2022 Proof Copies & Early Recommendations (Julia Armfield’s Debut Novel, Lily King’s Short Stories)

I didn’t feel like I’d done a lot of pre-release reading yet, but put it all together and somehow it looks like a lot…

 

My top recommendations for 2022 (so far):

 

Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

Coming on March 3rd from Picador (UK) and on July 12th from Flatiron Books (USA)

I loved Armfield’s 2019 short story collection Salt Slow, which I reviewed when it was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Her strategy in her debut novel is similar: letting the magical elements seep in gradually so that, lulled into a false sense of familiarity, you find the creepy stuff all the more unsettling.

Miri is relieved to have her wife back when Leah returns from an extended Centre for Marine Inquiry expedition. But something went wrong with the craft while in the ocean depths and it was too late to evacuate. What happened to Leah and the rest of the small crew? Miri starts to worry that Leah – who now spends 70% of her time in the bathtub – will never truly recover. Chapters alternate between Miri describing their new abnormal and Leah recalling the voyage. As Miri tries to tackle life admin for both of them, she feels increasingly alone and doesn’t know how to deal with persistent calls from the sister of one of the crew members.

This is a really sensitive consideration of dependency and grief – Miri recently lost her mother and Leah’s father also died. I especially liked the passages about Miri’s prickly mother: it was impossible not to offend her, and she truly believed that if she resisted ageing she might never die. Leah seems shell-shocked; her matter-of-fact narration is a contrast to Miri’s snark. Armfield gives an increasingly eerie story line a solid emotional foundation, and her words about family and romantic relationships ring true. I read this in about 24 hours in early December, on my way back from a rare trip into London; it got the 2022 releases off to a fab start to me. Plus, the title and cover combo is killer. I’d especially recommend this to readers of Carmen Maria Machado and Banana Yoshimoto. (Read via NetGalley)

 

Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King

Coming on January 20th from Picador (UK); released in the USA in November 2021

The same intimate understanding of emotions and interactions found in Euphoria and Writers & Lovers underlies King’s first short story collection. Some stories are romantic; others are retrospective coming-of-age narratives. Most are set in New England, but the time and place varies from the 1960s to the present day and from Maine to northern Europe. Several stories look back to a 1980s adolescence. “South” and “The Man at the Door” are refreshingly different, incorporating touches of magic and suspense. However, there are also a few less engaging stories, and there aren’t particularly strong linking themes. Still, the questions of love’s transience and whether any relationship can ever match up to expectations linger. I’d certainly recommend this to fans of King’s novels. (See my full review at BookBrowse. See also my related article on contemporary New England fiction.)

With thanks to Picador for the proof copy for review.

 

Other 2022 releases I’ve read:

(In publication date order)

 

Write It All Down: How to put your life on the page by Cathy Rentzenbrink [Jan. 6, Bluebird] I’ve read all of Rentzenbrink’s books, but the last few have been disappointing. Alas, this is more of a therapy session than a practical memoir-writing guide. (Full review coming later this month.)

 

Recovery: The Lost Art of Convalescence by Gavin Francis [Jan. 13, Wellcome Collection]: A short, timely book about the history and subjectivity of recovering from illness. (Full review and giveaway coming next week.)

 

The Store-House of Wonder and Astonishment by Sherry Rind [Jan. 15, Pleasure Boat Studio]: In her learned and mischievous fourth collection, the Seattle poet ponders Classical and medieval attitudes towards animals. (Full review coming to Shelf Awareness soon.)

 

Stepmotherland by Darrel Alejandro Holnes [Feb. 1, University of Notre Dame Press]: Holnes’s debut collection, winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, ponders a mixed-race background and queerness through art, current events and religion. Poems take a multitude of forms; the erotic and devotional mix in provocative ways. (See my full review at Foreword.)

 

Rise and Float: Poems by Brian Tierney [Feb. 8, Milkweed Editions]: A hard-hitting debut collection with themes of bereavement and mental illness – but the gorgeous imagery lifts it above pure melancholy. (Full review coming to Shelf Awareness soon.)

 

Cost of Living: Essays by Emily Maloney [Feb. 8, Henry Holt]: Probing mental illness and pain from the medical professional’s perspective as well as the patient’s, 16 autobiographical essays ponder the value of life. (Full review coming to Shelf Awareness soon.)

