The best literary fiction books of 2022

With highly acclaimed debuts from fresh new voices to celebrations of hilarious literary classics, 2021 was a remarkable year for literature and 2022 looks set to follow in its footsteps. We look forward to the most exciting new literary fiction of 2022, round up the best literary books of 2021 and recommend some of the best literary fiction of all time. 

08/04/2022
7 minutes to read
A collection of literary books published by Pan Macmillan

The literary landscape is set for a revolution in 2022. Established greats like Hanya Yanagihara and Lily King are returning with acclaimed new fiction; eagerly-anticipated To Paradise and Five Tuesdays in Winter are both releasing in the first half of 2022. But alongside award-winners are fresh faces, with debuts from a variety of original and exciting writers. Maddie Mortimer's much-adored Maps of Our Spectacular Bodies is the debut that no one can stop talking about, and nothing else has captured the exactness of our collective social moment more acutely than Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

Read on for our curated list of the most exciting literary fiction coming in 2022, the best literary books of 2021, and our all-time literary must-reads.

For even more inspiration, don't miss our edit of the best fiction books. 


The best new literary fiction books of 2022

The Exhibitionist

by Charlotte Mendelson

Book cover for The Exhibitionist

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022

Meet the Hanrahan family, gathering for a momentous weekend as famous artist and notorious egoist Ray Hanrahan prepares for a new exhibition of his art – the first in many decades – and one he is sure will burnish his reputation for good. His three children will be there: beautiful Leah, sensitive Patrick, and insecure Jess, the youngest, who has a momentous decision to make. . .

And what of Lucia, Ray’s steadfast and selfless wife? She is an artist, too, but has always had to put her roles as wife and mother first. What will happen if she decides to change? For Lucia is hiding secrets of her own, and as the weekend unfolds and the exhibition approaches, she must finally make a choice.

The longer the marriage, the harder truth becomes. . .

Young Mungo

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Young Mungo

Mungo is a Protestant and James is a Catholic, both inhabiting the hyper-masculine world of two Glasgow housing estates, split violently along sectarian lines. The two should be enemies but, finding sanctuary in the doocot James has created for his racing pigeons, they grow closer and closer. Dreaming of escape and under constant threat of discovery, Mungo and James attempt to navigate a dangerous and uncertain future together.

Concerning My Daughter

by Kim Hye-jin

Book cover for Concerning My Daughter

A mother lets her thirty-something daughter – Green – move into her apartment, with dreams that she will find a good job and a good husband to start a family with. But Green arrives with her girlfriend Lane, and her mother finds it hard to be civil. She is similarly unaccepting of her daughter's entanglement in a case of unfair dismissal from her university employers, involving gay colleagues. Yet Green's mother finds that she has her own moral battle to fight, defending the right to care of a dementia patient who has chosen an unconventional life and has no family. Translated from Korean by Jamie Chang, this is a universal tale about ageing, prejudice and love.

Very Cold People

by Sarah Manguso

Book cover for Very Cold People

Growing up on the edge of a wealthy but culturally threadbare New England town, Ruth goes under the radar. Nobody pays her attention, but she watches everything – recording with precision the painful unfurling of her youth and enduring difficult and damaging parenting from the mocking, undermining adults in her life. But as the adults of the book fail to grow up, Ruth gracefully arcs towards maturity in a story that grapples with many of life's ugly truths. 

Cultural Amnesia

by Clive James

Book cover for Cultural Amnesia

This absorbing almanac comes from the pen of the late cultural commentator and author Clive James. A survey of modern literature and a compendium of the people who shaped the life of the twentieth century, from Anna Akhmatova to Louis Armstrong, via Charles de Gaulle, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Proust, Hitler, Thomas Mann and Wittgenstein. Combining memoir with history and storytelling, Cultural Amnesia is an essential primer for the times we live in. Selected as part of the Picador Collection.

The Dance Tree

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Dance Tree

It's 1518 in Strasbourg, and in the intense summer heat a solitary woman starts to dance in the main square. She dances for days without rest, and is joined by hundreds of other women. The city authorities declare a state of emergency, and bring in musicians to play the devil out of the dancing women. Meanwhile pregnant Lisbet, who lives at the edge of the city, is tending to the family's bees. The dancing plague intensifies, as Lisbet is drawn into a net of secret passions and deceptions. Inspired by true events, this is a compelling story of superstition, transformative change and women pushed to their limits.

