If you are a fan of Sarah Waters, you'll want to check out Imogen Hermes Gowar's delicious debut, and Patrick deWitt returns with one of the funniest novels of 2018.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
For those of you who didn’t think, “You had me at mermaid,” neither did I! But I’m so glad I read Imogen Hermes Gowar’s The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock or I would have missed one of the most delicious debuts of 2018. A Georgian romp reminiscent of Sarah Waters’s wonderfully bawdy Victorian-era novels, it follows the unlikely courtship of a celebrated courtesan and a decidedly undazzling merchant. The latter has come into a windfall, owing to the sale of a deceased merbaby (just go with it—the writing is that good), but it turns out that their union isn’t just reliant on the size of his…wallet. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is a treat of a read with clever, immersive dialog and enough twists and turns to make you wish the word count was even more generous (it's 496 pages). But it also slyly scrutinizes class, gender, and race divides—adding a layer of depth to a novel that is hopefully the first of many for Ms. Gowar. —Erin Kodicek
With French Exit, Patrick deWitt has written the most wickedly funny novel of 2018. You probably know: a “French exit” is when guests sneak out of a party without saying goodbye, and that’s just what Frances, “a moneyed, striking woman of 65 years” does when she blows through the last of her cash and flees Manhattan for Paris. Add to the mix her apathetic 32-year-old son, some ragtag expat friends, and a cat named Small Frank—who may or may not embody the spirit of Frances’s dead husband—and you have a bizarre but wildly successful comedy. DeWitt (Undermajordomo Minor; The Sisters Brothers) adds just a soupçon of pathos, making French Exit more than just frothy fun. This is one party you won’t want to leave early. —Sarah Harrison Smith