4th Estate, £8.99 (paperback)
A teenage girl goes missing on a windswept moor; police and press descend, rumours sweep through the nearby village. But in McGregor’s brilliant, Costa-winning novel, no body is found, no crime solved. Days, months and years pass – and normal life begins to intrude once again. Children turn into adults, families come together and fall apart – and all the while McGregor slowly builds a compelling picture of an entire rural community: there is some quite remarkable nature writing on display here too. Sombre yet soothing, the cyclical structure of its 13 chapters over 13 years means Reservoir 13’s layered effect is a powerful meditation on time and life itself.
Late last year, Rihanna paid homage to Nefertiti for Vogue Arabia – just too late for comment by historian Joyce Tyldesley in her new book on the Egyptian queen, but rather underlining her point that a 3,000-year-old bust has become a cultural icon. Tyldesley first sets the scene of the Armarna age in which Nefertiti lived before exploring the creation of the bust by royal sculptor Thutmose and finally explaining why, on its rediscovery in early 20th-century Germany, it caused such a stir. It does feel a little like an extended essay – there aren’t enough of Tyldesley’s enjoyable personal asides – and she has already published a Nefertiti biography covering a lot of this ground, but it’s breezily readable stuff nonetheless.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £14.99
The cover of Sheehan’s enjoyable debut novel makes wry reference to the notion that it sits somewhere between comedy, road trip and tragedycorrect, but this exercise in literary plate-spinning just about pulls off its conceit. Conceived as a way in which Sheehan could explore his interest in the siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s and what he calls the epidemic of suicide in Ireland’s young people, three old school friends reconvene on a trip through California, trying to help Tom overcome the PTSD he is suffering after experiencing the war in Bosnia – which itself is presented in ghastly detail in alternate chapters. There’s some fine Irish comedy along the way, and Sheehan adeptly pierces the nature of lasting friendship, even if it sometimes teeters on the edge of caricature.