New Books December 2023

Welcome back and Happy New Year!

We hope all of our readers had a warm and relaxing festive period (perhaps even making some progress through your to-be-read list) and are now ready to look forward to Hilary. We have once again had a brilliant selection of books pass through our processing table and onto the New Books Display – it’s been difficult to choose just five to highlight! To make things easier, this month we have gone with the theme of contemporary literature, some of which have only been published within the last few months. As ever, we encourage you to take a look at the display the next time you’re in the EFL as you will more than likely find a gem to take home with you. If you can’t get to the EFL, then there’s also our LibraryThing account where we add any new books that make their way to us.

With that said, onto the books!

Zadie Smith, The Fraud (2023)

It has been seven years since Smith’s last novel, Swing Time, and The Fraud has definitely been worth the wait. Set primarily during the 18th century trial of Roger  Tichborne (or a butcher from Wapping depending on who you ask), we follow Eliza Touchet, cousin to then-famous novelist William Ainsworth as she grapples with their past and her future. Two thirds through, the narrator switches to Bogle, Roger Tichborne’s page and supporter – a black man born to enslaved people in Jamaica. Smith explores the hypocrisy of the characters, and no one is spared – Eliza is an abolitionist, but her annuity is paid through her husband’s money made from slavery; Bogle wonders if the respectability he has had to change himself for makes him a fraud. An immersive read, and one that will get you thinking.

Jeanette Winterson, Nightside of the River (2023)

Perhaps in the tradition of mid-winter ghost stories, Winterson treats us to a new collection of short stories on hauntings. She doesn’t simply cover your classic haunted houses (although you will certainly find some in there), additionally, she looks to how new technology can equally be a hotbed for ghostly activity and what this might look like. Interspersed between the short stories are various anecdotes personal to Winterson, considering how she might haunt once she dies, her own experiences with ghosts, and how the future of hauntings might look. A great spooky selection, which simultaneously deals with grief and healing – if you’re a fan of works by M.R. James and his ilk then it’s not to be missed.


Tanya Tagaq, Split Tooth (2018)

(Content warning for depictions of sexual abuse and child abuse)

Split Tooth is Tagaq’s debut novel, in which we follow an Inuk woman through the 1970s and ‘80s as she grows up in the Canadian Arctic. Entwining myth, memoir, poetry, and art, this is a hauntingly raw book – as genre defying (or perhaps, melding) as Tagaq’s own music as an experimental Inuk throat singer. Through this mix of media, we encounter a community struggling through the effects of colonialism, where sexual abuse and substance use is the norm, but where there is still a hard beauty to the Canadian North and the folklore entwined with it. This is not a gentle book or an easy read by any means; it is thought-provoking, disconcerting, disturbing. But that’s the point.


Francis Spufford, Cahokia Jazz (2023)

Spufford treats us to an alternate history, in which Cahokia (a pre-colonial Mississipian city) was never abandoned, and instead became a flourishing (if gritty) city run by Takouma (what Native Americans are called in the novel). Set in the 1920s, a murder has been committed and it is up to our protagonist, Joe Barrow, to solve it before rioting from the Ku Klux Klan ruins the relative peace of Cahokia and tears the city apart. If you’re a fan of world-building, then you might enjoy this novel, particularly as it comes equipped with two maps of Cahokia to help visualise Barrow and his colleagues’ journey.




Yiyun Li, The Book of Goose (2022)

Much like Split Tooth, this is another novel that has an atmosphere of strangeness that permeates the narrative. The book follows the friendship of Fabienne and Agnès, from their childhood living in post-World War II France into adulthood, as narrated by Agnès herself. The two form something of a partnership: Fabienne creates fantastical, disturbing stories which she tells Agnès to write down, and eventually publish. Agnès becomes the face for the book upon Fabienne’s insistence and leaves Fabienne behind – physically at least. One cannot survive without the other, this is a story of friendship, obsession, and exploitation.

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