From sad girl lit with razor-sharp observations on love and loss to the ultimate feel-good fiction from the serotonin queen, Beth O’Leary (she basically invented book joy) and a lovesong to black art and thought from a powerful new voice, here’s what books we’re excited to read for Zoella book club in April, May and June.
April – What A Shame by Abigail Bergstrom
Perfect for fans of Dolly Alderton and Fleabag, What A Shame is the impeccable debut from an exciting new voice in contemporary women’s fiction. In this dark, poignant but ultimately hopeful novel, we follow 20-something protagonist Mathilda Mannings as she navigates sudden heartbreak, parental loss, trauma and above all, self-acceptance. Tipped to be the book of 2022, What A Shame marks Abigail’s switch from agent to author, and a certified powerhouse we’re only too glad to see on our bookshelves.
She doesn’t want to admit it, but there’s something wrong with Mathilda Manning. It’s not just that she’s been wearing the same pair of black dungarees for three months straight, or that she can’t seem to stop running, or that she’s once again sleeping with the deeply inappropriate Freddie.
Cast into the grief of a brutal break up and the death of her father, she’s not moving on. Her friends are adamant she needs a helping hand, flinging her towards various spiritual practices in a quest for healing. But buried memories won’t stay that way forever, and it’s time Mathilda faces up to her past.
Through darkly glittering satire, the novel rattles a hornets’ nest of inherited trauma and the prickly heat of female pain in our modern world.
May – The No Show by Beth O’Leary
Category is: pure escapism.
From the best-selling author of The Switch and The Flatshare comes a new uplifting page turner, perfect for those balmy spring-summer days. Fresh, brilliantly funny, heart-breaking and joyful in equal measure, The No Show is about dating (and waiting) and the ways love can find us…
A superbly plotted tearjerker with that trademark O’Leary warmth we stan in a major fan girl way – we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Beth O’Leary’s novels *need* to be prescribed.
Three women. Three dates. One missing man…
8.52 a.m. Siobhan’s been looking forward to her breakfast date with Joseph. She was surprised when he suggested it – she normally sees him late at night in her hotel room. Breakfast with Joseph on Valentine’s Day surely means something… so where is he?
2.43 p.m. Miranda’s hoping that a Valentine’s Day lunch with Carter will be the perfect way to celebrate her new job. It’s a fresh start and a sign that her grown-up life is finally falling into place: she’s been dating Carter for five months now and things are getting serious. But why hasn’t he shown up?
6.30 p.m. Joseph Carter agreed to be Jane’s fake boyfriend at a colleague’s engagement party. They’ve not known each other long but their friendship is fast becoming the brightest part of her new life in Winchester. Joseph promised to save Jane tonight. But he’s not here…
Meet Joseph Carter. That is, if you can find him.
June – Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
“It’s one thing to be looked at and another to be seen.”
An ode to black expression, Open Water is a short debut novel of rare artistic and emotional scope.
A modern love story set in South East London about two young black British artists who meet perchance in a bar and have an instant and immediate connection. Both are trying to make their mark in a city that both celebrates and rejects them – a world where they’re so often afraid to live let alone dare to fall in love.
Expect elegant refrains, poetic prose interspersed with Kendrick Lamar lyrics and a powerful meditation on art, love and blackness. Caleb Azumah Nelson is a new voice but sure to be an enduring one.
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.