The Book of Memory

Gappah, Petina

U.S.: Feb. 2, 2016 | FSG

U.K.: Aug. 20, 2015 | Faber & Faber 

Gappah_Marina Cavazza Memory is an albino black woman sitting on death row in a Zimbabwe jail, convicted of murdering a white man—her guardian—in the turbulent era following independence. She writes her life story in notebooks given to her by an American journalist who focuses on miscarriages of justice and has taken an interest in her case. At the age of 9, Memory was sold by her parents and taken from her childhood home in a Harare township to live with a white single man, a lecturer at the university. Her complex, tragic story unfolds piece by piece and details of mundane prison life intrude as she tries to make sense of her family and fate. Gappah’s first novel is a gripping and original story of superstition, prejudice, and failure to communicate in a corrupt, divided, and dysfunctional society.


Faulks_Muir Vidler Where My Heart Used to Beat

Faulks, Sebastian

U.S.: Jan. 15, 2016 | Henry Holt

U.K.: Oct.9, 2015 | Hutchinson 

Sebastian Faulks, best-known for his highly acclaimed French trilogy including Birdsong, returns to neuroscience and psychiatry in Where My Heart Used to Beat. His protagonist, Robert Hendricks, a lonesome psychiatrist, begins to reconnect with a past he has shut out after he is invited to stay on an island off the French coast by an elderly colleague. The novel has met with lukewarm critical response: writing in the Irish Times, the novelist Anna Carey described the characters as humourless and flat, while the Guardian said it was “enjoyable if uneven.” The best praise was reserved for the passages set during World War II in Italy, which the Independent called “savage and brutal.” 


de Waal_Ben McKee The White Road

De Waal, Edmund

U.S.: Nov. 3, 2015 | FSG

U.K.: Sept. 24, 2015 | Chatto and Windus 

The author of the bestselling The Hare With the Amber Eyes is also Britain’s most successful ceramic artist. His new book takes him on a personal “pilgrimage of sorts” in search of the history and raw materials of porcelain as he examines the power it wields over obsessive collectors. De Waal’s quest takes him to China, Dresden, Cornwall, the Appalachians, Venice, and Versailles, and along the way we encounter historical characters, including Josiah Wedgewood, Louis XIV, and the Yongle emperor. Writing in the Spectator, A.S. Byatt described de Waal as “a master of juxtaposition.” In his Financial Times review, A.N. Wilson wrote, “I loved nearly every word of this book.” 


Campbell_Graeme Main Soldier Magazine Rain
Campbell, Barney

U.S.: Feb. 23, 2016 | Michael Joseph

U.K.: July 30, 2015 | Michael Joseph

Barney Campbell served in Afghanistan as an officer in the British army, and his fictional account of the war is accordingly authentic, whether he is describing the tedium of clearing mined routes, the horror of a stomach bug in the middle of a combat operation, the banter of the troops, or their shared dread of losing multiple limbs to an explosive device. His main character, Tom Chamberlain, is a Cambridge graduate in English literature whose girlfriend cannot understand why he has to join the army instead of seeking a job in the City, like everyone else. Campbell captures the adrenalin and the camaraderie of war, the homesickness when away, and the sense of alienation on returning home. His prose is marred by overuse of army jargon and dozens of acronyms which interrupt the flow by repeatedly sending the reader to rummage for the glossary. 

Catherine Hickley is a Berlin-based arts journalist. Her first book, The Munich Art Hoard: Hitler’s Dealer and His Secret Legacy, was published by Thames & Hudson (except in North America) on Sept. 21.