If you celebrate Christmas, there's a good chance you're a. In an acute state of panic, with 10 days left to go and about one person ticked off your Christmas shopping list, and b. Set to receive at least one gift this year from a well-meaning relative who still thinks you're 13 and shops for you accordingly. Allow me to swoop in with a suggestion: you graciously accept the gift, discreetly exchange it for a gift card, and use said gift card to pre-order one of these five books by British women coming out in 2019. See that segue? Absolutely seamless.
Here's another suggestion, while I'm at it. Perhaps you've already decided that your New Year's resolution is to read more books (in which case, have I got some tips for you). Placing a bunch of pre-orders set to arrive throughout the year is an easy way to keep that momentum going — and if you order them while ever so slightly under the influence, in the grand tradition of the holidays, there's a solid chance you'll have completely forgotten about ordering them by the time they land on your doormat. And just like that, your beloved and clueless relatives gave you the greatest gift of all: surprise.
'Gingerbread' by Helen Oyeyemi
Gingerbread, the blurb of Oyeyemi's novel points out, has a significance that's "equal parts wholesome and uncanny" across children's fiction, "from the tantalizing witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can." In Oyeyemi's take, gingerbread is a matter of legacy: Perdita Lee and her mother Harriet make it, according to a cherished family recipe, while Harriet's childhood friend Gretel Kercheval devours it. Later, as a teenager, Perdita attempts to find the now-missing Gretel — and gains a new understanding of her mother on the way.
'Once Upon a River' by Diane Setterfield
You might be familiar with Setterfield from her troubling gothic novel The Thirteenth Tale, the author's debut. Her latest, a 19th century mystery set on the banks of the Thames, looks to be similarly suspenseful. A stranger brings a girl's body, seemingly drowned, into a sleepy pub, but a few hours later, the mysterious girl is inexplicably revived. Who is the girl, and the man who plucked her from the river — and what brought her back to life?
'Queenie' by Candice Carty-Williams
Candice Carty-Williams' first novel is possibly one of the most anticipated debuts of 2019 — and you can count me amongst those eagerly awaiting its launch. Queenie Jenkins, a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman, is in a time of crisis. She's grappling with a not quite final break up with her longterm boyfriend; with her white, middle class coworkers at the major newspaper where she works; with two cultures, neither of which she feels she belongs to entirely. How, in the midst of all the pressures and bad decisions and uncertainties familiar to twenty-somethings, will Queenie figure out who she wants to be?
'Late in the Day' by Tessa Hadley
Grief is often assumed, somewhat tritely, to bring us closer, but in Hadley's latest novel, she demonstrates the opposite. When Zach dies, leaving behind his widow Lydia and their closest friends Alex and Christine, the group begins to distort and fragment in unforeseen ways. Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine — but the trio have suppressed unacknowledged feelings for decades, which rise to the surface upon Zach's death.
'Spring' by Ali Smith
Spring is the third novel in Smith's Seasonal Quartet (which started with Autumn, and then — surprise — Winter). And while current details on the title are sparse, if it's anything like its predecessors, it's bound to be something of a sensation. Autumn was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2017, while Winter made its way onto just about every "best of the year" list this year. It's probably safe to assume, therefore, that Spring will be a defining novel of 2019.