All the Lovers in the Night

by Mieko Kawakami

Book cover for All the Lovers in the Night

Freelancer proofreader Fuyuko is shy and solitary. About to turn thirty-five, she is haunted by her past encounters, and is unable to even imagine a successful relationship. But she has one friend, Hijiri, and she loves the light. On Christmas Eve, the night of her birthday, Fuyuko leaves her home to count the lights, and an encounter with physics teacher Mr. Mitsutsuka opens up another dimension. Poetic, pulsing and unexpected, this is the third novel by internationally bestselling writer Mieko Kawakami.

Vladimir

by Julia May Jonas

Book cover for Vladimir

The narrator of this provocative and utterly readable novel is a much loved English professor, who finds that her charismatic professor husband is facing a flood of accusations from former students. The couple have long had an understanding about taking lovers, but suddenly life has acquired an uncomfortable edge. And things get even more twisted when the narrator finds herself in the grip of an obsession with Vladimir, a young and feted married novelist who is new to the campus. This explosive, edgy debut traces the tangled contradictions of power and lust.

Sea of Tranquillity

by Emily St. John Mandel

Book cover for Sea of Tranquillity

It's 1912, and eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew is on a journey across the Atlantic, having been exiled from society in England. Arriving in British Columbia, he enters a forest, mesmerised by the Canadian wilderness. All is silent, before the notes of a violin reverberate through the air. Two centuries later, and acclaimed author Olive Llewelyn is travelling over the earth, on a break from her home in the second moon colony. At the heart of her bestselling novel, a man plays a violin for spare change in the corridor of an airship terminal, as a forest rises around him. This compelling novel immerses the reader in parallel worlds, and multiple possibilities.

Trust

by Hernan Diaz

Book cover for Trust

A literary puzzle about money, power, and intimacy, TRUST is a novel that challenges the myths shrouding wealth, and the fictions that often pass for history.

Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth—all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. But at what cost have they acquired their immense fortune?

This is the mystery at the center of Bonds, a successful 1938 novel that all of New York seems to have read. But there are other versions of this tale of privilege and deceit.

Devotion

by Hannah Kent

Book cover for Devotion

It's 1836 in Prussia, and teenage Hanne is finding the domestic world of womanhood increasingly oppressive. She longs to be out in nature, and finds little companionship with the local girls. Until, that is, she meets kindred spirit Thea. Hanne is from a family of Old Lutherans, whose worship is suppressed and secret. Safe passage to Australia offers liberty from these restrictions. But a long and harsh journey lies ahead, one which will put the girls' close bond to a terrible test.

Our Wives Under The Sea

by Julia Armfield

Book cover for Our Wives Under The Sea

Leah is back from a perilous and troubling deep sea mission, and Miri is delighted to have her wife home. But Leah has carried the undersea trauma into the couple's domestic life, and it is causing a rupture in their relationship. The debut novel from the author of acclaimed short story collection salt slow, Our Wives Under The Sea is a rich meditation on love, loss and the mysteries of the ocean.

Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

by Lizzie Pook

Book cover for Moonlight and the Pearler's Daughter

It's 1886, and the Brightwell family has just arrived at Bannin Bay in Western Australia after a long sea voyage from England. Ten-year-old Eliza has been promised bright pearls, shells like soup plates and good fortunes in a new land. Ten years later, and Eliza's father Charles Brightwell is the the most successful pearler on the bay. When he goes missing from his boat at sea, rumours of mutiny and murder swirl across the bay. But Eliza refuses to believe that her father is dead and, in a town mired in corruption, she sets out to find the truth.

The Midwife

by Tricia Cresswell

Book cover for The Midwife

1838. A violent storm has hit the Northumberland coast, and a woman is found alone, naked and on the verge of death. She has no memory of how she got there, but she can speak fluent French, dress a wound and help women give birth. She starts to rebuild her life, helping those around her and finding a fragile happiness. Until tragedy strikes and she must go into hiding. Meanwhile in London, respectable Dr Borthwick assists mothers and babies in high society, and in the slums of Devil's Acre. The solitary doctor has a secret though, one which threatens to engulf him . . .

The Melting

by Lize Spit

Book cover for The Melting

Part thriller, part coming-of-age novel, The Melting is an extraordinary and unsettling story of adolescent cruelty and the scars it can leave. Eva was one of three children born in a small Flemish town in 1988. Growing up alongside the boys, Eva found refuge from a troubled family in their friendship. But, with their adolescence comes a growing awareness of sexuality and over the course of one summer, the children begin a game that will have serious and violent consequences that Eva will only feel ready to confront thirteen years on.

