[Video] Holiday Gift Guide: Unwrap the joy of reading with Pan Macmillan SA’s best of 2020 fiction books
Time to wrap up the year that was 2020. Pan Macmillan SA has the book selection to help you unwind and put your mind in holiday mode.
Have a look at the top 2020 fiction releases, perfect for holiday reading!
From award-winning authors to thrilling page-turners and gripping debut novels, unwrap the joy of reading this festive season with these must-read books.
Pan Macmillan’s Holiday Gift Guide: Fiction
Watch the video for the full list:
Have a closer look at the 13 top fiction books of 2020:
A Family Affair by Sue Nyathi
Family is complicated …
Meet the Mafus, a close-knit, traditional family with three daughters. As leaders of their church, The Kingdom of God, Pastor Abraham and his wife Phumla are guiding the community of Bulawayo in faith while trying to keep the different branches of their family intact.
Independent and feisty Xoliswa returns home, after a hiatus abroad, hoping for a fresh start and a chance to steer the family business; rebellious Yandisa has met the love of her life and is finally getting her act together; while dutiful newlywed Zandile is slowly becoming disillusioned with her happily ever after.
The Mafus always present a united front, but as their personal lives unravel, devastating secrets are revealed that threaten to tear the family apart. For how long will they be able to hide behind the façade of a picture-perfect family?
‘Sue Nyathi is a powerful literary force. A Family Affair exquisitely captures the complexities of family, culture and the societal constructs that surround women. Eloquent, evocative and utterly engrossing.’ – Desiree-Anne Martin, author of We Don’t Talk About It. Ever.
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Critical But Stable by Angela Makholwa
Critical But Stable is a murder mystery thriller centred around four couples who from the outside are the picture of #blacklove and #loveliveshere. They are all successful in their own right and part of a high-end stokvel called Khula Social Club.
The idea behind the club is to pull funds together and collectively make short term investments while socialising with the ‘right’ people. In reality, none of them really need the money, the social club is an excuse to have extravagant parties and keep up appearances. We quickly learn that nothing is as it seems in the novel’s opening scene where a man is looking down at the naked body of a beautiful woman, who might be dead. We don’t know who either of them are but immediately sense that something bad has happened and she shouldn’t be where she is.
As we get to know the couples we learn that behind closed doors they all face serious challenges in their relationships. Debt, sexual frustration and dangerous ambitions threaten to destroy everything they’ve built so far. They all try to deal with their issues quietly but as the opening scene suggests their journeys are anything but smooth. As the story progresses we piece together clues to who the woman might be and what happened to her.
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Not to Mention by Vivian de Klerk
As her 21st birthday approaches, Katy Ferreira has not left her bedroom for close on two years. In fact, she has not left her bed – at 360 kilograms, she simply can’t.
Characterised by an indomitable spirit, Katy tries to make the best of a bad situation. She does the crossword in the Herald newspaper her mother brings home, consumes the food she craves – biscuits, pies, doughnuts, litres of fizzy drinks – and waits in hope for insulin and a solution to her plight.
To pass the time she begins to compile her own crossword in one of the Croxley notebooks that have been unused since she dropped out of school. Within each cryptic clue is a message, an attempt to explain how it feels to be ‘the fat girl’, how taking comfort in sweet things as a grieving and lonely child escalated into a deadly relationship with food and a psychological and physical disease.
The process triggers splintered memories of dark family secrets and hints of culpability. As Katy finds her voice – quirky, macabre, devastatingly astute and viciously funny at times – the notebooks fill up.
Not to Mention is part diary, part memoir, part love-hate letter to the mother who fuelled her daughter’s addiction as steadily as the world ostracised her. The destructive power of shame and society’s harsh judgement of people who are ‘different’ is matched by the immense courage of a young woman who is determined to be heard.
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The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue
Dublin, 1918. In a country doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
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The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett
A TIME OF CONFLICT
It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages, and England faces attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Life is hard, and those with power wield it harshly, bending justice according to their will – often in conflict with the king. With his grip on the country fragile and with no clear rule of law, chaos and bloodshed reign.
THREE LIVES INTERTWINED
Into this uncertain world three people come to the fore: a young boatbuilder, who dreams of a better future when a devastating Viking raid shatters the life that he and the woman he loves hoped for; a Norman noblewoman, who follows her beloved husband across the sea to a new land only to find her life there shockingly different; and a capable monk at Shiring Abbey, who dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a centre of learning admired throughout Europe.
THE DAWN OF A NEW AGE
Now, with England at the dawn of the Middle Ages, these three people will each come into dangerous conflict with a ruthless bishop, who will do anything to increase his wealth and power, in an epic tale of ambition and rivalry, death and birth, and love and hate.
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Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest.
Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.
Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride. A counterpart to the privileged Thatcher-era London of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, it also recalls the work of Édouard Louis, Frank McCourt, and Hanya Yanagihara, a blistering debut by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.
