From Roddy Doyle on typically fluent form in Love to Alice Hoffman’s latest and a vivid work by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, this week’s best new fiction
Roddy Doyle Jonathan Cape £18.99
No one does boozy male regret better than Doyle, and he’s on typically fluent form in this slow-burn tale of two old friends who hook up for a nostalgia-soaked crawl around the haunts of their Dublin youth.
As talk turns to a woman they both fell for in their teens, their easy-reading comic dialogue – a narrative engine that Doyle has perfected over decades – is a foil for the pent-up emotion about to erupt.
Alice Hoffman Scribner £16.99
In the latest adventuresome instalment of her Practical Magic series, Hoffman spirits the reader back to 1664, where Maria, a baby destined to become the matriarch of the magical Owens clan, is found abandoned in a snowy English forest.
A star-shaped birthmark indicates supernatural gifts, and as she grows up to voyage across the ocean, living the dangerous life of a smart, single woman, she’ll learn that just like love, these powers can be both a blessing and a curse.
The Perfect Nine
Ngugi wa Thiong’o Harvill Secker £12
This novel-length poem is based on an epic describing the origins of Kenya’s Gikuyu people. At the beginning of the world, a couple raise ten beautiful, resourceful daughters; when 99 young warriors come seeking to marry them, they undergo a series of tests, culminating in a dangerous expedition to the ogre-haunted Mountain of the Moon.
It’s a vivid, exhilarating tale with a surprisingly modern philosophy that emphasises the importance of tolerance, feminism and respect for the environment.