Speak by Louisa Hall. Orbit, priced £8.99 (ebook £9.49). Review by Adam Weymouth
In Speak, Louisa Hall entwines multiple viewpoints in a constantly shifting narrative about what makes us truly human.
Spanning a pilgrim girl’s diary from 1663, to the 2040 prison confession of a computer programmer who invented a doll so realistic that the children who played with it forgot to socialise, it is a complex, wide-ranging novel.
Posing questions, never judging, it holds a mirror up to our increasingly digital lives, and explores whether artificial intelligence will divorce us from our humanity. In her dazzling array of symbols, and in exploring some of the most pertinent ideas of our time, this is a unique, important and remarkable book.
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis. Two Roads, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99). Review by Rachel Howdle
Former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis turns her experience in storytelling to Georgian London for her debut novel. Anne Jaccob is the daughter of a fairly wealthy family. Her mother is confined after having a second daughter and her father’s dark moods are longer and stronger after the premature death of his only son and heir. When butcher’s boy Fub brings a delivery of meat to the house, Anne feels something stir within her and, against her family’s wishes, she sets out to create her own happiness. Slow to start, this first novel captures the dark era and holds the reader in suspense until the end.
The Button Box by Lynn Knight. Chatto & Windus, priced £15.99 (ebook £9.99). Review by Phil Robinson
Having rooted through my own mother’s tin of hundreds of different mismatched buttons, I dived straight into Lynn Knight’s latest book The Button Box. Knight leads us into the past lives of a selection of buttons once belonging to a variety of clothing items worn and often handmade by members of her family since the early Victorian era.. It gives a nice nostalgic and informative look into the history of fashion, the Great War and even a few comical anecdotes on subjects such as sex and relationships. I found this a great read for all ages and a genuine insight into the social history of different times.
One Child by Mei Fong. OneWorld Publications, priced £12.99 (ebook £8.54). Review by Shereen Low
In September 1980, the Chinese government unveiled a new plan to curb the country’s reproductive habits – by issuing the one-child policy. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mei Fong, who was born in Malaysia, gives the issue a human angle. With a massive ageing population and a lack of a younger workforce, three decades on there are now “bachelor villages” and runaway brides who take advantage of the situation by taking the dowry before disappearing, parents who have lost their only child in natural disasters as well as authority figures who carried out late-term abortions and penalised parents who dared defy the policy.