Fully Booked: All of the must-read new releases in April 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 mixed bag this month: romcoms, love triangles, identity struggles and an analysis into whether it’s okay to love art made by problematic men.
Between You and Me, by Joanna Horton
Big W, $18
A love triangle is developing between close-but-drifting twentysomething friends Mari and Elisabeth and the fortysomething academic historian Jack. It’s a friendship-turned-acquaintances story that’s as old as time: once inseparable as university students, Mari and Elisabeth are floating away from each other as they navigate different share houses and casual job rosters. To their youthful eyes, Jack seems to have it all figured out, moving in the intellectual and sophisticated circles they aspire to be in. As the trio grows closer, secrets and betrayals — and having to choose between intimacy and independence — threaten to tear their futures apart.
Shy, by Max Porter
In this story, Shy is a person, not a state of being. He can only think about sex, smoking and music — so not untypical, perhaps, for a teenage boy. But Shy is more troubled than most. Everything he does is an attempt to escape the “red noise” in his head. He’s been arrested and kicked out of school more than once, and has landed at Last Chance, a home for “very disturbed young men”, where everyone wants to help him but no-one seems able to. Max Porter’s fourth book is in his signature semi-poetic and somehow masterfully jumbled style fans would be familiar with from 2019’s Lanny.
Thirst for Salt, by Madelaine Lucas
In this salty, summer novel, a young woman is on holiday with her mum in a coastal Australian town when she sees an older man in the water. Jude. His pull is irresistible, and as their relationship develops, she lets herself be enveloped into his life — he’s a welcome, stable figure for our protagonist who was raised by two drifters. Her mother, loving but spontaneous, and her father, a nomad. But of course, because this is a story about love and relationships, something happens that makes her question everything — including herself.
Romantic Comedy, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Curtis Sittenfeld watched a lot of Saturday Night Live in the pandemic. She, probably like many of us, has been fascinated by the tradition of male writers and cast members dating the “gorgeous, extremely accomplished female celebrities (dare I say goddesses?)” who appear as guest stars. Romantic Comedy flips this on its head, with Sally, a comedy writer at The Night Owls — an SNL-style show — and Noah, the uber-famous pop star who hosts one night in 2018. As they settle into the pandemic on opposite sides of America, they rekindle the spark they had when they worked together for that one week way back when. Sure, it’s predictable in all the romcom ways, but who’s to say that’s not just what you need sometimes?
Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma, by Claire Dederer
Has Claire Dederer finally solved the problem of what to do with the men whose art we loved but life choices we find reprehensible? Well, no, but her analysis of the boundaries between life and art are thoughtful and complex. She asks whether we can be fans of men like Picasso, Roman Polanski, Michael Jackson and Hemingway, or is our ability to take in their work disrupted by what we know of their lives? She also wonders why women artists are considered monstruous, and offers morally insightful perspectives on our turbulent relationship with beauty.
Greek Lessons, by Han Kang
What is an identity? This box we put ourselves in, this hook on the wall onto which we hang all the parts of our lives, so sure the box is sturdy, and the hook won’t come out of the wall. Yet identities are slippery and elusive — sometimes they assign themselves to us without giving us a say in the matter. In Greek Lessons, a Greek language teacher is losing his sight and living with the pain of being torn between two cultures and languages. He’s drawn to a silent woman in his class who has lost her voice and is in the depths of grief after her mother’s death and a lost custody battle. They are brought together by private anguish and slowly discover a new lightness of being.