The Ones To Watch: Best Debut Fiction Coming In 2015

18/12/2014 18:11 | Updated 16 February 2015

Every year thousands of debut novels are published and readers, critics and publishing houses alike wait to find out which of those books will become The Next Big Thing.

But what is it that makes debut fiction so irresistible? For some it's the excitement of discovering new voices. For others it's the possibility of following a writer though a long career from the very beginning.

For me it's about the fact that a debut novel is the sum total of an author's life, thoughts, experience and wisdom to date, whether they pen that novel in their twenties or their sixties. There's a rawness to debut fiction - however beautifully crafted - which I don't think is every quite repeated. It was no surprise to me that in 2014, seven out of my top ten novels of the year were debuts.

So I've got high hopes for the twenty books featured below. Only time will tell which, if any, will follow the phenomenal success of 2014's The Miniaturist. But I'll be rooting for each and every one of them.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper (Fig Tree, £12.99) is one of Penguin's big debuts for the year. There've been a lot of 'old person goes on a long journey' novels lately, but I've dipped into this and it's charming, funny and I think will do incredibly well.

Two novels for January have already been generating quite a buzz on social media: psychological thriller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Doubleday, £12.99) also comes with advance praise from SJ Watson, while Alice and the Fly by James Rice (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99) is described as "a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners".

Finally in January comes The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester (Simon and Schuster, £7.99) a story of circuses and suffragettes set in Edwardian England from which I'm expecting an entertaining historical romp against a backdrop of feminism.

The Chimes by Anna Smaill (Sceptre, £14.99) is Sceptre's only debut novel in 2015 and has already garnered some rave reviews from the book industry. Described as a novel "composed of memory, music, love and freedom" I'm expecting it to be one of the most lyrical debuts of the year.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree, £14.99) has a compelling synopsis: a father takes his eight-year-old daughter to a remote European forest, telling her the rest of the world has disappeared. Nine years later she returns home and the secrets of the intervening years begin to unravel.

Also featuring a child protagonist is If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie (William Heinemann, £12.99) about an agoraphobic mother, her son and the messy outside world he finds himself involved with when he dares to leave the house.

Two books which have already received impressive celebrity praise conclude February's debuts: Miranda July's The First Bad Man (Canongate, £12.99, Feb 19th), has wowed Lena Dunham and Dave Eggers. Meanwhile Antonia Honeywell's dystopian novel The Ship (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £12.99), described as "The Hunger Games meets The Handmaid's Tail", comes with advance praise from Helen Dunmore, Richard Eyre and Maggie Gee.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer (Faber and Faber, £12.99), about a woman whose daughter goes missing, promises to be a page-turning yet beautifully written novel: if the first couple of chapters are indicative of the rest, it's going to be a fantastic read.

The synopsis of James Hannah's The A to Z of You and Me (Doubleday, £12.99) is both simple yet beautiful: a forty year old man lies ill in a bed, narrating his story as he moves through the alphabet choosing a different part of the body for each letter.

There's nothing not to love about a debut novelist in their fifties, so I've got everything crossed for Catherine Chanter's The Well (Canongate, £12.99), a literary thriller which has been compared to Margaret Atwood and comes with advance praise from 2014's literary debut star, Jessie Burton.

Finally in March comes The Shore by Sara Taylor (William Heinemann, £12.99), a collection of interweaving stories set on the coast of Virginia which promises lyrical writing and quietly tragic storytelling.

Jakob's Colours by Lindsay Hawdon (Hodder and Stoughton, £12.99) tells the story of the often-overlooked Gypsy Holocaust during World War Two. I'm hoping the writing will be every bit as heartbreaking as the synopsis.

I don't usually read much fantasy, but when a book's synopsis has echoes of Philip Pullman it's irresistible. The Honours by Tim Clare (Canongate, £12.99) looks like a book which will successfully cross over the YA and adult markets.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight (Doubleday, £12.99) has a compelling narrative proposition: a woman picks up a novel and quickly realises it's her story and is going to reveal her darkest secret. Since being a character in a novel is probably every reader's biggest fantasy and greatest fear, I'm expecting Disclaimer to do incredibly well.

Already out in e-book and having received rave reviews from authors and bloggers alike is Clare Mackintosh's psychological thriller I Let You Go (Sphere, £13.99), about a woman trying to escape a tragic accident in her past.

Tinder Press have been operating as an imprint of Headline for less than three years but they've published some of my favourite books in that time, so I've very high hopes for The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger (Tinder Press, £16.99). Set in the Canadian wilderness, it's described as a story of "fathers and sons and the heartache they cause each other" and having read the first few chapters, it's going to be a haunting and beautiful read.

Laura Barnett's The Versions of Us (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £12.99) tells three different versions of the same story in what I'm hoping will be a well-crafted Sliding Doors-type story.

Rounding off the first half of the year is Cesca Major's debut The Silent Hours (Corvus, £12.99), described as "a heart-rending story of love and loss inspired by a tragic event in Unoccupied France." 

So there you have it. The twenty debut novels I'm most excited about in the first half of 2015. See you back here this time next year to find out if I called any of them right...

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