Deborah Orr (W&N, £9.99)

Journalist Deborah Orr died of breast cancer in 2019 aged 57, leaving behind this precious account of growing up in Motherwell in the 1960s and 1970s. Her troubled relationship with her parents, particularly her mother, who was given to explosive rages and harsh punishments, is the core of her book. Her father, who worked at Ravenscraig, was a quieter person than his wife, but had a cruel streak himself and did nothing to curb her. Orr remembers them as narcissists, and the atmosphere she grew up in as one of “performative anger”, her parents’ mixture of self-regard and self-loathing mirrored in the community around them, where the optimism of the post-war high-rise housing schemes was permeated with social conservatism and sectarianism. Both as a family memoir, in which Orr wrests back control of her life’s narrative from her mother, and as a social history of industrial Scotland sliding into inexorable decline, it’s superb.


Rebecca Wait (riverrun, £8.99)

The Scottish island of Litta is a fittingly bleak setting for Rebecca Wait’s third novel. In the 1990s, Katrina goes there to raise a family with her husband, John, whose outward appearance as a quiet, devoted husband conceals something far more sinister and dangerous. One day, John kills his family and himself, leaving only his eight-year-old son Tommy alive. At the age of 31, Tommy comes back to Litta, asking to stay at his uncle Malcolm’s while he tries to come to terms with the trauma from which he has never been able to move on. His return is the cue for a re-examination of the past, with no easy answers in sight, and stirs up guilt and fear in the community he left behind. Waits’ stark, unadorned prose traces out a grim but compassionate story, an unsettling exploration of masculinity and domestic violence which is nevertheless compelling, haunting and hard to put down.


Aravind Adiga (Picador, £8.99)

As a bushfire spreads a pall of smoke across Sydney, Danny is faced with a dilemma. A Sri Lankan who has been living as an illegal alien since dropping out of college and seeing his asylum application rejected, he works as a cleaner. When one of his clients is murdered, and Danny is certain he knows the killer’s identity, he has to decide whether to report his suspicions to the police at the risk of being deported. While Danny weighs up the threat the murderer poses to him, the Booker-winning Adiga, an Australian citizen himself, highlights the contradictions in the immigration policies of a country whose economy depends on immigrant labour. His palpable anger heightening the sense of urgency around Danny’s plight, Adiga gives voice to the tens of thousands living invisible lives, investing Danny’s incisive observations of the society around him with a close understanding of how Australia treats its immigrants.