Five Tuesdays in Winter

by Lily King

Book cover for Five Tuesdays in Winter

With Writers & Lovers, Lily King became one of our most acclaimed writers of contemporary fiction. And now, with Five Tuesdays in Winter, she gathers ten of her best short stories. These intimate literary stories tell of a bookseller who is filled with unspoken love for his employee, an abandoned teenage boy nurtured by a pair of housesitting students and a girl whose loss of innocence brings confident power. Romantic, hopeful, raw and occasionally surreal, these stories riff beautifully on the topic of love and romance.

Brood

by Jackie Polzin

Book cover for Brood

'Completely original, full of surprise, humor, grief, and wisdom.'

Brood tells the story of a woman who tries to keep her small brood of four chickens alive, despite a cavalcade of seemingly endless challenges. Perfect for fans of Jenny Offill and Elizabeth Strout, this darkly witty and deeply moving novel provides a truly original perspective on motherhood and grief, full of sorrow, joy and ultimately, unrelenting hope. 

A Time Outside This Time

by Amitava Kumar

Book cover for A Time Outside This Time

A writer called Satya visits a high-profile artists' retreat, and soon finds that the pressures of modern life are hard to shed: the US president pours out vitriol, a virus threatens the world, and the relentless news cycle only makes things worse. 

Satya realises these pressures can inspire him to write, and he begins to channel presidential tweets, memories from an Indian childhood, and his own experiences as an immigrant into his new novel. A fascinating exploration of memory in a post-truth world, Amitava Kumar's A Time Outside This Time is a beautiful and necessary novel.

To Paradise

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for To Paradise

This amazing new novel from the author of A Little Life begins in the nineteenth century, and spans stories of love, family, loss and promised utopia over the following three centuries. In 1893, New York is part of the Free States, and a gentle young member of a privileged family falls for a charismatic and impoverished music teacher. In 1993 Manhattan is being swept by the AIDS epidemic, and a young Hawaiian man with a wealthy older partner must hide his difficult family background. And in 2093 in a world where plague and totalitarian rule is rife, a young woman tries to solve the mystery of her husband's disappearances. 

This powerful and symphonic vision of America's past and present is a marvellous demonstration of Hanya Yanagihara's literary genius, as she weaves three stories together with recurring notes and deepening themes.

Luster

by Raven Leilani

Book cover for Luster

Raven Leilani is a funny and original new voice in literary fiction. Her razor-sharp yet surprisingly tender debut is an essential novel about what it means to be young now. Edie is messing up her life, and no one seems to care. Then she meets Eric, who is white, middle-aged and comes with a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. And as if life wasn’t hard enough, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s family. 


‘In this cutting, hot-blooded book, the entanglements that unfold are as complicated as they are heartbreaking.’
New Statesman on Raven Leilani's Luster


Maps of our Spectacular Bodies

by Maddie Mortimer

Book cover for Maps of our Spectacular Bodies

Something is moving in Lia's body, learning her life with gleeful malevolence and spreading through the rungs of her larynx, the bones of her trachea. 

When a shock diagnosis forever changes Lia's world, boundaries in her life begin to break down as buried secrets emerge. A voice prowling inside of her takes hold of her story, merging the landscape within her body with the one outside. 

A coming-of-age at the end of a life, Maddie Mortimer's compelling debut novel is both heart-breaking and darkly funny, combining wild lyricism with celebrations of the desire, forgiveness and darkness in our bodies. 

The Office of Historical Corrections

by Danielle Evans

Book cover for The Office of Historical Corrections

Described by Roxane Gay as the 'finest short story writer working today,' Danielle Evans packs a powerful punch with each of the stories included in this remarkable collection. Across six short stories, as well as an eye-opening titular novella, she magnifies pivotal moments in her character's lives or relationships that allow for a wider blistering exploration of race, culture and history. 

The War of the Poor

by Eric Vuillard

Book cover for The War of the Poor

Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2021, this impactful blend of history and literary fiction tells the story of a brutal episode from the past, when, in the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation took on the privileged and the powerful. Eric Vuillard’s portrait of one man, Thomas Müntzer, casts light on a time in which Europe was in flux. 

