2019 looks set to be one of the best years in recent times with respect to literature. With only a few months of the year having passed, there have been plenty of top quality books that have been published. By the time International Women’s Day came about in March, many literary commentators and critics were highlighting the fact that a good number of the best received books were written by females.
Maybe in the near future, the fact that some of the best book releases are from female authors won’t be such a remarkable thing. That said, great strides in gender equality are being made in all of the creative industries including novel writing. Regardless of the fact that 2019 has thus far seen so many good books written by women, what are some of the latest releases that you might want read in the coming months?
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Writing in a partnership, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen have already had a novel on the best seller list before called The Wife Between Us. Their follow-up novel is a dark thriller which focusses on themes of obsession and passion. An Anonymous Girl is full of suspense. It begins with a character named Jess taking part in a psychological study. The research programme soon takes a dark twist and Jess tries to steer her way through a series of increasingly difficult circumstances. The action brings Jessica Farris involved in a series of common economic problems. Instead of throwing herself into playing casino games or anything else that could bring her money fast, the protagonist agrees to participate in a psychological study that will test her ethics and morality.
People Magazine named An Anonymous Girl as their book of the week. It also featured on Cosmopolitan’s ‘2019 Books to Bring to Your Book Club’. USA Today named it as one of its ‘Five New Books Not to Miss’, too. The novel is one that will have readers rethinking what secrets they might share if moral and ethics really come into play when protecting loved ones. A review in the New York Times said that the book’s characters were pushed to the ‘brink of disaster’ and then dared to jump off. This is the novel to read if you want an exciting page turner!
You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian
A collection of short stories, You Know You Want This is another book which focusses on the darker side of life. Roupenian first shot to fame when her short story Cat Person was picked up by an online readership and went viral. Few authors have gained an audience in this way and many publishers are following the success of You Know You Want This carefully because it may mark a change in the way all future debut works of fiction could be marketed. That said, Roupenian’s book is a conventional work despite her unconventional route into the mainstream.
Roupenian turns a critical writer’s eye over modern America and her short stories tend to focus on issues like work, dating and sexual interactions. However, the accent is on obsession and even on horror in some cases. Elle magazine described some of the stories as being ‘chillingly accurate’ so her ideas certainly have resonance with a contemporary readership. A writer with something to say about both men and women, Roupenian has set down a serious marker as an up-and-coming author.
The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
A relatively short book set over just 224 pages, The Collected Schizophrenias is Wang’s collection of essays. It is an easy book to dip in and out of despite the serious subject matter that Wang is most at home with. This is an intimate series of writings which describe mental disorders in astonishing detail. Wang discloses much of her own trauma in this regard and picks apart the idea that a serious condition, like schizophrenia, can be seen as a single entity. Her works test conventional wisdom and suggest a greater plurality with all sorts of mental health issues.
In her collection of essays Wang touches on subjects as diverse as fashion and high-functioning coping methods to make her points. There again, some of the writing gets into less common forms of mental health disorders, such as psychosis. She examines the failings – as she sees them – of educational establishments and problems of engaging with mental health institutions. Wang possesses an analytical eye that some would regard as forensic. She has used her skills learned in a laboratory to produce an essay collection of stunning intellect. As such, The Collected Schizophrenias is able to overcome many common misunderstandings while offering valuable insights into a rarely highlighted condition.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
A novel that nearly every reader will enjoy, The Age of Light is set in 1930s Paris in an age that is undoubtedly glamorous but which has the forthcoming war on the horizon throughout. The main character is a former model who has begun a career on the other side of the lens as a photographer. In fact, Scharer’s novel is a dramatisation of the real life of Lee Miller, an American model who went on to have a successful career as a photojournalist.
Scharer’s debut novel jumps around in time in an intriguing way. The Times described the writer as capturing ‘the thrill of artistic creation’. A review in the New York Times referred to The Age of Light’s ‘incandescent prose’ which featured ‘an unforgettable heroine’. This is an historical novel which many readers will find is thoroughly up-to-date.
Maid by Stephanie Land
Subtitled Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, Land’s memoir about her time working a maid is an exploratory work which really unpicks what it is to be poor in a modern setting. Maid is a personal description of working in the service economy, often for low pay. The book takes in a number of aspects, such as working as a single parent, undertaking a number of domestic jobs in an ever-shifting labour market, accessing higher education, living in assisted housing and the problems associated with obtaining state benefits.
Land’s memoir was described in Publisher’s Weekly as an uplifting tale of ‘resilience and survival’. One New York Times reviewer called it ‘vivid and engaging’. The memoir was featured on BBC Radio 4 as the station’s book of the week. Maid is a real eye-opener that sheds light on the lives of many people who are struggling just to get by.