As we enter a new year, I have decided to look ahead at a few of the books which may well take 2016 by storm. Among those which have caught my eye are two novels set in the first half of the twentieth century and a debut by a writer who has more than a few similarities to the great John Le Carre (whose own biography is selling rather well at the moment).

Louisa Young should be well known by now for various reasons; she is the granddaughter of Kathleen Scott (sculptor and widow of the explorer) and the co-author, with her daughter, of the children’s book Lionboy. Perhaps her biggest success so far was the First World War novel, My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You, which followed the lives of several characters through the full duration of that conflict. There was a sequel, The Heroes’ Welcome, which dealt with their struggle to adapt to peacetime, but the third book in the series, Devotion, promises to outshine the rest. Set in England and Italy during the Twenties and Thirties, it examines the rise of Mussolini and the topics of fascism, racism and love, not just in Italy but closer to home too. The book comes out in June, and I am very much looking forward to it.

Some of the best World War One fiction of recent years has been written by women; as well as Young we have seen powerful work from Elizabeth Speller, Pat Barker and, most recently, Anna Hope, whose book, Wake, combined the story of the selection of the Unknown Warrior with the problems faced by combatants and civilians upon the cessation of hostilities. Her new novel, The Ballroom, will be published in February and has a strong local flavour. Based on the experiences of her great grandfather, it is set in an asylum in West Yorkshire where male and female patients are segregated at all times except for a regular Friday dance, whose participants are chosen at the whim of the medical officer. The asylum, which resembles a small village and has a cricket pitch, vegetable garden and even an orchestra, will be familiar to many people in this area. This is a love story with something extra, and promises to be a fascinating counterpoint to the factual books which have dealt with asylums of the West Riding. Anna Hope will be coming to Ilkley on Monday 22nd February; contact The Grove Bookshop for further details.

Finally we come to Nicholas Searle, a “retired civil servant” whose first novel, The Good Liar, features elderly principal characters called Roy and Betty. Roy is a conman out to fleece Betty of her money, but as their stories unfold backwards across the century we become less and less sure of what we know about them. Searle writes elegantly and his characters are drawn slowly and with relish. His editor is also responsible for the books of that other retired civil servant, John Le Carre, which gives an idea of what we should expect. After the amazing success of The Girl on the Train last year, everyone is looking for the big thriller of 2016; The Good Liar may well turn out to be just that, with a depth and literary appeal which will take it to an even wider audience.

Mike Sansbury,


The Grove Bookshop,