A Little Life

by Hanya Yanagihara

Book cover for A Little Life

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and celebrated as ‘the great gay novel’ by author Garth Greenwell, Hanya Yanagihara’s immensely powerful story of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance has had a visceral impact on many a reader. Willem, Jude, Malcolm and JB meet at college in Massachusetts and form a firm friendship, moving to New York upon graduation. Over the years their friendships deepen and darken as they celebrate successes and face failures, but their greatest challenge is Jude himself – an increasingly broken man scarred by an unspeakable childhood. For those looking for literature that will stay with you long after the last page, this is undoubtedly the book to read. This 2017 novel is relaunched with a new cover for 2022.

Heaven

by Mieko Kawakami

Book cover for Heaven

Mieko Kawakami won international acclaim following the publication of her debut, Breasts and Eggs, despite it having been described by Tokyo's then governor as 'unpleasant and intolerable'.

This year, literary sensation Mieko Kawakami brings us Heaven, a sharp and illuminating novel about a fourteen-year-old boy subjected to relentless bullying for having a lazy eye. 

Instead of resisting, he chooses to suffer in silence. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate, Kojima, who experiences similar treatment at the hands of her bullies. Providing each other with immeasurable consolation at a time in their lives when they need it most, the two young friends grow closer than ever. But what, ultimately, is the nature of a friendship when your shared bond is terror?

Find out more about the uncontainable talent of Mieko Kawakami, here.


The best literary fiction of 2021

The Fell

by Sarah Moss

Book cover for The Fell

On a November evening in 2020, Kate is in quarantine. Even so, she just has to get out, and leaves her house for a quiet walk around the moor. However, when Kate falls and badly injures herself, a solitary walk turns into a rescue mission. 

Full of suspense and questioning, this original novel probes the ways in which the world, and our humanity, have changed since March 2020.

The Cat Who Saved Books

by Sosuke Natsukawa

Book cover for The Cat Who Saved Books

Rintaro Natsuki loved finding refuge in tiny secondhand Natsuki Books as an insular child. His grandfather's bookstore with its teetering volumes was a home from home. When his grandfather dies, Rintaro is in despair, thinking he must close the beloved shop. Then a talking tabby cat appears, and asks Rintaro for help. The two go on a book lovers mission to rescue abandoned books. But there is one last rescue that Rintaro must attempt on his own.

What Strange Paradise

by Omar El Akkad

Book cover for What Strange Paradise

From the widely acclaimed author of American War, Omar El Akkad, a beautifully written, unrelentingly dramatic and profoundly moving novel that brings the global refugee crisis down to the level of a child’s eyes. More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. And only one had made the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who has the good fortune to fall into the hands not of the officials, but of Vänna: a teenage girl, native to the island, who lives inside her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain.

Shuggie Bain

by Douglas Stuart

Book cover for Shuggie Bain

Published in paperback this year, Douglas Stuart’s blistering, Booker Prize-winning debut is a heartbreaking story which lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty and the limits of love. 

Set in a poverty-stricken Glasgow in the early 1980s, Agnes Bain has always dreamed of greater things, but when her husband abandons her she finds herself trapped in a decimated mining town with her three children, and descends deeper and deeper into drink. Her son Shuggie tries to help her long after her other children have fled, but he too must abandon her to save himself. Shuggie is different, fastidious and fussy, and he is picked on by the local children and condemned by adults as 'no’ right’. But he believes that if he tries his hardest he can be like other boys and escape this hopeless place.


‘We were bowled over by this first novel, which creates an amazingly intimate, compassionate, gripping portrait of addiction, courage and love. ’
The judges of the Booker Prize on Douglas Stuart's unmissable debut Shuggie Bain


Yours Cheerfully

by AJ Pearce

Book cover for Yours Cheerfully

Following the departure of the formidable Editor, Henrietta Bird, from Woman’s Friend magazine, things are looking up for Emmeline Lake as she takes on the challenge of becoming a young wartime advice columnist. Her relationship with boyfriend Charles is blossoming, while Emmy’s best friend Bunty, is still reeling from the very worst of the Blitz, but bravely looking to the future. Together, the friends are determined to Make a Go of It. Every bit as funny, touching and cheering as AJ Pearce's debut, Dear Mrs BirdYours Cheerfully is a celebration of friendship, a testament to the strength of women and the importance of lifting each other up.

