I love a 200 page novel that packs a punch. These slim books earn their place on your bookshelf in as few words as possible. If the average novel is around 90,000 words, these are closer to 50,000. Perfect if you like books that blow you away, but succinctly.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson is one of my favourite debuts. A love story of two intimate best friends who slowly realise what they mean to each other, set in a vibrantly drawn south London. It deals with unspoken love, and life in black London with pin-point precision. Caleb leans towards brevity. He told us at our book club that when his first draft was 150 pages, he was asked to write more.
I’ve always enjoyed Sophie Mackintosh’s writing, the way her words draw you along with a languid flow. In Cursed Bread, she does it in her lowest word count yet. A French town goes slightly crazy upon the arrival of a new couple. Horses are found dead. People start jumping into fires. And the baker’s wife becomes gripped by obsession.
One of my books of the year was Children of Paradise by Camilla Grudova. It’s a love letter to cinema, specifically to Paradise - the novel’s fictional indie cinema that’s falling apart at the edges. The seats are sticky, the toilets fresh with a new mess each day, the popcorn machine full of rat poo. The staff are like a cult, locked together by their mutual love of films of all kinds. Your eyes will go square, if you dare not to look away.
There are more than a few gems in the Faber Editions series, but my favourite is definitely this dainty dystopian tale, They by Kay Dick. They are coming. To take your possessions, your creative expression, your freedom. But no one knows who they are or what they look like.
Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan is a curious work of fiction in that it grapples with fact; written based on interviews with a woman about her life in horse racing. Kathryn Scanlan adapts those interviews into a bold sense of voice. You feel like you're sat opposite a remarkable woman recounting her remarkable life. You can smell the sweat and tears.