Quick book picks for March

The weather hasn’t exactly become Spring-like yet and though I did tire of seeing endless ‘Snow day? Read one of our newly published books’ tweets (this may have been because I was at work), that was also the only idea I had for introducing this month’s new books. A rich bunch this month, with links to full reviews as usual (if you like short/flash/‘damp gothic’ fiction, I advise you to not skip past Mayhem & Death).

  • Sal by Mick Kitson – A different kind of wilderness survival story, this novel follows two sisters who escape their mum’s abusive boyfriend by following survival tips that Sal, the elder sister, learnt off YouTube. Powerful with a vivid voice.
  • The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells – Translated from German into English, this book travels across Germany, France, and Switzerland to show snapshots from the often melancholy lives of three siblings in a film-like way.
  • Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala – A memorable and timely novel about telling the truth, friendship, race, and sexuality. Niru is a top student at his Washington D.C. school, but he’s keeping a secret from his attentive and proud parents, and when they find out he is gay, the fallout will change everything.
  • The Zero and the One by Ryan Ruby – A literary thriller set between Oxford, Berlin, and New York, this has dashes of The Secret History, Patricia Highsmith, and the Netflix series The Good Place and will appeal to those who like dark fiction centred around intellectual obsession and twisted relationships.
  • Mayhem & Death by Helen McClory – A collection of short pieces of writing and one novella which are filled with mystery, sea, birds, gothic, and irregularity. Read for the atmosphere, a fantastic poem about loneliness, and the sense of short writing that is exciting and fresh.
  • The Trick To Time by Kit de Waal – After My Name Is Leon, it was exciting to see another novel by Kit de Waal; this one focuses on grief and life spanning across decades that will appeal to fans of everyday character-led fiction.

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Sexuality, race, and best friends: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Speak No Evil is a powerful and gripping novel about speaking the truth and escaping being confined by others’ words. Niru is a top student and runner at his private school in Washington DC with a place at Harvard when he leaves. His Nigerian parents are attentive and protective, but Niru must keep a secret from them: he is gay. Only his best friend Meredith knows. But when his father founds out the truth, Niru faces brutal fallout and his friendship with Meredith suffers too. The aftereffects build things towards a terrible event that will be misunderstood by most people.

This is a novel about how sexuality and race intersect in a multitude of ways. Niru is a brilliant central character, trying to fight and appease his parents at once and to reconcile various aspects of his identity and personality. His friendship with Meredith forms an important part of the narrative and also a way of showing how even friends can not understand the problems caused by having conflicting elements of life and identity.

The narrative propels you forward and the book shows the violence surrounding people, particularly non-white LGBT people, and how it can erode a sense of self. This is a hard-hitting and relevant novel with a vividly depicted protagonist.