THE BEST NEW FICTION
Pachinko Min Jin Lee Apollo £18.99
The setting may be light years from Brexit or Donald Trump’s America, but this beautifully crafted family saga, by the best-selling author of Free Food For Millionaires, feels nonetheless like a fable for our times. It opens at the start of the 20th century, with a Korean girl called Sunja falling pregnant and being offered the chance to make a new life in Japan by a young Christian minister. But the immigrant experience is fraught with hardship and, as Sunja and her descendants find, poisoned by prejudices that take years to dissipate – if they ever do. It is a strong story, delivered with exemplary simplicity.
The Good People Hannah Kent Picador £14.99
County Kerry, 1825. Following the sudden deaths of her husband and daughter, Nora Leahy is left to care for her four-year-old grandson, Michael, a once healthy child now listless and enfeebled, and who she increasingly believes to be a changeling responsible for a series of unexplained local events. To cure the boy she seeks the assistance of the local healer, with tragic consequences.
In hauntingly beautiful prose, Kent evokes a claustrophobic, rain-sodden valley, where poverty is rife and superstition and folklore battle with the oppressive dictates of the Catholic church. Gripping and compelling. Simon Humphreys
Hame Annalena McAfee Harvill Secker £16.99
When Mhairi McPhail, a Canadian of Scottish descent, tells friends she’s leaving Brooklyn and a failed relationship to spend two years living with her nine-year-old daughter on a remote Scottish isle, they’re baffled. It doesn’t help that they pronounce Hebrides ‘He-brides’ – ‘as if it were a community of transgendered newlyweds’. Rash though it seems, Mhairi has been commissioned to write a biography of Grigor McWatt, an eccentric Scots poet and Fascaray resident.
Intricately spun from Mhairi’s diary, her work-in-progress, and her subject’s own words, this searching and eloquent novel muses on identity, love and belonging. Hephzibah Anderson