The only novella on the list: but just because it’s small doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful. This is City AM’s pick of the bunch: British icon Barnes has dished up a book so terse in ideas, heavy in impressions and unrelenting in theme that you’ll be left scratching your head and craving more in equal measure.
CANONGATE, CAROL BIRCH
The 11th novel from the author of the Naming of Eliza Quinn, this historical novel features a compelling narrator and sets out its diverse wares in the murky alleys and waterways of 19th century Wapping. Based on the real-life sinking of the whale-ship Essex in 1820, it meanders down numerous other paths with great intelligence and art.
THE SISTERS BROTHERS, PATRICK DEWITT (GRANTA BOOKS)
The second novel from sallow Canadian Patrick de Witt, this is a literary cowboy book of sorts, set in the gun-happy landscape of the 1850s Californian gold rush. The odd title refers to the brothers Eli and Charlie Sisters, instructed by their boss to hunt down and kill one Hermann Kermit Warm. Full of the hostilities of life, as well as its good and funny moments.
SERPENT’S TAIL, ESI EDUGYAN
(Half Blood Blues)
An unusual book about Afro-German experience, focusing on Hiero, a superbly gifted jazz trumpeter whose band, the Hot Time Swingers, are forbidden from playing live in late 1930s Berlin because the Nazis have banned such “degenerate” music. Hiero and fellow African American banndmates Sid and Chip move to Paris and go into hiding when the Nazis occupy.
PIGEON ENGLISH, STEPHEN KELMAN (BLOOMSBURY)
A debut novel based on the story of Peckham schoolboy Damiloa Taylor, this wildly impressive book tells the tale of Harrison Opuku, newly arrived from Ghana with his mother and older sister. Author Kelman is a former (redundant) council worker.
SNOWDROPS, A D MILLER
Another debut novel, AD Miller’s dark psychological drama unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter. Snowdrop refers to a dead body found under the ice when the city thaws – the Moscow of this book is lawless, murderous and corrupt. Riveting stuff.