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When I was Ten by Fiona Cummins
Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were murdered in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.
Ten-year-old Sara Carter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.
Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister Shannon Carter, compelling her to break two decades of silence.
Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.
For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened on that blood-soaked night – with devastating consequences for them all.
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The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves
Driving home during a swirling blizzard, Vera Stanhope’s only thought is to get there quickly.
But with the snow driving down heavily, she becomes disorientated and loses her way. Ploughing on, she sees a car slewed off the road ahead of her. With the driver’s door open, Vera assumes the driver has sought shelter but when she inspects the car she is shocked to find a young toddler strapped in the back seat.
Afraid they will freeze, Vera takes the child and drives on, arriving at Brockburn, a run-down stately home she immediately recognises as the house her father Hector grew up in.
Inside Brockburn a party is in full swing, with music and laughter to herald the coming Christmas. But outside in the snow, a young woman lies dead and Vera knows immediately she has a new case. Could she be the child’s mother and, if it is, what happened to her?
A classic country house mystery with a contemporary twist, Ann Cleeves returns with a brilliant new Vera novel to savour.
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To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini
Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds
Now she’s awakened a nightmare
During a routine survey mission on an uncolonised planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.
As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.
While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope …
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Daylight by David Baldacci
Daylight is the gripping follow up to Long Road to Mercy and A Minute to Midnight, featuring Special Agent Atlee Pine from one of the world’s most favourite thriller writers David Baldacci.
FBI Agent Atlee Pine’s search for her twin sister, Mercy, coincides with military investigator John Puller’s high-stakes case, leading them both into a global conspiracy from which neither of them will escape unscathed.
Ever since Mercy was abducted after a brutal incident when the girls were just six years old, Atlee has been relentless in her search for the truth. Now, just as time is running out on her investigation, she finally gets her most promising breakthrough yet – the identity of her sister’s kidnapper: Ito Vincenzo. Last known location: New Jersey.
As Atlee and her assistant, Carol Blum, race to track down Vincenzo, they run into Pine’s old friend John Puller, who is investigating Vincenzo’s family for another crime involving a military installation.
Working together, Pine and Puller pull back the layers of deceit, lies and cover-ups that strike at the very heart of global democracy. And the truth about what happened to Mercy is finally revealed.
And that truth will shock Atlee Pine to her very core.
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Last Survivor by Tony Park
A priceless plant, a rare African cycad thought to be extinct and prized by collectors, has been discovered, then stolen.
Joanne Flack, widowed and broke, is the prime suspect for the crime. While supposedly hiding out in London she single-handedly foils a terrorist plot, killing a lone-wolf gunman.
Former mercenary turned CIA contractor, Sonja Kurtz, uncovers a link between the missing plant and the terrorist who tried to kill Joanne. The US Government thinks that if it can find the missing cycad it can foil an attack to rival 9-11.
Hot on Joanne’s trail is retired US Fish and Wildlife Department special agent Rod Cavanagh who knows his plants and knows his target – he’s her former lover.
Joanne is a member of the Pretoria Cycad and Firearms Appreciation Society. She, Sonja and Rod enlist the help of this group of ageing gardeners and gun nuts to find a plant worth a fortune and the traitor in their midst who is willing to kill for it.
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Hidden in Plain Sight by Jeffrey Archer
Newly promoted, Detective Sergeant William Warwick has been reassigned to the drugs squad. His first case: to investigate a notorious south London drug lord known as the Viper.
But as William and his team close the net around a criminal network unlike any they have ever encountered, he is also faced with an old enemy, Miles Faulkner. It will take all of William’s cunning to devise a means to bring both men to justice; a trap neither will expect, one that is hidden in plain sight . . .
Filled with Jeffrey Archer’s trademark twists and turns, Hidden in Plain Sight is the gripping next installment in the life of William Warwick. It follows on from Nothing Ventured, but can be read as a standalone story.
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The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel
The New York Times bestselling novel, from the author of Station Eleven.
‘A damn fine novel … haunting and evocative and immersive’ George RR Martin
Vincent is the beautiful bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass-and-cedar palace on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. New York financier Jonathan Alkaitis owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, a hooded figure scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: ‘Why don’t you swallow broken glass.’ Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship.
Weaving together the lives of these characters, Emily St John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the towers of Manhattan and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.
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Tags 2020 Best Fiction Books A Family Affair Angela Makholwa Ann Cleeves Christopher Paolini Critical But Stable David Baldacci Daylight Douglas Stuart Emily St. John Mandel Emma Donoghue Fiction Books Fiona Cummins Hidden in Plain Sight Holiday Gift Guide Jeffrey Archer Ken Follett Last Survivor Not to Mention Pan Macmillan SA Shuggie Bain Sue Nyathi The Darkest Evening The Evening and the Morning The Glass Hotel The Pull of the Stars To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Tony Park Video Vivian de Klerk When I was Ten