John Murray Press, £8.99, pp320
Fiona Mozley moves from the rural, gothic Yorkshire of her 2017 Booker-shortlisted debut, Elmet, to a vibrant, sometimes grotesque Soho for Hot Stew. It’s a confident, assured transition, as Mozley brilliantly depicts a cast of misfits and minor miscreants connected to a brothel under threat of closure because of property developers. Witty and warm without ever tripping over into bawdiness or titillation, Hot Stew communicates a wonderful sense of community. A paean of praise for counterculture, it kicks against the faceless corporatisation of our urban spaces.
Bluebird, £18.99, pp304
If there is a story of our times, Hassan Akkad tells it in this remarkable memoir. Forced to flee Syria, his mobile footage of his journey to Britain, clinging to a sinking dinghy, was used in the Bafta-winning documentary Exodus. Finding work as a hospital cleaner, Akkad then got his phone out again in the first months of Covid-19, pleading for immigrant NHS workers to be given equal rights. Akkad writes with urgency, honesty and some generosity, finding hope and possibility amid the despair.
Mountain Leopard Press, £16.99, pp224
Anuradha Roy’s bifurcated novel quietly and adeptly juxtaposes the tale of a lovelorn potter in an Indian village with the experiences of his apprentice, now studying at a prestigious English university. The Earthspinner revels in myth and magic realism too, as the potter’s desire to fashion a terracotta horse for a woman across the religious divide unleashes both longing and violence; a stray dog’s strange pull on the community layers further intrigue. Roy celebrates art, creativity and inclusion while simultaneously portraying a world on the brink of destructive fanaticism.