 

Circle Way: A Daughter’s Memoir, a Writer’s Journey Home by Mary Ann Hogan [Feb. 15, Wonderwell]: A posthumous memoir of family and fate that focuses on a father-daughter pair of writers. A fourth-generation Californian, Hogan followed in her father Bill’s footsteps as a local journalist. Collage-like, the book features song lyrics and wordplay as well as family anecdotes. (See my full review at Foreword.)

 

Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au [Feb. 23, Fitzcarraldo Editions]: A delicate work of autofiction – it reads like a Chloe Aridjis or Rachel Cusk novel – about a woman and her Hong Kong-raised mother on a trip to Tokyo. (Full review coming up in a seasonal post.)

 

The Carriers: What the Fragile X Gene Reveals about Family, Heredity, and Scientific Discovery by Anne Skomorowsky [May 3, Columbia UP]: Blending stories and interviews with science and statistics, this balances the worldwide scope of a disease with its intimate details. (Full review coming to Foreword soon.)

 

Currently reading:

(In release date order)

This Boy We Made: A Memoir of Motherhood, Genetics, and Facing the Unknown by Taylor Harris [Jan. 11, Catapult] (Reading via Edelweiss; to review for BookBrowse)

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara [Jan. 11, Picador] (Blog review coming … eventually)

I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home by Jami Attenberg [Jan. 13, Serpent’s Tail] (Blog review coming later this month)

Everything Is True: A Junior Doctor’s Story of Life, Death and Grief in a Time of Pandemic by Roopa Farooki [Jan. 20, Bloomsbury] (To review for Shiny New Books)

Some Integrity by Padraig Regan [Jan. 27, Carcanet] (Blog review coming later this month)

 

Additional proof copies on my shelf:

(In release date order; publisher blurbs from Goodreads/Amazon)

What I Wish People Knew About Dementia by Wendy Mitchell [Jan. 20, Bloomsbury]: “When Mitchell was diagnosed with young-onset dementia at the age of fifty-eight, her brain was overwhelmed with images of the last stages of the disease – those familiar tropes, shortcuts and clichés that we are fed by the media, or even our own health professionals. … Wise, practical and life affirming, [this] combines anecdotes, research and Mitchell’s own brilliant wit and wisdom to tell readers exactly what she wishes they knew about dementia.”

 

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins [Came out in USA last year; UK release = Jan. 20, Quercus]: “Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. … Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history.”

 

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim [Feb. 3, Oneworld]: “From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the chic cafes of a modernising Seoul and the thick forests of Manchuria, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they shape the future of their nation. Immersive and elegant, firmly rooted in Korean folklore and legend, [this] unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviours, and beasts take many shapes.”

Theatre of Marvels by Lianne Dillsworth [April 28, Hutchinson Heinemann]: “Unruly crowds descend on Crillick’s Variety Theatre. Young actress Zillah [a mixed-race orphan] is headlining tonight. … Rising up the echelons of society is everything Zillah has ever dreamed of. But when a new stage act disappears, Zillah is haunted by a feeling that something is amiss. Is the woman in danger? Her pursuit of the truth takes her into the underbelly of the city.” (Unsolicited) [Dillsworth is Black British.]

 

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw [Came out in USA in 2020; UK release = May 5, Pushkin]: “explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. … With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.”

 

And on my NetGalley shelf:

Will you look out for one or more of these titles?

Any other 2022 reads you can recommend?

27 responses

  1. Church Ladies is on my list. A real winner among university press books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m really excited about it! So glad it’s made it to the UK.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I really enjoyed these stories, FWIW, with thoughts here, if you’re curious:
      http://www.buriedinprint.com/spring-2021-quarterly-short-stories/

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m picking up Church Ladies from the library today–can’t wait to dive in. Your review at your site is fantastic. I mean, any story collection that mentions Falconcrest, and my Gen X heart just swoons! Thanks for stopping by, Marcie!

