The year is wrapping up, but great fiction isn’t slowing down. Reflecting on the past twelve months or creating a list of hopes and goals for the new year are both time well spent, but escaping from the chaos of the holidays is also vital. Much like the ghosts of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, this month brings novels from the past (Tudor Era and 1800s England, as well as 1950s Louisiana), the future (in a book that’s been called The Hunger Games meets The Road), and the present (contemporary Istanbul). May your days of reading be merry and bright.
Enchantress of Numbers, by Jennifer Chiaverini
Ada Lovelace is now recognized as “the mother of computer science” due to her work with Charles Babbage, who invented the first mechanical computer. In this historical novel set in the early 1800s, her lineage is explored and explained. Ironically, her father’s genius becomes an obstacle to her own passions. As the sole legitimate heir of famed poet Lord Byron, “rescued” from her father’s bad blood by her mother, who raised Ada strictly without art, poetry, fairy tales, or other artistic pursuits, Ada discovers a love of mathematics. Ada’s fear that “…the list of those who might wish to read my memoirs will be very short indeed” is unfounded; her tale will fascinate readers, and her work in STEM changed the world.
The Last Suppers, by Mandy Mikulencak
In this powerful debut set in 1950s Louisiana, the head cook at a state penitentiary, Ginny Polk, sees men reduced to their most vulnerable states. Despite the crimes for which they’re imprisoned, Ginny believes that those slated for execution deserve a final meal of their choosing, including special family recipes that she painstakingly recreates. The suppers are a symbol of her humanity and theirs. As she clashes with the prison board over her culinary decisions, she comes to discover that her own father’s murder may have punished the wrong person.
The Forever Ship, by Francesca Haig
The third novel in the Fire Sermon trilogy, Forever depicts a post-nuclear, dystopian future in which every child is born a twin, and each set of twins contains an Alpha (“perfect” specimens born to rule) and an Omega (“deformed” and “flawed” second class citizens). Complicating matters is the fact that when one twin is harmed or killed, the other suffers the same fate. In this exciting conclusion to the saga, Cass (an Omega plagued by psychic visions), must confront her difficult relationship with her brother, Zach (an Alpha elite) when he seeks asylum among her people.
Ravenspur: Rise of the Tudors, by Conn Iggulden
If Richard III is your favorite Shakespearean villain, the fourth book of Iggulden’s War of the Roses series will offer you a new perspective on the king. Packed with battles, betrayals, and murder, there is plenty of royal intrigue to captivate history buffs. Edward IV and his brother fight against their banishment as Henry Tudor prepares his rise to power, eclipsing the previous rivalry of House of York v. House of Lancaster.
Three Daughters of Eve, by Elif Shafak
Set in modern-day Istanbul, and written by Turkey’s number-one bestselling novelist, Eve is a bittersweet rumination on love lost. While attending a dinner party at an extravagantly wealthy seaside home, juxtaposed with terrorist attacks occurring in the vicinity, a woman named Petri thinks back to fifteen years earlier, during her stint as an Oxford student. The intense relationships she formed there, and the ways in which those relationships challenged her views on religion, nationalism, ideology, and feminism, affect her to this day.
What new fiction are you excited about this month?