New month, new reading list! Literary fiction takes centre stage in February with 4 out of the 8 recommendations belonging to the genre. But if you fancy something different, there are great options under poetry, memoir, romance and historical fiction to pick from.
Maame by Jessica George
Genre: Literary fiction
Themes: coming of age, family, race, culture, belonging
Description: It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is unrewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. When her mum returns, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts.” But it's not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils–and rewards–of putting her heart on the line.
2. I'm Always So Serious by Karisma Price
Themes: Blackness, family, loss, grief, cultural commentary
Description: Karisma Price’s stunning debut collection is an extended meditation on Blackness, on family, on loss. Anchored in New Orleans and New York City, these poems braid personal and public histories into a cultural reckoning of past and present. In these pages there is grief, there is absence, there is violence—but there is also immense love and truth.
3. The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest
Theme: second chances, career, self love, race
Description: Shy, bookish, and awkward, Lily Greene has always felt inadequate compared to the rest of her accomplished family. Lily finds escapism in her correspondences with her favourite fantasy author, and what begins as two lonely people connecting over e-mail turns into a tentative friendship and possibly something else -until he ghosts her.
Months later, Lily seeks a date to her sister's wedding. And the perfect person to help her is Nick Brown, her new neighbour, whom she feels drawn to for unexplainable reasons. Nick soon realizes that the woman from down the hall is the same Lily he fell in love with over e-mail months ago. Unwilling to complicate things between them, he agrees to set her up with someone else, though this simple favor between two neighbors is anything but-not when he can't get her off his mind.
4. Windward Family: An Atlas of Love, Loss and Belonging by Alexis Keir
Themes: love, loss, belonging, British- Caribbean history
Description: Twenty years after living there as a child, Alexis Keir returns to the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. He is keen to uncover lost memories and rediscover old connections. But he also carries with him the childhood scars of being separated from his parents and put into uncaring hands. From the Caribbean to England, North America and New Zealand, from windswept islands to the wet streets of London, and spanning generations of travellers from the 19th century to the present, Windward Family takes you inside the beating heart of a Black British family, separated by thousands of miles but united by love, loss and belonging.
5. What Napoleon Could Not Do by DK Nnuro
Genre: Literary Fiction
Themes: Blackness, Africaness, family, ambition
Description: When siblings Jacob and Belinda Nti were growing up in Ghana, their goal was simple: to move to America.
Jacob, an awkward computer programmer who still lives with his father, wants a visa so he can move to Virginia to live with his wife—a request that the U.S. government has repeatedly denied. He envies his sister, Belinda, who achieved, as their father put it, “what Napoleon could not do”: she went to college and law school in the United States and even managed to marry Wilder, a wealthy Black businessman from Texas. For these three, their desires and ambitions highlight the promise and the disappointment that life in a new country offers.
6. The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley
Genre: Literary Fiction
Themes: relationships, tragedy, dark humour
Description: In the wake of her parents’ death, Aretha, a habitually single Black lawyer, has had only one obsession in life—success—until she falls for Aaron, a coffee entrepreneur. Moving into his Brooklyn brownstone to live along with his Hurricane Sandy-traumatized, illegal-gun-stockpiling, optimized-soy-protein-eating, bunker-building roommates, Aretha finds that her dreams of making partner are slipping away, replaced by an underground world, one of selling guns and training for a doomsday that’s maybe just around the corner.
7. Rose and the Burma Sky by Rosanna Amaka
Genre: Historical Fiction
Themes: love, unrequited love, war, imperialism
Description: 1939: In a village in south-east Nigeria, young Obi watches from a mango tree as a colonial army jeep whooshes by, filled with soldiers laughing and shouting. To Obi, their promise of a smart uniform and regular wages are hard to resist, especially as he has his sweetheart Rose to impress and a family to support.
Years later, when Rose falls pregnant to another man, his heart is shattered. As the Burma Campaign mounts, and Obi is shipped out to fight, he is haunted by the mystery of Rose's lover. When his identity comes to light, Obi's devastation leads to a tragic - and wholly unforeseeable - chain of events.
8. A House For Alice by Diana Evans
Themes: loss, tragedy, family, grief, spirituality
Description: In the wake of their father's death, the imagined stability of the family begins to buckle. Meanwhile youngest daughter Melissa is forging a new life but has never let go of a love she lost. Michael too remains haunted by the failed perfection of their past, even within the sturdy walls of his marriage to the sparkling Nicole. As Alice's final decision draws closer, all that is hidden between Melissa and her sisters, Michael and Nicole, rises to the surface.
Set against the shadows of Grenfell and a country in turmoil, Diana Evans's ordinary people confront fundamental questions. How should we raise our children? How to do right by our parents? And how, in the midst of everything, can we satisfy ourselves?