BY frieze in Books , Opinion | 11 JUL 23

What to Read This Summer

From new fiction by Isabel Allende to the first Bulgarian novel to win the Man Booker International, the frieze team recommend new favourites and future classics

BY frieze in Books , Opinion | 11 JUL 23

The Wind Knows My Name (June 2023) 

By Isabel Allende

The Wind Knows My Name, Isabel Allende, 2023.
Isabel Allende, The Wind Knows My Name, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Ballantine Books

This novel is inspired by the Trump administration’s family separation policy of Spring 2018, under which migrant families arriving at the US-Mexico border were forcibly broken up and the children removed from their parents. Chronicling the fortitude of two children, each chapter alternates between the story of Samuel Adler, a nine-year-old boy escaping Nazi-occupied Vienna, and Anita Díaz, a seven-year-old girl fleeing military violence in El Salvador in 2019. Allende has published two dozen books since her 1982 debut, The House of the Spirits, but her talent for accessible storytelling with a moral cause remains unrivalled.

 ANGEL LAMBO, Associate Editor

Penance (July 2023)

By Eliza Clark

Penance, Eliza Clark, 2023
Eliza Clark, Penance, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Faber & Faber

Penance might be set in a seaside town, but it is not an easy beach read. Written in the style of a non-fiction crime story, Eliza Clark’s novel concerns the brutal murder of 15-year-old Joan Wilson by a group of her peers. Although some of the parents are painted with broad strokes – brassy, salt-of-the-earth mothers and rich but neglectful fathers – Clark nails her depiction of high school life, a world in which being ‘cringe’ is a fate worse than death. Beyond exploring what makes a group of teenagers commit such a heinous act, Penance takes a nauseating look at our obsession with true crime, from distasteful serial killer podcasts and Tumblr fan fiction to supposably impartial works of investigative journalism – and indeed, implicitly, to Penance itself, which for all its literary merit is part of the genre it subjects to such piercing scrutiny.

CHLOE STEAD, Assistant Editor

Kairos (June 2023)

By Jenny Erpenbeck

Jenny Erpenbeck, Kairos, 2023
Jenny Erpenbeck, Kairos, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Granta Books

This story of a May-September love affair is set against the backdrop of the late 1980s German Democratic Republic. It is not only one of the more nuanced representations of a divided Germany; it is also one of this year’s great novels about music (along with Deborah Levy’s August Blue). 

MARKO GLUHAICH, Associate Editor

Time Shelter (March 2023)

By Georgi Gospodinov

Georgi Gospodinov, Time Shelter, 2023
Georgi Gospodinov, Time Shelter, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Orion Publishing Co.

Celebrated as the first Bulgarian book to win the International Booker Prize, Time Shelter is a pleasure, with lyrical prose and a magical realist storytelling style. Gospodinov explores the many ways our pasts haunt the present, toying with our familiar ideas of time, nostalgia and the malleability of memory. He achieves universality through the prism of the highly personal – you feel your own past unfurl along with that of the nameless narrator.

IVANA CHOLAKOVA, Editorial Assistant

Crooked Plow (June 2023)

By Itamar Veira Junior

Crooked Plow, Itamar Vierira Junior, 2023
Itamar Veira Junior, Crooked Plow, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Verso Books

Set in the Quilombo territory of Brazil, this family drama unfolds among the communities founded by escaped slaves between the 1500s and the abolition of slavery in 1888. Narrated by two human sisters and a divine spirit, Crooked Plow, with artistic clarity and beauty, presents racism and the spectre of slavery as the source of strife in the lives of contemporary Quilombolas. The novel, Junior’s first to be translated into English despite his superstar status back home, is a provocation to those who believe that simple perseverance will save the day.  

ANGEL LAMBO, Associate Editor

Goodbye Eastern Europe (May 2023)

By Jacob Mikanowski

Goodbye Eastern Europe, Jacob Mikanowski, 2023
Jacob Mikanowski, Goodbye Eastern Europe, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Oneworld Publications

Part memoir, part ‘intimate history’ of the nebulous region of Europe stretching loosely from Alexanderplatz to the Caspian Sea, Jacob Mikanowski’s Goodbye Eastern Europe is a lucid analysis of a thousand years of contested land and culture, where Christianity, Islam and Judaism once mingled and warred. Mikanowski traces the region’s murky beginnings to the 20th century’s wars of annihilation that culminated in the Final Solution and the Soviet deportations and pogroms of the 1930s and ‘40s. With cruel finality, that destruction reorganized the landscape into a ‘grey place, where no one laughed’ (as one friend joked to the author) while destroying much of its diversity, paving the way for today’s loony ethno-nationalists, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Law and Justice Party, who gleefully dominate ‘the great homelands of forgetting’. While the East has seen a more welcome openness since 1989, Mikanowski is unequivocal about what we have lost in Vilnius, Warsaw and Prague, that the grand cosmopolitanism of those former intellectual centres of Europe may well be gone for good, especially if the close-minded immigration policies of Britain, France and Germany remain the model for countries eager to shed the stigma of ‘Post-Soviet’.

ANDREW DURBIN, Editor-in-Chief

Anecdotes (September 2023)

By Kathryn Mockler

Kathryn Mockler, Anecdotes, 2023
Kathryn Mockler, Anecdotes, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: BookThug

This dark and profoundly relatable satire – due to appear in the UK in September – masterfully balances existentialism and humility. It is a quick, thought-provoking read divided into four distinct parts, with each section intertwining common themes that delve into the stark realities of girlhood, the consequences of a forced transition into adulthood and the perilous state of our world amidst the climate crisis. Mockler’s characters and personifications of time ponder the possibility of ‘things getting better’ – posed not merely as a question but a genuine source of encouragement.

KATE CUNNINGTON, Editorial Coordinator

Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion (September 2023)

By Charlie Porter

Charlie Porter, Bring No Clothes, 2023.
Charlie Porter, Bring No Clothes: Bloomsbury and the Philosophy of Fashion, 2023, book cover. Courtesy: Penguin Books Ltd

Fascination with the Bloomsbury Group and their Sussex second home, Charleston Farmhouse, has never been higher: September sees the release of a new book by writer Charlie Porter examining their lasting influence on fashion. It begins with a letter written by Virginia Woolf to T.S. Eliot in 1920 detailing a forthcoming visit, in which she informs him to eschew the customs of their class and leave behind any formal attire; to ‘bring no clothes’. The phrase is the title of the book, which details the sartorial choices of six group members, including Woolf and sister Vanessa Bell, and an accompanying exhibition curated by Porter at Charleston’s new Lewes space, also opening in September. The book appears in the wake of Kim Jones’s Summer 2023 Dior Menswear collection, which drew influence directly from Charleston and Bloomsbury artist Duncan Grant.

SEAN BURNS, Assistant Editor

Contemporary Art and Culture