Fitzcarraldo Editions, £ 12.99, pp360
Learning a new language is one thing, but immersing your entire self in an unknown – perhaps unknowable – culture is something entirely braver. In Barton’s revelatory and candid memoir, she frames her experiences in Japan in 50 dictionary entries, journeying through her vulnerabilities, otherness and identity in a foreign place and finding solace (and humour) in writing. One of the most powerful stories is about a death she witnesses, entitled “uwaa: the sound of the feeling that cannot be spoken”. Grappling with emotion through the medium of language is, 하나, what Barton does best.
M John Harrison
Gollancz, £8.99, pp272
Last year’s Goldsmith’s prize winner was hailed by the judges as “a literary masterpiece that will continue to be read in 100 몇 년의 시간, if the planet survives that long”. Which says it all about this unsettling exploration of post-Brexit Britain, a place where Shaw and Victoria’s mundane and fractured lives are set against the backdrop of conspiracy theories, sightings of a new species and suffocating suspicion, most of which they fail to notice. This is a novel about the failure of communication and empathy; bleak yet brilliantly urgent.
Faber, £ 16.99, pp480
Set on an imaginary Caribbean archipelago that avoided slavery and colonisation, This One Sky Day has all the lush exuberance and ideas of a novel that has been 15 years in the making; an entertaining, magic-realist romance set on a single day, when each inhabitant of Popisho has a special power bestowed on them by the gods. Some are remarkable, some are hilarious, and all add something to a story of love and loss that revels in its surreal world – but finds much that is profound in it, 너무.