Fully booked: The best new releases in June 2023
The newest releases to pre-order, tear through and pass along — or add to that teetering To Be Read pile.
By Alexandra English
IT’S a real mixed bag this month. Isabel Allende is back (again) with an historical epic; Jen Beagin and Rebecca F. Kuang have fun with stories about stolen, hidden and mistaken identities; and there’s a retelling of the true story of a doctor fell in love with his patient and lived with her corpse.
Big Swiss, by Jen Beagin
Jen Beagin’s Big Swiss is lauded as the funniest book of 2023. Greta is transcribing the audio of an anonymous woman who lives in Switzerland and who she has nicknamed Big Swiss. Greta imagines this disembodied voice belongs to someone tall, wearing all-white, with blue eyes and a gap between her front teeth. Greta and Big Swiss are about to unknowingly bump into each other in the local dog park, where they will strike up a relationship (albeit a not-entirely-honest one) that will change both of their lives.
The Wind Knows My Name, by Isabel Allende
QBD, $24.99 (RRP $34.99)
With 28 books in 41 years, Isabel Allende has always been considered prolific, but the past few years have seen her ramp up her output even further. Last year’s Violeta was an epic 100-year journey through one woman’s life, bookended by pandemics. This year, The Wind Knows My Name also intertwines the past and the present, but this time between two characters. Six-year-old Samuel Adler is living in Vienna in 1938 when his father disappears during Kristallnacht, the Nazi pogrom against the Jewish population. In an attempt to secure her son’s safe escape, Samuel’s mother puts him on the last children’s train out of the country to England. In Arizona in 2019, seven-year-old Anita Diaz is separated from her mother while they flee El Salvador on a train to the States and finds herself at a camp in Mexico. Eight decades apart, two children taken from their families in the face of unimaginable tragedy, Allende’s new novel is a testament to love, survival and sacrifice.
Exquisite Corpse, by Marija Peričić
Marija Peričić’s second novel, Exquisite Corpse, is a horror romance inspired by a true story. Carl Tanzler (aka Count von Coel), a German radiographer in the 1920s, was obsessed with one of his hospital’s terminally ill patients, Elena de Hoyos. After she died, he stole her corpse from her tomb and brought her home, buying her clothes and perfume and dancing with her body. For seven years, he attempted to preserve her body as it deteriorated. Apparently, at the time, public reaction to the story was that it was an ill-fated love affair, and Tanzler was a romantic hero who would stop at nothing to protect the woman he loved. Peričić’s retelling takes a more realistic approach to explore how romanticising grand gestures can mask the darker side of love, including coercive control and obsession.
Sad Girl Novel, by Pip Finkemeyer
QBD, $27.99 (RRP $34.99)
Confronting the age-old dichotomy between motherhood and career, Sad Girl Novel is the story of two best friends, Bel and Kim, who are living in Berlin and about to embark on two very different paths. When Bel has a baby, she realises motherhood is more fulfilling than her career. Meanwhile, Kim is an aspiring writer determined to write a bestseller. Babies are not on her radar. As the women set out on these two acts of creation, Bel and Kim find themselves trying to support each other while also feeling entirely alone.
Yellowface, by Rebecca F. Kuang
Yellowface is the literary equivalent of doing a shot. Rebecca F. Kuang wrote it to be devoured quickly, ideally in one sitting. “[It is] is a zippy, ridiculous thriller meant to imitate the roiling schadenfreude of watching a Twitter meltdown,” she has said. “You’re supposed to feel sick to your stomach and sick of everyone involved, and unsure of what to believe except that you still can’t look away.” The literary darling Athena Liu is choking to death in front of her friend, the literary nobody June Hayward. Afterwards, June takes a peek at the manuscript Athena has been working on and decides that it’s brilliant, if not in need of a bit of an edit. She decides to finish it and send it to the publisher as her own work. There’s the minor problem that the story is about Chinese labourers in World War I, and June is white and has no knowledge of Chinese history. Easily solved: she changes her name to the more ethically ambiguous “Song”, and off she goes. But how far will she go to keep her stolen success?
Limelight, by Daisy Buchanan
From the author of the deservedly hyped novels Careering and Insatiable, Daisy Buchanan, comes Limelight, another unconventional love story. Sisters Frankie and Bean couldn’t be more different. Frankie feels invisible living in the shadow of her seemingly perfect sister and seeks out reassurance by posting risqué photos to her online fans. The online Frankie, the new Frankie, is sexy, confident and entirely unrecognisable from the offline Frankie. When Bean is diagnosed with cancer, their mother launches an online fundraising campaign and, in the process, discovers Frankie’s profile. Her family stops speaking with her, and feminists and misogynists start ranging at her online. All the while, she’s gaining new fans and trying to work out the difference between who everyone tells you to be and who you need to become.