Literary fiction to watch in 2021

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We’re putting together some of our literary highlights for the next 12 months, from radical romance to sunny escape


While the start of 2021 hasn’t been very promising, there is still light on the horizon. On the one hand, this is set to be a monumental year for literature, with fictional releases lining up both established names and renowned talent. The general theme of many of these novels seems to be the human connection – where we find it, how we cultivate it, and how it is warped – which makes a lot of sense, given how bored and isolated we all are. . There are also robots, jealous goats, and twisted conspiracy theories, along with a new Sally Rooney, to keep your attention during the darker lockdown months. Here we put together some of our highlights.

The Prophets by Robert Jones Jnr, published by riverrun (available now)

Located on a Mississippi plantation, The prophets follows two teenage slaves as they fall in love and find refuge in each other. It’s a radical take on a black queer romance – both strikingly intimate and unfailingly brutal – and has been compared to literary legends like Toni Morrison and James Baldwin.

Baby Detransition by Torrey Peters, published by Serpent’s Tail (out now)

Baby transition is an eventful journey through the lives of three women – transgender and cisgender – faced with sex, desire and motherhood. It’s a very funny and fearless start from Torrey Peters, who clearly isn’t afraid to polarize readers. Like Andrea Lawlor, author of Paul takes the form of a mortal girl, warns: “It could destroy your book club, but in a good way. “

Fake accounts by Lauren Oyler, published by 4th Estate (released February 4th)

What happens when you find out that your boyfriend is leading a double life as a popular internet conspiracy theorist? It’s a question the young woman in Lauren Oyler’s ironic and confident debut, Fake accounts, is obliged to answer. The book is an in-depth examination of identity and authenticity in the Internet age, and the lies we love to tell ourselves.

Nobody talks about it by Patricia Lockwood, published by Bloomsbury (released February 16)

Patricia Lockwood follows up on her wildly successful 2017 memoir, Father priest, with his debut in fiction, Nobody talks about it. In many ways, it’s the perfect novel for 2021: an irreverent study of our scattered and unstable minds after years of endless scrolling and throwaway memes. It is also, at times, disarmingly deep, unexpectedly transforming into a tender celebration of the love, kindness, and power of human connection.

Empty houses by Brenda Navarro, published by Daunt Books (released February 25)

Hailed as “one of the best kept secrets of Mexican literature”, the first novel by Brenda Navarro, Empty houses, caused a sensation when it was released for the first time in its native Spanish. Next month, the English translation of this story – which traces the desires, regrets and social pressures of motherhood – arrives in the UK.

Infinite country by Patricia Engel, published by Simon and Schuster (released on March 2)

Colombian writer Patricia Engel tells the topical and urgent story of an undocumented family living in North and South America. The novel is written from the perspective of each family member, exploring their struggles with regret, state violence, and the constant and latent threat of eviction.

Acts of desperation by Megan Nolan, published by Jonathan Cape (released on March 2)

Megan Nolan’s first novel, Acts of desperation, is one of the most anticipated books of the year. The Irish writer is known for her effortlessly poetic and revealing essays on human psychology and desire, and has previously obtained signatures in the New statesman, observer and The New York Times. Acts of desperation – an “anti-romance” about a young woman hungry for love, lust and validation – living up to the hype.

Klara and the sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, published by Faber (released on March 2)

Another big literary event this year is the return of Kazuo Ishiguro. The visionary Nobel Prize winner behind Never let Me Go and Rest of the day returns with a touching new novel, titled Klara and the sun. Told from the point of view of an artificial young girl, it revisits themes familiar to the author: namely, what it means to be human and what it means to love.

This day of heaven by Leone Ross, published by Faber (released April 15)

Located on a fictional Caribbean archipelago, This day of heaven is a magical, sunny realistic romance about two lovers trying to find each other. Expect a serious escape – this is a world where “goats are jealous, gods are mischievous, [and] the vaginas fall unexpectedly ”.

paradise by Mieko Kawakami, published by Europa (released on May 25)

Hailed by critics as one of the “brightest stars in Japanese literature,” Mieko Kawakami burst onto the world market last year with her debut novel in English. Breast And Eggs. Its follow-up, paradise, is a gripping and original study of teenage cruelty, told from the tortured perspective of a 14-year-old boy.

The other black girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris, published by Bloomsbury (released June 1)

Part Get out, part the devil wears Prada, The other black girl follows the story of Nella Rogers, a 26-year-old black editorial assistant working at an all-white publishing house. When a new woman of color starts working in the cubicle next to her, she is initially thrilled with the company – but the situation quickly turns into something much more sinister.

Dirty animals: stories by Brandon Taylor, published by Daunt Books (released June 24)

Written by Booker Prize finalist Brandon Taylor, Dirty animals is a series of short stories about young creatives from the American Midwest. These emotionally charged vignettes – all of which are interrelated – explore a wide range of themes, including sexuality, loneliness, mortality and violence.

Beautiful people, where are you by Sally Rooney, published by Faber (released September 7)

And of course, to top it off, this year sees the return of literary prodigy Sally Rooney. After having bewitched the world with Normal people and Conversations with friends, the author is back with a new surprise novel: Beautiful people, where are you. The story centers on the “lives and loves” of four young friends who worry about sex, the future and the world they live in. Will they find a way to make it all look good? Only time (about nine months) will tell.

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