THIS week’s bookcase includes reviews of How To Kidnap The Rich by Rahul Raina and I Belong Here by Anita Sethi.
A blistering debut or a moving meditation on belonging? Decide what you want to read this week…
1. How To Kidnap The Rich by Rahul Raina is published in hardback by Little, Brown, priced £14.99 (ebook £8.99). Available now
A satirical crime thriller and profound social commentary rolled into one, How To Kidnap The Rich is an uproarious ride through the caste system of Delhi, new and old.
Energetic wit pours out of Rahul Raina’s prose, while an acerbic bite highlights inequalities in race, sex and social class with candid clarity.
Clever, impoverished Ramesh and rich, lazy teenager Rudi make an unexpectedly successful double act, careering around the city in high jinks that involve extortion, butchery, kidnap and cross-dressing.
Veering from ridiculous to heart-wrenching, Raina’s exhilarating debut is pure entertainment from start to finish.
(Review by Rebecca Wilcock)
2. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49). Available now
Whereabouts, by Pulitzer Prize-winning American author Jhumpa Lahiri, is the novelist’s first self-translated work from Italian, a language she learned after relocating to Rome a decade ago, and where she partly lives today.
The book is a series of short chapters, mostly located somewhere different.
The nameless protagonist, a single university professor, lives a solitary existence in an unnamed Italian city, moving from place to place and pondering life. Plot is almost non-existent, but there are glimpses into her life beyond the pages of the novel – an almost affair with the husband of a close friend, memories of a past relationship, regrets and jealousies.
Evocative descriptions of meals, books and conversations will stay with you long after the train has taken her to another city.
(Review by Jessica Frank-Keyes)
3. Snowflake by Louise Nealon is published in hardback by Manilla, priced £12.99 (ebook £9.99). Available May 13
Too many debut authors are being dubbed ‘the new Sally Rooney’, their books lumped in with Normal People. Louise Nealon is one such author – blame the fact she’s Irish, the book features Trinity College Dublin, and the rights have been sold to the same people who adapted Normal People.
But in content, Snowflake is more spry; it agitates and shifts your sense of certainty.
Debbie’s smart and used to it, but starting university – even just commuting from her family’s dairy farm – means leaving her drunken troubled uncle, Billy, and her unreliable mother who’s caught up in dreams, for too-long stretches of time.
But she makes a go of it, somehow attracting the friendship of the glamorous Xanthe, and throwing herself into obliterative nights out – until family drama gets its claws in and drags her back.
Nealon tackles uneasy conversations around trauma and grief, sex and consent, self-delusion and the fear of what you might be capable of, deftly and with humour (there’s a debacle with a coffin that provokes actual out loud laughs).
Mythic elements aren’t quite so distinct, but the rough edges of Debbie, and the descriptions of life in rural Ireland, ground the rest in a story that’s sharp, clever and affecting.
(Review by Ella Walker)
4. I Belong Here: A Journey Along The Backbone Of Britain by Anita Sethi is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Wildlife, priced £16.99 (ebook £11.89). Available now
Following a train journey where she encountered a traumatic hate crime, Mancunian Anita Sethi takes a stand against racism.
She is called to nature by the Pennines – known as the backbone of Britain – and tells her heartfelt story of belonging. Sethi battles inner anxiety and finds an embracing freedom in her adventures, after being told by her abuser to leave.
The writer is not afraid to tackle the big issues and delve into the past as she makes sense of the present, seeking out predestined points of interest and making sure each step is an act of resistance.
Nature’s beauty and wilderness provide a welcome escape from Sethi’s city life and kickstart a healing process as she becomes enveloped in the great outdoors, taking us on a emotional journey at the same time. It’s an amazing odyssey: inspiring, powerful, encouraging and incredibly brave.
(Review by Karen Sykes)
1. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
2. Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
3. Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
4. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
5. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
6. The Passenger by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz
7. The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary
8. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
9. The Royal Secret by Andrew Taylor
10. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami
1. The Power Of Geography by Tim Marshall
2. Pinch Of Nom Quick & Easy by Kay Featherstone & Kate Allinson
3. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
4. Hold Still: A Portrait Of Our Nation In 2020 by Patron Of The National Portrait Gallery
5. Guinness World Records 2021 by Guinness World Records
6. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given
7. The Power Of Hope by Kate Garraway
8. Barbarossa by Jonathan Dimbleby
9. The Premonition by Michael Lewis
10. Philip: The Final Portrait by Gyles Brandreth
(Compiled by Waterstones)