        Like

  2. We have no overlap on our NetGalley shelves at the moment! I have posted my January ones and new incomings that cover more montys on my State of the TBR and other posts, but none of yours ring a bell. I’m reading a Jane Linfoot one that has a few themes that are a bit difficult, but then have Wahala, Brown Girls and the dreaded massive Love Songs of WEB Du Bois which I’ve just got to pick up and start, basically!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are just the NG books I have yet to download. Downloaded and awaiting feedback? 270! 😉

      Like

  3. I downloaded a free teaser of To Paradise – HY, from the Guardian via Jellybean books, and enjoyed it, although historical fiction not really my thing, so look forward to your review. It’s on my Wish List, but I need to hear more before I splash out and buy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, only about the first 100 pages, I think, is devoted to the 1893 setting, and it’s an alternative history – so it’s kind of like Henry James if there was total sexual freedom. I’m only a few pages in, in all honesty. It’s sitting on my coffee table like a brick.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t you love your new doorstopper? Ag shame!

        Like

  4. My heavens, BookishBeck, you’ve certainly been living up to your name! I’m awed by this amount of reading!
    Since I’m a fan of Lily King’s, I snapped up Five Tuesday in Winter as soon as it was released in November. I haven’t, of course, read it yet. Even before reading your reaction, I didn’t expect it to be fabulous (after all, many novelists aren’t good when working in shorter formats) but King’s a talented and interesting writer & I’m looking forward to sampling here short stories.
    I have a sample of Watkins’ I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, downloaded from that seller we all love to hate. It seems like something I might like but I’m still undecided (right now it has lots of competition from other novels).
    Thanks for the nice write-up about Wives Under the Sea. Julia Armfield is new to me and she seems like a writer that I’d enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope everyone will find something here to interest them 🙂 That’s the idea, anyway.

      The best stories from King’s collection were very good indeed, but a few felt like they didn’t belong there, or needed more work.

      I’ve read and enjoyed Watkins’ previous books so hope this one will hit the spot, too, though my history with autofiction has been mixed.

      If you like gentle horror/magic realism in the vein of Aimee Bender and Karen Russell, I would definitely recommend Armfield to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness sounds worth reading for the title alone! I’d agree about the King. I enjoyed most of the stories but a few failed to hit the mark. I have thoughts about Devotion but I’m keeping them to myself for fear of spoiling and I loved Tides. Another great reading year in prospect!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read Kent’s previous novel and liked it well enough. My worry with this new one was that it might be trying to be exactly like The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Looking forward to Tides.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Peach Blossom Spring sounds good. I was just looking at it today while perusing selections to order for my branch. (I get to choose 30 books per month (for adults) and the rest is done by committees.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It must be so fun to order new library books! I’m always curious about the decision making process that goes into that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is fun but I only have a certain number I can order so decision making is tough! I have to think about what my “regulars” like to read but also have a variety of genres for everyone. Most of the branch collection is done by others.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Absolutely loved Five Tuesdays in Winter when I read it last year! Lily King has quickly become one of my favourite authors 😊 and I cant recommend Devotion enough – its such a brilliant, beautifully written novel 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great to hear!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. So glad Our Wives Under the Sea lives up to the amazing-sounding blurb! Also I’m so curious to see how you get on with I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, I thought it sounded great but I DNF’d after about 80 pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I enjoyed Watkins’ two previous books, especially Gold Fame Citrus, but I know autofiction can be indulgent…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I know when you say it’s going to be a backlist year for you, it means something like what it means for me (still about 30% new books) but you have your eye on a lot of new books already! If I was tracking THAT closely, that would be the end of my backlisted reading cuz they just all look/sound so good. LOL I haven’t read anything new so far, but I’m about to read the second volume of the Marlon James trilogy and am really looking forward to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, probably 30-40% new stuff (2021-22), if I had to guess. But for me that’s cutting down by a good 10-20%!

      Like

  10. I don’t think I’ve read any 2022 books yet, but I think I have a couple on hold at the library. I can’t even remember now what they are. I feel like I’m always reading a year behind everyone else!
    Eventually I’d love to catch up with Lily King. And the church lady book is on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. […] Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (my review) […]

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  12. […] magic realism with an emotionally resonant story of disconnection and grief. My review is here. I met the lovely Julia Armfield at the 2019 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award ceremony […]

    Like

  13. […] Our Wives under the Sea by Julia Armfield: Miri is relieved to have her wife back when Leah returns from an extended deep-sea expedition. Something went wrong with the craft when it was too late to evacuate, though. Chapters alternate between Miri describing their new abnormal and Leah recalling the voyage. As Miri tries to tackle life admin for both of them, she feels increasingly alone. This is a sensitive study of love, grief and dependency. Armfield gives an increasingly eerie story line a solid emotional foundation. […]

    Like

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