Paperback Fiction to Look Forward to in 2021 (January-April)

2021 is turning out to be a fantastic year… for publishing. In this series of blog posts, we want to highlight the titles we at The Portobello Bookshop are most excited for this year. Starting off with some of the best new paperback fiction coming in 2021, this list features well-known authors as well as debuts and books you may not have heard of yet but you should definitely check out.

Just a note that because this is a list of forthcoming titles, some purchases will be pre-orders and you will receive your books as they are published over the coming months.

Weather by Jenny Offill

Published: 28-01-2021
Modern and contemporary fiction - Paperback / softback

An obligatory note of hope in a world going to hell, Lizzie Benson, a part-time librarian, is already overwhelmed with the crises of daily life when an old mentor offers her a job answering mail from the listeners of her apocalyptic podcast, Hell and High Water. Soon questions begin pouring in from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of Western civilization. Entering this polarized world, Lizzie is forced to consider who she is and what she can do to help: as a mother, as a wife, as a sister, and as a citizen of this planet.
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Red at the Bone: Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020 by Jacqueline Woodson

Published: 21-01-2021
Family life fiction - Paperback / softback

It is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress – the very same dress that was sewn for a different wearer, Melody’s mother, for a celebration that ultimately never took place. Unfurling the history of Melody’s family – from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre to post 9/11 New York – Red at the Bone explores sexual desire, identity, class, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, as it looks at the ways in which young people must so often make fateful decisions about their lives before they have even begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

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Cockfight by Frances Riddle, Maria Fernanda Ampuero

Published: 21-01-2021
Fiction in translation - Paperback / softback

Named one of the ten best fiction books of 2018 by The New York Times en Espanol, Cockfight is the debut work by Ecuadorian writer and journalist Maria Fernanda Ampuero. In lucid and compelling prose, Ampuero sheds light on the hidden and sometimes grotesque aspects of the home: the realities of family, coming of age, religion, and class struggle. A family’s maids witness a horrible cycle of abuse, a girl is auctioned off by a gang of criminals, and two sisters find themselves at the mercy of their spiteful brother.

With violence masquerading as love, characters spend their lives trapped re-enacting their past traumas. Heralding a brutal and singular new voice, Cockfight explores the power of the home to both create and destroy those within it.

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Little Gods by Meng Jin

Published: 25-02-2021
Preorder - Paperback / softback

On the night of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a woman gives birth alone in a Beijing hospital. Years later, her daughter Liya travels from America to China with her mother’s ashes, hoping to unravel the legacy of silences and contradictions that she inherited from that night onwards. As Liya seeks to untangle her family history, we travel through Shanghai and Beijing, and deep into the past, uncovering an unexpected love triangle whose repercussions reach up to the present moment.

Ambitious, multifaceted yet intimate, Little Gods is a gripping story of migrations both literal and emotional and of the tragic impact of history on individual lives.

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Rainbow Milk: an Observer 2020 Top 10 Debut by Paul Mendez

LGBTQ+ / Gay and Lesbian Studies - Paperback / softback

Rainbow Milk is an intersectional coming-of-age story, following nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of a Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and the legacies of the Windrush generation.

In the Black Country, in the 1950s, ex-boxer Norman Alonso is a determined Jamaican who has moved to Britain with his wife to secure a brighter future for themselves and their children. Blighted with unexpected illness and racism, Norman and his family are resilient in the face of such hostilities, but are all too aware that they will need more than just hope to survive.

At the turn of the millennium, Jesse seeks a fresh start in London – escaping from a broken immediate family, a repressive religious community, and the desolate, disempowered Black Country – but he finds himself at a loss looking for a new centre of gravity, and turns to sex work to create new notions of love, fatherhood and spirituality. Rainbow Milk is a bold exploration of race, class, sexuality, freedom and religion across generations, time and cultures.

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Little Eyes: LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE, 2020 by Megan McDowell, Samanta Schweblin

Published: 01-04-2021
Impact of science and technology on society - Paperback / softback

They’re not pets. Not ghosts or robots. These are kentukis, and they are in your home.

They’re everywhere. They’re watching you… They’ve infiltrated apartments in Hong Kong, shops in Vancouver, the streets of Sierra Leone, town squares of Oaxaca, schools in Tel Aviv, bedrooms in Indiana.

Anonymous and untraceable, these seemingly cute cuddly toys reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung souls – but they also expose the ugly truth of our interconnected society. Samanta Schweblin’s wildly imaginative new novel pulls us into a dark and complex world of unexpected love, playful encounters and marvellous adventures. Beneath the cuddly exterior, kentukis conceal a truth that is unsettlingly familiar and exhilaratingly real.

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Starling Days: Shortlisted for the 2019 Costa Novel Award by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Published: 18-02-2021
Modern and contemporary fiction - Paperback / softback

Mina is staring over the edge of the George Washington Bridge when a patrol car drives up. She tries to convince the officers she’s not about to jump but they don’t believe her. Her husband Oscar is called to pick her up.

Oscar hopes that leaving New York for a few months will give Mina the space to heal. They travel to London, to an apartment wall-papered with indigo-eyed birds, to Oscar’s oldest friends, to a canal and blooming flower market. Mina, a classicist, searches for solutions to her failing mental health using mythological women.

But she finds a beam of light in a living woman. Friendship and attraction blossom until Oscar and Mina’s complicated love is tested.

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Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

Published: 06-02-2020
Fiction: general and literary - Hardback

A woman enters an Avignon hotel room. She’s been here once before – but while the room hasn’t changed, she is a different person now. Forever caught between check-in and check-out, she will go on to occupy other hotel rooms, from Prague to Oslo, Auckland to Austin, each as anonymous as the last.

There, amid the open suitcases, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she will negotiate with memory, with the men she sometimes meets, and with what it might mean to return home.

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The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Political / legal thriller - Hardback

Vincent is the beautiful bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis owns the hotel. When he hands Vincent his card with a tip, it is the beginning of their life together. That same day, a hooded figure scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: Why don’t you swallow broken glass?

Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a ship.

Weaving together the lives of these characters, the novel moves between the ship, the towers of Manhattan and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

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