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.

The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells

Messed up family story: The End of Loneliness by Benedict Wells (translated by Charlotte Collins)

The End of Loneliness is a melancholy yet hopeful novel about family, loss, and the way life turns out. Jules and his siblings Marty and Liz have their lives shattered by the unexpected death of their parents and suddenly find themselves at a state-run boarding school. Their lives diverge as they deal with the past in different ways. Meanwhile, Jules meets a girl in his class, Alva, who has a mystery surrounding her, but doesn’t quite realise how he feels about her until it is too late. As they all grow up, their ties are tested and they cannot always escape the spectre of loss and loneliness.

The novel, translated into English from German, is set across Germany, France, and Switzerland as the narrative jumps time to show the fragmented lives of Jules and his brother and sister. The stories Wells tells are simple and emotional, showing the relentless ups and downs of live whether they are large or small. Jules is a lost man who came from a promising, vivacious child, and as the narrator he keeps the melancholy tone running throughout. Hindsight is used quite sparingly and thus to good effect, used as a reminder of the ways the future affects the past and how it is remembered.

The End of Loneliness is an understated novel that feels almost like a film at times, caught in snapshots of life. It has a particular sadness about it, though it isn’t necessarily a sad book, and it depicts a complex sibling relationship that gives its main characters a chance to strengthen their bonds as well as drift apart. It is likely to be a hidden gem for readers looking for literary fiction with a heartfelt narrative.