As we run-down our pick of the best fiction of 2019, where better to start than with the joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize?
We also feature a captivating family saga about injustice and forgiveness, an unmissable read by a writer at the top of his game and our favourite novel of the year must not be missed.
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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Testaments is more than a novel – it was a publishing event. And Margaret Atwood’s timely, eagerly awaited follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale has been the No 1 bestselling book in the UK since publication, also winning (half of) the Booker Prize.
The story is told by three women: Aunt Lydia, the cattle prod-wielding enforcer who ruled over the handmaids in Gilead; Agnes, a young girl growing up in Gilead; and Daisy, a teenager in Canada whose parents have close links to the underground resistance movement working to bring down Gilead.
But the three characters have more in common than they realise.
A gripping novel with a satisfying conclusion.
Chatto & Windus, £20
The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
In this engrossing story of a dysfunctional family, Danny and his big sister Maeve are teenagers when their father remarries. But Andrea is a classic wicked stepmother who seems to love their exotic family home, The Dutch House, more than she loves their prickly father. And when their father dies unexpectedly, the siblings are turfed out of The Dutch House and forced to fend for themselves.
Danny and Maeve can never shake off their obsession with the family home and the woman who wronged them. But their unbreakable sibling bond is put to the test when the past comes back to haunt them.
A captivating family saga about injustice and forgiveness.
Sweet Sorrow, by David Nicholls
The author of One Day and Starter For Ten returns with a poignant, perceptive and laugh-out-loud funny story of first love. It’s 1997 and teenager Charlie has just messed up his A-levels, distracted by his parents’ divorce. His mother has moved out, taking Charlie’s sister with her, leaving Charlie behind with his depressed father.
Then he meets Fran, a confident middle-class girl playing Juliet in an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet. Charlie is so smitten that he reluctantly joins the theatre group to ensure he sees her again – but the course of true love never did run smoothly.
An unmissable read by a writer at the top of his game.
Hodder & Stoughton, £20
Daisy Jones & The Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In this beautifully written tale of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in 1970s America, Daisy Jones And The Six are an up-and-coming band whose growing success is threatened by mounting tension between beautiful frontwoman Daisy and charismatic lead singer Billy. As Daisy fights for songwriting input, Billy battles to retain control of the band. A recovering addict, he’s wary of junkie Daisy. And as a married man, he’s in denial about the magnetic chemistry between them.
Cleverly written as a series of interviews with band members, this absorbing novel is full of irresistible characters, and brilliantly evokes its time and place. It’s my favourite novel of the year.