’s a story ripe with questions about consciousness, inevitability and the nature of desire. ‘A tour de force’ - The Sunday Times
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£12.99
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One of the year’s most exciting debuts, The Confessions of Frannie Langton draws on the gothic tones of Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea for an enthralling historical mystery. Moving from the plantations of Jamaica to the drawing rooms of 1820’s London, Collins’ novel spins out a darkly hypnotic story of slavery, freedom and of the wonderful and dreadful secrets bodies give up under darkness.

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Caught between the Jamaican British family who don’t seem to understand her, a job that’s not all it promised and a man she just can’t get over, Queenie Jenkins’ life seems to be steadily spiralling out of control in Candice Carty-Williams luminous debut. By turns hilariously funny, dramatic and tender, with a heroine to root for, Queenie is undoubtedly one of the year’s most exciting debuts.

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The brooding, pervasive aura of the Suffolk fens permeates every nook and cranny of Michelle Paver’s grippingly gothic historic tale of madness, witchcraft and family enmity. Paver proves herself adept in drawing out both the enthralling beauty and the dangerous potential of an uncanny landscape, using it to tease out the fear and malevolence in the lives of those it touches.
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Arriving on a torrent of critical acclaim, Isabella Hammad’s debut is a superbly realised historical epic. Part love story, part social drama it moves from Palestine to Montpellier and Paris during a turbulent period from the end of the Ottoman Empire to the Second World War. Beautifully – tenderly – written, it’s a story that sings in its depiction of real lives caught up in history's undertow.

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Graham Simsion’s much-loved trilogy is concluded with aplomb in this richly funny and warm-hearted final novel. Simsion brings real depth and conviction to his central protagonists, whilst exploring questions about autism and identity. Readers who have grown to love Don and Rosie will be pleased they’ve followed their story to its hopeful and rewarding conclusion.
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£16.99
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Past and present collide in Harriet Evan’s intriguing new novel, which moves between narratives set at either end of the twentieth century. There’s much pleasure to be had in the contrasts between lives connected by a home and family history, but divided by the passage of time. There are secrets lurking every corner of this well-told story of love, obsession and the consequences of transgression.

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The author of the sharp and brilliant memoir, Maggie and Me, triumphs with a hard-hitting debut novel, juxtaposing two stories of incarceration and prejudice set over a century apart in South Africa. Barr is unflinching in his portrayal of British colonial brutality and its bitter legacy in apartheid and his descriptions are visceral, vivid and convincing. A powerful and deeply resonant read.

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With her first novels, Jess Kidd established a distinctive and playful gothic tone that won over a host of Waterstones’ booksellers. There’s equal enjoyment to be found in her latest offering. A Victorian mystery, generously laced with uncanny twists and sideways glances, Things in Jars moves at a lick, and with surprises and vaudeville treats aplenty, it’s a treat.
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Crime

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The last novel from author Philip Kerr, who sadly died in 2018, Metropolis is a fitting swansong for his iconic anti-hero Bernie Gunther, taking the detective back to his origins. Set in the heyday dying hours of the Weimar Republic, this is Gunther amidst the bubbling underbelly of Babylon Berlin, pitted against a force determined to cleanse the city whilst Hitler’s ascendancy waits in the wings.

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History & Politics

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Moving from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 to the midst of the Second World War, Tim Bouverie’s persuasive and illuminating book explores the history and legacy of Britain’s disastrous policy of pacification. Balancing cogent understanding of the issues at play with a vivid sense of the key players and moments – brought to life in vivid detail – Appeasing Hitler is valuable and highly relevant.
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In an admirably comprehensive, critically balanced and highly readably book, John Barton breaks down the prevailing idea of the Bible as a single, unified text, illuminating its progress and metamorphosis from early foundations to the present day. Adeptly interlinking historiography, intertextuality and cultural heritage, his book makes for fascinating reading for lay readers and believers alike.

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In her absorbing and fast-paced book, Anand explores the story of Udham Singh and his 21-year mission to exact revenge on those who spearheaded the brutal Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Reading as much like a thriller as a thoroughly researched piece of investigative history, Anand’s book provides an illuminating perspective on one of the darkest moments of British colonial history.

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‘She successfully evokes the full sensorium of school life,’ writes the Guardian of Kate Clanchy’s almost missionary-esque zeal to embolden state school children toward greatness. The book is also a polemic toward the narrow-minded, objective-driven goals of current teaching, and the hurdles engaged children face in a system rigged for the average.
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The Times’s walking correspondent Christopher Somerville proves the ideal companion to this bewitching exploration of our Isle’s most magnificent and beguiling buildings. Rich with maps and plans, Somerville reveals each cathedral as a city state unto itself, their construction and existence reflecting and forever transforming the landscapes they dominated.

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Biography, Science & Nature

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Elizabeth Day’s podcast, How To Fail With Elizabeth Day, is a salvation to an age, as Day puts it, of curated perfection. How to Fail is Elizabeth Day’s essential distillation of the knowledge gleaned from open and honest conversations about the lessons of failure. Frank, wise and witty, Day walks us through the impossibility of a flawless world to find a place where failure is our strength.
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On the surface a simple tale of loss, but beneath an extraordinary, deeply revelatory exploration of our craving for connection and the kinship of another species. Journalist Kate Spicer’s spikily self-searching exploration of grief and hope bristles with honesty and acute wit.

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One of Bloomsbury’s largest titles of their year, a rich biography of the mind behind The Thirty-Nine Steps assembled by Buchan’s granddaughter. Judged by John Carey in the Sunday Times as ‘outstanding’, the book throws plenty of light on Buchan’s other achievements, both as a writer and a very public figure; reading it draws you Buchan’s lesser-known work, too.
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An oral history by the people who were there during the meteoric rise of Joy Division the most exciting band of their generation. Expertly curated by the author of England’s Dreaming, Jon Savage, It has interviews with band members themselves, plus insights from Tony Wilson, Paul Morley, Deborah Curtis & Peter Saville. Truly sumptious and a celebration of a lost but incredibly dynamic era.

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Cardiac nurse Molly Case has carved a unique arc, her medical career informing her parallel work as a performance artist and writer. These sensibilities find their way into this remarkable, anecdotal reflection on the profession of healthcare and our intimate relationship to health and our own mortality.

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Can we truly unplug? Mark Boyle’s odyssey toward self-sufficiency began within the pages of the Guardian, his weekly column about gradually raising the drawbridge on modern life paving the way for his ultimate, total separation. Not every sacrifice is obvious, and many are testing, but Boyle lays down the gauntlet of possibility.

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£9.99
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A Norwegian explorer, Erling Kagge gained widespread notice for his debut book Silence: In the Age of Noise. Here, he returns with what is, in many ways, a companion piece: a love-letter to walking and the joy of discoveries made whilst walking. A thought-provoking and considered book that is a reminder of the healing, and even transformative, effects of nature for the mind and body.

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Food & Drink

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Having re-written the rule-book for meat-free cooking, the BOSH! boys are back. Containing 140 fresh and innovative new recipes from quick suppers to feasts to impress a crowd, BISH BASH BOSH! is vegan food as you’ve never seen it before. Our exclusive edition contains six bonus recipes and eye-catching sprayed edges. It’s enough to tempt even the most hardened carnivore to eat their greens.
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£26.00
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Sabrina Ghayour won over a legion of fans with her dazzling collections Persiana, Feasts and Sirocco. Bazaar brings together a mouth-watering selection of meat-free meals, inspired by a carnival of colours, scents and flavours. The result is a cookbook full of recipes that look as good as they taste, perfect for entertaining with flair or brightening up a weekday dinner.
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