The Painter's Friend

by Howard Cunnell

Book cover for The Painter's Friend

The painter Terry Godden was on the brink of his first success. After a violent crisis, he finds himself outcast. In his fifties, and with little money, he retreats to a small island. Arriving in the winter, the island at first seems a desolate and forgotten place. As the seasons turn, Terry begins to see the island’s beauty, and discovers that he is only one of many people who have sought refuge here. The Painter’s Friend shows the human cost of gentrification for those dispossessed. Written with visual lyricism and driven clarity, Howard Cunnell’s incendiary story about class and resistance builds to an unforgettable climax. 

The Lamplighters

by Emma Stonex

Book cover for The Lamplighters

Cornwall, 1972. Three keepers vanish from a remote lighthouse, miles from the shore. The entrance door is locked from the inside. The clocks have stopped. The Principal Keeper’s weather log describes a mighty storm, but the skies have been clear all week.

Twenty years later, the women they left behind are still struggling to move on, when they are given the chance to tell their side of the story . . .

Inspired by true events, this enthralling and suspenseful mystery is a beautifully written exploration of love and grief, perception and reality. 

Circus of Wonders

by Elizabeth Macneal

Book cover for Circus of Wonders

Circus of Wonders is the eagerly-awaited second novel from Elizabeth Macneal, author of the Sunday Times bestselling debut The Doll Factory. In 1866, in a coastal village in southern England, Nell lives outside of her community, marked as different for the birthmarks that speckle her skin. But her life is turned upside down when her father decides to sell her to Jasper Jupiter's travelling Circus of Wonders. Yet, the greatest betrayal of Nell's life may soon become the best thing that has ever happened to her as she finds friendship and belonging with the other performers. But as Nell's fame grows, will she be able to keep control of her own story?


‘Elizabeth Macneal’s marvellous debut, The Doll Factory, was a bestselling success. This second book, beautifully written and filled with character and life, cements her reputation as a new talent.’
The Times on Elizabeth Macneal


Of Women and Salt

by Gabriela Garcia

Book cover for Of Women and Salt

A New York Times bestseller, Of Women and Salt tells the story of five generations of fierce Latina women, linked by blood and circumstance. From nineteenth-century cigar factories to present-day detention centres, this novel is a haunting meditation on the choices of mothers and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their truth despite those who wish to silence them. 

Catch the Rabbit

by Lana Bastašic

Book cover for Catch the Rabbit

Sara and Lejla were childhood best friends, but haven't spoken in years. But when Lejla gets in touch with Sara, demanding she come home to Bosnia, Sara finds she can't say no. Lejla is on a mission to find her missing brother, Armin, who disappeared towards the end of the Bosnian war.  Embarking on a road trip the two estranged friends are forced to reconsider the past they share and the circumstances that separated them and caused them to lead such different lives.

Kololo Hill

by Neema Shah

Book cover for Kololo Hill

Neema Shah’s impressive debut literary novel is set amidst the turmoil of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin. When a devastating decree is announced which says all Ugandan Asians must leave the country in ninety days, Asha and Pran and Pran’s mother Jaya, must leave everything they’ve ever known for a new life in Britain. But as they try to rebuild their lives, a terrible secret hangs over them.

The Most Precious of Cargoes

by Jean-Claude Grumberg

Book cover for The Most Precious of Cargoes

Told with a fairytale-like lyricism, this is a fable of family and redemption set against the horrors of the Holocaust. A poor woodcutter and his wife lived in a forest. Despite their poverty and the war raging around them, the wife prays that they will be blessed with a child. 

A Jewish man rides on a train with his wife and twin babies. When his wife no longer has enough milk to feed them both, in desperation he throws his daughter into the forest, hoping that she’ll be saved. When the woodcutter’s wife finds the baby she takes her home, though she knows the danger this act of kindness may bring. This is literary fiction at its most moving. 

Nightshift

by Kiare Ladner

Book cover for Nightshift

This dark, sexy and frightening literary novel explores ambivalent female friendship against the otherworldly backdrop of London’s liminal world of nightshift workers. When twenty-three-year-old Meggie meets the enigmatic Sabine she realizes that Sabine is everything she herself would like to be. Meggie quickly gives up her daytime existence for the chance of working the same nightshifts as Sabine, and her obsession soon gains a frightening momentum.

The Art of Losing

by Alice Zeniter

Book cover for The Art of Losing

Alice Zeniter’s literary novel spans three generations across seventy years. Naïma has always known that her family came from Algeria, but they are silent about their past and the only knowledge she has of that foreign country is what she’s learned from her grandparents’ tiny flat in a crumbling French sink estate. But now Naïma is visiting the country for herself and is determined to answer the questions she has about her family’s history. 

