Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown finds success with her first novel…
1. Nineteen Steps by Millie Bobby Brown is published in hardback by HQ
British actress Millie Bobby Brown’s debut novel beautifully portrays her grandmother’s real-life experience as a survivor of the 1943 Bethnal Green tube disaster, where 173 people died in a crush on the nineteen steps out of an air raid shelter – giving the novel its title. Brown shrewdly portrays the difficult history of an often-overlooked tragedy, later recognised as the worse civilian disaster of World War II, through the eyes of 18-year-old protagonist Nellie Morris, as her world is ripped apart. The Hollywood author weaves a somewhat expected but nonetheless enjoyable love triangle into the storyline, with Nellie caught up with her besotted childhood best friend and a US Air Force pilot – like every good romance tale. For her first foray into writing, Brown strikes the right balance as the characters grapple with the ongoing heartache of grief, as well as finding happiness amid the trauma and uncovering the power of love. This deeply affecting tale inspired by Brown’s own family history is a real page-turner.
2. The Seventh Son by Sebastian Faulks is published in hardback by Hutchinson Heinemann
A surrogate delivers a baby into the world – but unaware to her and the parents, he is different to the rest of the human race. While best known for historical fiction, here Sebastian Faulks takes a futuristic look at what happens when you have enough money and power to alter human genetics, and the the disturbing consequences that follow. It’s a clever novel that in a world where we are seeing a rapid growth in AI, feels quite timely and unsettling. While the plot occasionally becomes too far-fetched and the ending feels a bit disappointing, there is no doubt Faulks writes beautiful and thought-provoking prose. And as is typical with so many of his books, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters he writes about.
3. Weirdo by Sara Pascoe is published in hardback by Faber & Faber
Sophie has a boyfriend she wants to break up with, a job she doesn’t like, and a family who are dysfunctional to say the least, so when Chris walks back into her life it seems like destiny. But, of course, things aren’t as straightforward as that in comedian Sara Pascoe’s novel Weirdo. The story of what follows is told through Sophie’s stream of consciousness, which can be hilarious, infuriating and worryingly relatable all at the same time. The debut fiction offering from Pascoe immerses you in the life of her problematic heroine and, in spite of her admitted flaws, leaves you rooting for the “weirdo” to come out on top.
4. Politics On The Edge: A Memoir From Within by Rory Stewart is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape
Rory Stewart reveals the frightening inner workings of Britain’s political system in his latest book, which traces his career as a Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border (a post he held until 2019). The book starts at the height of Britain’s Brexit debate, but quickly cuts to a politically inexperienced Stewart in the Middle East a decade earlier, watching successive policy disasters unfold. After a teaching stint at Harvard, Stewart returns to the UK where he finds the door to parliament ajar, partly thanks to the expenses scandal which has created some Tory vacancies – but the limitations of being a backbench MP quickly hit home. Fast-forward five frustrating years, Stewart holds various ministerial position, and describes the trials and tribulations of each posting in detail, as well as his disappointing encounters with many now familiar faces, from David Cameron to Boris Johnson. In doing so, Stewart shines a light on how power struggles and an acronym-obsessed civil service have created a culture of incompetence. Despite learning to play the game and making some headway, his description of British politics is haunting.
Children’s book of the week
5. Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundell is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Katherine Rundell’s Impossible Creatures transports readers into an exciting and imaginative world of adventure known as the Archipelago – a collection of magical islands, where protagonist Christopher discovers his grandfather’s role as a protector to their discovery from the normal world. Drama ensues with the prospect of these worlds clashing and the chaos it may create. Christopher is joined by a girl Mal and the book takes us on their journey and nail-biting adventure across the islands. Rundell’s book packs a punch with imagination and creativity in its purest form – it’s a great starter for any young reader before moving onto a fantasy classic. Rundell paints a vivid and detailed picture of her mesmerising world with griffins, sphinxes, and centaurs all playing their part. She has created a story with potential to be adored by fantasy lovers for years to come.