30 debut novels to keep an eye out for in 2020
We're only a few days into 2020, but it's looking like it's going to be a great year for reading.
From long-awaited prequels (and sequels) to gripping mysteries; longing love stories to memorable memoirs, there's no shortage of brilliant books hitting the shelves over the next 12 months.
Oh, and there are also some incredible debut novels set be released this year.
Here are 30 amazing debut novels to keep an eye out for in 2020.
Pine by Francine Toon
Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.
Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.
A Good Man by Ani Katz
Thomas Martin is sure he is a good man; he is everything that he thinks a man is supposed to be. He looks after his sick mother, and his adult twin sisters. He’s got a gorgeous house on Long Island, and he’s got “his girls”, his wife Miriam and his daughter Ava, who he is determined to protect. He’s a provider; he’s a protector and he’s the patriarch of his family.
But he has failed, and unspeakable tragedy has befallen his family. Now, Thomas struggles to come to terms with what has become of his life. If only he can tell the story as he saw it, he believes he might find out how and why things unravelled so horribly; how he failed so disastrously.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop. She was married to a journalist. She was with everyone she loved most in the world. Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left.
For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg. For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train. For him, she will find the strength to keep running.
The Weight of Love by Hilary Fannin
London, 1996. Robin and Ruth meet in the staff room of an East London school. Robin, desperate for a real connection, instantly falls in love. Ruth, recently bereaved and fragile, is tentative. When Robin introduces Ruth to his childhood friend, Joseph, a tortured and talented artist, their attraction is instant. Powerless, Robin watches on as the girl he loves and his best friend begin a passionate and turbulent affair.
Dublin 2017. Robin and Ruth are married and have a son, Sid, who is about to emigrate to Berlin. Theirs is a marriage haunted by the ghost of Joseph and as the distance between them grows, Robin makes a choice that could have potentially devastating consequences.
The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue
When Louisa arrives at Temple House, an elite catholic boarding school, she quickly finds herself drawn to sophisticated fellow pupil Victoria and their young bohemian art teacher, Mr Lavelle. The three of them form a bond that seems to offer an escape from the repressive regime of the nuns who run the cloistered school. Until Louisa and Mr Lavelle suddenly vanish.
Years later, a journalist with a childhood connection to Louisa determines to resolve the mystery. Her search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.
Tennis Lessons by Susannah Dickey
You’re strange and wrong. You’ve known it from the beginning. This is the voice that rings in your ears. Because you never say the right thing. You’re a disappointment to everyone. You’re a far cry from beautiful – and your thoughts are ugly too.
You seem bound to fail, bound to break. But you know what it is to laugh with your best friend, to feel the first tentative tingles of attraction, to take exquisite pleasure in the affront of your unruly body. You just need to find your place.
The Island Child by Molly Aitken
Twenty years ago, Oona left the island of Inis for the very first time. A wind-blasted rock of fishing boats and turf fires, where girls stayed in their homes until they became mothers themselves, the island was a gift for some, a prison for others. Oona was barely more than a girl, but promised herself she would leave the tall tales behind and never return.
The Island Child tells two stories: of the girl who grew up watching births and betrayals, storms and secrets, and of the adult Oona, desperate to find a second chance, only to discover she can never completely escape. As the strands of Oona’s life come together, in blood and marriage and motherhood, she must accept the price we pay when we love what is never truly ours . . .
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
Nine-year-old Jai watches too many reality cop shows, thinks he’s smarter than his friend Pari (even though she always gets top marks) and considers himself to be a better boss than Faiz (even though Faiz is the one with a job). When a boy at school goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from episodes of Police Patrol to find him.
With Pari and Faiz by his side, Jai ventures into some of the most dangerous parts of the sprawling Indian city; the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But kids continue to vanish, and the trio must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.
The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Rose Gold Watts believed she was sick for eighteen years. She thought she needed the feeding tube, the surgeries, the wheelchair...Turns out her mother is a really good liar. After five years in prison, Patty Watts is finally free. All she wants is to put old grievances behind her, reconcile with her daughter - and care for her new infant grandson.
When Rose Gold agrees to have Patty move in, it seems their relationship is truly on the mend. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty won't rest until she has her daughter back under her thumb. Which is inconvenient because Rose Gold wants to be free of Patty. Forever. Only one Watts woman will get her way.
Keeper by Jessica Moor
He's been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes. Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.