Jack & Bet

by Sarah Butler

Book cover for Jack & Bet

Jack and Bet have been married, mostly happily, for seventy years and they want to enjoy the time they have left together in their little flat. But their son thinks they should move out into a very different kind of home with round-the-clock care. When Bet meets a young Romanian woman called Marinela she thinks she might have found a solution to all their problems. But bringing Marinela into their lives will mean revealing a secret Bet has kept hidden, even from her husband, for decades . . . This is a moving literary novel about an unlikely friendship and the struggle to find a place to call home.

Cleanness

by Garth Greenwell

Book cover for Cleanness

Expanding the world of his novel What Belongs to You, a debut that the New York Times Book Review hailed as 'an instant classic, in Cleanness Garth Greenwell writes with startling insight about what it means to seek connection: with those we love, with the places we inhabit, and with ourselves.

In Bulgaria's capital, amid political protests, an American teacher reflects on the intimate encounters of his past as he prepares to leave the country he has come to call home.

Don't miss Garth Greenwell and his editor in conversation.

Amnesty

by Aravind Adiga

Book cover for Amnesty

Full of Aravind Adiga’s signature wit and magic, this novel from the Man Booker Prize-winning author is both a universal story and a timeless moral struggle. When Danny – an illegal immigrant in Sydney who has been denied refugee status – hears about a murder that has been committed which he may have information about, he faces a moral choice. Should he come forward with his knowledge of the crime and risk deportation, or should he stay silent, protecting the life he has built but letting justice go undone?

The Hiding Game

by Naomi Wood

Book cover for The Hiding Game

The Hiding Game is Naomi Woods’s beautifully written, atmospheric third novel about the dangerously fine line between love and obsession. Set against the rising political tensions of 1920s Germany, the story follows Paul Beckermann as he arrives at the Bauhaus art school and is seduced by the bohemian atmosphere, charismatic teachers and his fellow students. As he spends more time with his new friends, he quickly falls in love with the mesmerising Charlotte, and tensions and rivalries begin to surface. As the existence of the Bauhaus is threatened and betrayals and jealousy splits the group apart, they hurtle toward an unthinkable tragedy . . .

Read Naomi Wood on the influence of Bauhaus design and teaching on the way we live now.


The best literary fiction of all time

by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Book cover for 9781529029581

When this novel was released in Japan in 2015 it was an immediate bestseller, and is available here in English, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot. The story takes place in a small basement café in Japan, home to a very special urban legend: visitors can travel back in time. There are strict rules, however; you can only travel back to speak to people who have visited the café itself, you cannot leave your seat while in the past, nothing you do will change the present, and you must return before your coffee gets cold. Despite the caveats, the café still draws in customers keen to take a trip to the past. Starting with a woman who wishes to relive the moment her boyfriend broke up with her, each character comes to the café with a new reason to time travel that will inevitably strike a chord with each reader in turn. You can’t change the present, as the rules state, but you can change yourself.

Breasts and Eggs

by Mieko Kawakami

Book cover for Breasts and Eggs

This literary debut, which Haruki Murakami called ‘breathtaking’, is a must-read for fans of contemporary literary fiction. Mieko Kawakami paints a radical picture of contemporary working-class womanhood in Japan as she recounts the heartbreaking stories of three women who must survive in a society where the odds are stacked against them.

‘I can never forget the sense of pure astonishment I felt when I first read Mieko Kawakami’s novella Breasts and Eggs . . . breathtaking . . . Mieko Kawakami is always ceaselessly growing and evolving.’
Haruki Murakami on Mieko Kawakami's Breasts and Eggs

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Mercies

This stunningly evocative novel set on the remote Norwegian island of Vardø in the 1600s was inspired by the real Vardø storm and the subsequent witch hunt. When a catastrophic storm wipes out almost the entirety of the male population of the island, the women who are left, still grieving for their men, are forced to fend for themselves. Eighteen months later, the sinister new commissioner, Absolom Cornet, arrives with his young wife Ursa. Ursa sees independent women for the first time in her life, and she is drawn to Maren, the young woman who helps her navigate life in this harsh new world. But Absolom is convinced that the women’s behaviour is ungodly and he must bring them to heel by any means necessary.

Read Kiran Millwood Hargrave on the true story behind The Mercies.

In this episode of Book Break Emma shares her recommendations for the best new literary fiction. 

5 Brilliant New Literary Fiction Books | #BookBreak