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The Highlights: Best of Fiction 2015

15/12/2014 07:09 GMT | Updated 13/02/2015 10:59 GMT

2015 is looking to be a brilliant year for fiction. There are novels coming from some of the finest female authors writing today (Jane Smiley, Anne Tyler, Anne Enright) and new titles from the authors of recent smash bestsellers (Kate Atkinson, SJ Watson). There are exciting second novels from writers of outstanding debuts (Anna Hope, Sarah Winman) and authors whose latest offerings we can expect to see on awards shortlists by the end of next year (Patrick Gale, David Whitehouse).

I've struggled to get this list down to twenty. But this is the list of books which I'd give to my best friend or my mum, or take on holiday if I happened to be having a particularly long one. It's the list of books I'm most excited about reading, and which I strongly suspect will be some of the most talked-about of the year. There are no debut novels on here; they're getting a list all of their own, coming later this week.

January

We'll start the year with David Whitehouse's second novel, Mobile Library (Picador, £14.99) because I've read it and it's brilliant. Every page is filled with beautifully crafted sentences in a story replete with pathos and humour.

Two more second novels are on my January picks: fellow writers have been praising Vigilante by Shelley Harris (W&N, £12.99), while Kaui Hart Hemmings, author of the The Descendents, returns with The Possibilities (Jonathan Cape, £12.99) about a woman dealing with the death of her twenty-two year old son.

Also tackling the subject of grief and loss is Anna McPartlin's The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes (Black Swan, £7.99), which I suspect, from early reviews, will have us all reaching for the tissues and laughing through our tears.

February

Any novel from Anne Tyler is always going to be a literary event, and A Spool of Blue Thread (Chatto and Windus, £18.99) is no exception. I've read this and it's everything you'd expect from Tyler: a quiet sense of emotional tragedy, sharp observational humour and writing so economically precise you long to read every sentence twice.

SJ Watson's debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep became an international bestseller in 2012 followed by a major Hollywood movie, so expectations will be riding high for Second Life (Doubleday, £14.99), a psychological thriller about a woman leading a double life.

March

I'll happily lay a wager now that Patrick Gale's A Place Called Winter (Tinder Press, £16.99) will be on some awards shortlists come the end of 2015. I savoured every sentence of this tender, heroic and heartbreaking story, and I'm not alone: authors and bloggers alike are already raving about it.

The first novel in five years by Kazuo Ishiguro is destined to be a literary event and 2015 sees publication of The Buried Giant (Faber & Faber, £20). Telling the story of a couple heading on a journey in search of the son they haven't seen for years, it promises to be filled with Ishiguro's trademark quiet emotional desperation.

I'm excited by the synopses of two more novels in March: Molly McGrann's Ladies of the House (Picador, £12.99) and Judith Claire Mitchell's A Reunion of Ghosts (4th Estate, £14.99) which looks like a story rich in family dysfunction.

April

I loved Sarah Hall's The Electric Michelangelo, so am looking forward to reading her latest novel, The Wolf Border (Faber & Faber) about a woman returning to her home in the Lake District after a decade's absence.

CL Taylor's debut The Accident was a deserved bestseller in 2014 and her follow-up, The Lie (Avon, £7.99), promises to be a similarly compelling psychological thriller.

Both The Street by Bernadine Bishop (Sceptre, £18.99) and Villa America by Liza Klaussmann (Picador, £14.99) have intriguing synopses and are also high on my list to read for April.

May

My most eagerly awaited book of the year is Jane Smiley's Early Warning (Mantle, £17.99), the second in her in Last Hundred Years trilogy. The first, Some Luck, was one of the outstanding novels of 2014, an epic tale of one family's struggles for emotional and practical survival in early twentieth century Iowa. I can't wait to return to the fortunes of the Langdons in 2015.

With Life After Life, Kate Atkinson had one of the most talked-out and award-winning books of 2013. Her new novel, A God in Ruins (Doubleday, £20), is a companion to Life After Life, telling the story of Ursula Todd's younger brother Teddy. I'm fully expecting it to be one of the bestselling books of the year.

Anne Enright is another author whose new titles always generate deserved anticipation and 2015 sees the publication of The Green Road (Jonathan Cape, £17.99), described as "a book about family, selfishness and compassion"; what more could you want from a novel?

June

When God Was a Rabbit was a runaway bestseller in 2011 and now Sarah Winman is back with A Year of Marvellous Ways (Tinder Press, 16.99), a story set in 1947 about an unlikely friendship between a ninety year old woman and a troubled soldier reeling from the war.

Anna Hope's Wake was one of the most outstanding debut novels of 2014, and next year she returns with A Different Season (Doubelday, £12.99), set in a lunatic asylum in 1911: I'm expecting the writing to be every bit as rich, evocative and full of period detail as Hope's debut.

Finally, rounding off the first half of the year is Frederick Backman's My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologies (Sceptre, £13.99). Backman had a hit last year with A Man Called Ove and his new novel, about a lonely seven-year-old girl's relationship with her batty grandmother, promises the same combination of pathos and comedy as his first.