November 2023 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Dan Coombes has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Mary Or, The Birth of Frankenstein; Heartstopper Vol. 5 and The Future.

Mary Or, The Birth of Frankenstein- Anne Eekhout

The trend for re-interpreting well known tales, their creation and the famed lives of their authors – often bringing *gasp* less well known female perspectives to the fore – has made for a lot of fun reads recently,  just like this one which grabbed me instantly because of the Frankenstein connection. Make no mistake though, this isn’t some novelty effort playing around for amusement value – it’s a powerful and intense tale with lots to say and an enticingly spooky edge.

It wants to scream, it wants to tear things apart. 1816. Mary, eighteen years old, is staying in a villa on Lake Geneva with her lover Percy Shelley. She is tormented by his infidelities, haunted by the loss of her baby daughter. Then one evening with friends, as storms rage outside and laudanum stirs their imaginations, Lord Byron challenges everyone to write a ghost story, and something fierce and wild awakens in Mary.

Memories surface of the long, strange summer she once spent with a family in Scotland, where she found herself falling in love with the enigmatic Isabella Baxter. She learned tales of mythical beasts, witches and spirits. And she encountered real monsters – both in the rocky wilds, and far, far closer to home… Illuminating the past like a flash of lightning, this brilliant reimagining of the birth of Frankenstein takes us into a feverish world of waking dreams-where grief mingles with desire, and the veil between beauty and horror grows thin.

Images above: Mary Or, The Birth of Frankenstein front cover, Author Anne Eekhout

Heartstopper vol. 5 – Alice Osman

The last four bestselling volumes of this sweet natured comic book series have garnered a huge fanbase, young and old, so plenty of folk are very excited about installment number five. One of those series that’s funny, warm and engaging without being too shallow, and  Alice Oseman tackles plenty of big issues with dexterity and lots of charm – and if you’re new to Heartstopper there should be just enough time to catch up before this comes out.  Also, fun fact: They’re filming the third series of the Netflix adaptation opposite my house.

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love.

The bestselling LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the fifth volume of the much-loved HEARTSTOPPER series.  Nick and Charlie are very much in love. They’ve finally said those three little words, and Charlie has almost persuaded his mum to let him sleep over at Nick’s house …

But with Nick going off to university next year, is everything about to change? By Alice Oseman, winner of the YA Book Prize, Heartstopper encompasses all the small moments of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us.

Image above: Heartstopper Vol. 5 front cover, Author Alice Osman 

The Future – Naomi Alderman

So okay, reading about a rapidly disintegrating near future all too relevant to our own may not be everyone’s cup of tea right now, what with the real world being a bit on the uncheery side and everything, but good dystopian fiction has always been a great way of examining the world around us, exploring ideas, getting us thinking and maybe even leaving us feeling a little better equipped to negotiate reality. At the moment not many writers are doing this as well as Naomi Alderman, happily crossing the boundary between science fiction and normality, and thankfully she’s an expert in gripping and brilliant storytelling too.

The new novel from the Women’s Prize-winning, bestselling author of The Power, The Future is a dazzling exploration of the world we have made and where we are going. The Future is where the money is. The Future is a few billionaires leading the world to destruction. The Future is a handful of friends hatching a daring plan. The Future is the greatest heist ever? Or the cataclysmic end of civilisation…

The Future is here.

Images above: The Future front cover, Author Naomi Alderman