When Katie Straw's body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it's an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide. But the residents of Widringham women's refuge where Katie worked don't agree. They say it's murder.
A Good Father by Catherine Talbot
Des is a good husband, a good father - a good man. He encourages his wife's artistic endeavours. He holds down a well-paid, if unfulfilling, job. He is manager of his sons' Under-11s football team. He reads bedtime stories to his children every night.
But appearances can be deceptive, and behind closed doors secrets threaten to ruin everything. Des is afraid. Of the world encroaching on his family; of past mistakes catching up on him; of losing control. Des is master of his home, and he must maintain his authority over it - and everyone in it - at all costs.
Looking for Eliza by Leaf Arbuthnot
Ada is a widowed writer, navigating loneliness in Oxford after the death of her husband. She has no children. No grandchildren. She fears she is becoming peripheral, another invisible woman.
Eliza is a student at the university. She finds it difficult to form meaningful relationships after the estrangement of her mother and breakup with her girlfriend. Can they find what they are looking for in each other, and cast off their isolation for good?
Dear Child by Romy Hausmann
A windowless shack in the woods. Lena's life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: Meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.
One day Lena manages to flee - but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called 'Lena', who disappeared without a trace 14 years ago. The police and Lena's family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle which doesn't quite seem to fit.
As You Were by Elaine Feeney
Sinéad Hynes is a tough, driven, funny young property developer with a terrifying secret.
No-one knows it: not her fellow patients in a failing hospital, and certainly not her family. She has confided only in Google and a shiny magpie.
But she can’t go on like this, tirelessly trying to outstrip her past and in mortal fear of her future. Across the ward, Margaret Rose is running her chaotic family from her rose-gold Nokia. In the neighboring bed, Jane, rarely but piercingly lucid, is searching for a decent bra and for someone to listen. Sinéad needs them both.
The Return by Rachel Harrison
Julie is missing, and no one believes she will ever return-except Elise. Elise knows Julie better than anyone. She feels it in her bones that her best friend is out there and that one day Julie will come back. She's right. Two years to the day that Julie went missing, she reappears with no memory of where she's been or what happened to her.
Along with Molly and Mae, their two close friends from college, the women decide to reunite at a remote inn. But the second Elise sees Julie, she knows something is wrong-she's emaciated, with sallow skin and odd appetites. And as the weekend unfurls, it becomes impossible to deny that the Julie who vanished two years ago is not the same Julie who came back. But then who-or what-is she?
This Happy by Niamh Campbell
When Alannah was twenty-three, she met a man who was older than her - a married man - and fell in love. Things happened suddenly. They met in April, in the first bit of mild weather; and in August, they went to stay in rural Ireland, overseen by the cottage's landlady.
Six years later, when Alannah is newly married to another man, she sees the landlady from afar. Memories of those days spent in bliss, then torture, return to her. And the realisation that she has been waiting - all this time - to be rediscovered.
Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth
It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police. At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn't come home one afternoon.
Rachel is Lily's teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily's best friend. The girls are fifteen - almost women, still children. As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily's absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she'd face. It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
The Italian Escape by Catherine Mangan
Niamh Kelly has made a right pig's ear of her life thus far. She's thirty three, still living at home thanks to her mediocre job, which she can't bring herself to go back to following a failed relationship with a colleague. When her sister invites her to tag along on a work trip to Italy's Ligurian coast, impulsive Niamh jumps at the chance to leave Dublin, and discovers a world of wine, opportunity and friendship.
Having fallen in love with the town of Camogli, she decides to stay and open a coffee shop (hurrah), even though she has no idea what she's doing (oops). After a sudden family tragedy and a tricky tourist season threaten her new business, Niamh comes close to throwing in the towel. But with help from her new-found community, can she make her new life a success?
The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves
A lifetime together. Six months of silence. One last chance. Frank hasn't spoken to his wife Maggie for six months. For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.
Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet. But it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.
What's Left of Me is Yours by Stephanie Scott
Within the Tokyo underworld there is an industry which exists to break up marriages. It is known today as wakaresaseya - agents who, for a fee, can be hired by one spouse to seduce the other and provide grounds for divorce on favourable terms.
Inspired by a real case, this is the story of Kaitaro Nakamura, a wakaresaseya agent, who is hired by a man to seduce his wife. Kaitaro falls in love with his target, Rina, and after the divorce she moves in with him, unaware of his role in the demise of her marriage.
Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay
It all started with one little lie. Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they both fell in love and married handsome young men.
But Jane never liked Marnie's husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course. Because if Jane had been honest - if she hadn't lied - then perhaps her best friend's husband might still be alive . . .
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
Ava, newly arrived in Hong Kong from Dublin, spends her days teaching English to rich children. Julian is a banker. A banker who likes to spend money on Ava, to have sex and discuss fluctuating currencies with her. But when she asks whether he loves her, he cannot say more than 'I like you a great deal'.
Enter Edith, a lawyer. Refreshingly enthusiastic and unapologetically earnest, Edith takes Ava to the theatre when Julian leaves Hong Kong for work. Quickly, she becomes something Ava looks forward to. And then Julian writes to tell Ava he is coming back to Hong Kong... Should Ava return to the easy compatibility of her life with Julian or take a leap into the unknown with Edith?
Followers by Megan Angelo
2051. Marlow and her mother, Floss, have been handpicked to live their lives on camera, in the closed community of Constellation. Unlike her mother, who adores the spotlight, Marlow hates having her every move judged by a national audience.
But she isn’t brave enough to escape until she discovers a shattering secret about her birth. Now she must unravel the truth around her own history in a terrifying race against time…
Saving Missy by Beth Morrey
Missy Carmichael’s life has become small. Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.
Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new. Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?
Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis
When seventy-two-year-old Cloris Waldrip finds herself lost and alone in the unforgiving wilderness of the Montana mountains, with only a bible, a sturdy pair of boots, and a couple of candies to keep her alive, it seems her chances of ever getting home to Texas are slim.
Debra Lewis, a park ranger, who is drinking her way out of the aftermath of a messy divorce is the only one who believes the old lady may still be alive. Galvanized by her newfound mission to find her, Lewis leads a motley group of rescuers to follow the trail of clues that Cloris has left behind. But as days stretch into weeks, and Cloris’s situation grows ever more precarious, help arrives from the unlikeliest of places, causing her to question all the certainties on which she has built her life.
This Lovely City by Louise Hare
With the Blitz over and London reeling from war, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for help. Fresh off the Empire Windrush, he’s taken a tiny room in south London lodgings, and has fallen in love with the girl next door.
Touring Soho’s music halls by night, pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until, one morning, he makes a terrible discovery. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame are pointed at those who had recently been welcomed with open arms. And, before long, the newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy which threatens to tear the city apart.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.
Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn't abuse. It was love. She's sure of that. Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.
Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow. In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager has been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field – an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law.
Corinne Shepard spent years pushing against the limits of her town as they closed in on the girls in her classroom. Now, world-weary and unmoored by the loss of her husband, she has had enough of trying to save people. But her young neighbour, Debra-Ann – wild, motherless and lonely – has other ideas. When justice for Glory is evasive and one of the town’s women decides to take matters into her own hands, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.
Escape Routes by Naomi Ishiguro
A space-obsessed child conjures up a vortex in his mother's airing cupboard. A musician finds her friendship with a flock of birds opens up unexpected possibilities. A rat catcher, summoned to a decaying royal palace, is plunged into a battle for the throne of a ruined kingdom. Two newlyweds find themselves inhibited by the arrival in their lives of an outsized and watchful stuffed bear.
Whether snared in traps artfully laid for them, or those of their own making, the characters in Naomi Ishiguro's debut collection yearn for freedom and flight, and find their worlds transformed beyond their wildest imaginings.
Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen
Other people find Majella odd. She keeps herself to herself, she doesn't like gossip and she isn't interested in knowing her neighbours' business. But suddenly everyone in the small town in Northern Ireland where she grew up wants to know all about hers.
Since her da disappeared during the Troubles, Majella has tried to live a quiet life with her alcoholic mother. She works in the local chip shop (Monday-Saturday, Sunday off), wears the same clothes every day (overalls, too small), has the same dinner each night (fish and chips, nuked in the microwave) and binge watches Dallas (the best show ever aired on TV) from the safety of her single bed. She has no friends and no boyfriend and Majella thinks things are better that way.
But Majella's safe and predictable existence is shattered when her grandmother dies and as much as she wants things to go back to normal, Majella comes to realise that maybe there is more to life. And it might just be that from tragedy comes Majella's one chance at escape.