by Michael Ondaatje

Sri Lankan-born Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje is a prolific poet, but is perhaps best known for a novel that was later adapted into a hugely successful movie: The English Patient. Warlight is the author's is his first novel in seven years, and like much of Ondaatje's work it tells a story on an international scale. The action is initially set in the immediate aftermath of World War II and is narrated by teenager Nathaniel. He and his sister have been abandoned in mysterious circumstances by their parents, and are instead looked after by a colourful crew of potential criminals. It's only a dozen years later that Nathaniel tries to figure out what actually happened, and why his mother returned without a word. Ondaatje's prose is beautiful, and he successfully builds suspense and tension without seeming too heavy-handed. However, it's undeniable that the most exciting and interesting part of the book is the beginning, with its captivating range of characters. When they disappear, the storyline becomes greyer, and Ondaatje relies too much on unanswered questions to hold attention.

The Female Persuasion

by Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer's twelfth book follows Greer Kadetsky, an ambitious but shy student who is struggling to figure out who she is and how she fits into the modern world. Seeking a sense of purpose, Greer's life is turned upside down when she meets Faith Frank, a prominent second-wave feminist speaker. Greer soon finds herself drawn to Faith's energy and ultimately ends up working for her after she graduates. Through the pair's complex relationship of mentor and mentee, Wolitzer explores important themes of how to live a politically meaningful life and what feminism means to different generations of women. There's lots to enjoy here - the plot is pacy and you'll come to care and deeply invest in these characters through Wolitzer's brilliantly sharp prose, but this is also a book that grapples with plenty of the big gender topics, but fails to say anything particularly radical about them.

The Last Children Of Tokyo

by Yoko Tawada

"Nothing is more frightening than a law that has never been enforced," - Yoko Tawada's Tokyo-set novel of ideas is full of thoughtful observations of this sort. The action takes place in a post-Apocalyptic Japan which has sealed itself off from the outside world and is gradually returning to traditional ways of living. It is a strange world where the old people live forever and the children struggle with massive health problems under a totalitarian government that rules by euphemism and unspecified fear. Centenarian Yoshiro's unending vigilance in the care for his desperately sick great grandson Mumei forms a great deal of the substance of the novel. It's not a laugh a minute, but nonetheless is full of quiet humour, and the fine detail and neat inversions of contemporary life which Tawada supplies are a continual source of interest for those readers willing to tackle something a little out of the ordinary.

The Day War Came

by Nicola Davies

Children's author and poet Nicola Davies was outraged by the British government's decision to not accept unaccompanied child refugees in 2016. When she heard a child refugee had been turned away from a school near a refugee camp because there wasn't a chair for her to sit on, it was just another story of many that prompted a poem and that poem has now turned into a book illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. It isn't an easy read with its descriptions of the impact of war, and in a sense harks back to some of the horrors of Grimms' Fairy Tales, but it ends on a hopeful note about the power of kindness and the potential for a better future. Parents reading it to their children may need to be ready to talk about what it means, but it could open up discussions about what is on the news every day, and how we can help.