IoS books preview of 2013: Moggach finds us a new place to dwell

The 'Exotic Marigold' author follows up on her runaway film-adaptation success of 2012 with the equally funny and wise 'Heartbreak Hotel'

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The Independent Culture

There's a healthy mix of debut novels, new faces and old favourites to look forward to in 2013. The Blind Man's Garden (Faber & Faber, 7 Feb, £18.99) is the fourth novel by Nadeem Aslam, and in his typical, graceful style uses one family, from a small Pakistani town, as a lens on the "war on terror" in the months after 9/11. It begins with foster brothers Jeo and Mikal secretly entering Afghanistan to help care for wounded civilians; the depiction of their family is astute and tender. Fans of Aslam's previous novels, Season of the Rainbirds (1993), the Man Booker-longlisted Maps for Lost Lovers (2004) and The Wasted Vigil (2008) will not be disappointed.

Admirers of the work of Jim Crace are also in for a Valentine's Day treat, with Harvest (Picador, 14 February), which his publishers say is his biggest book since 1999's Being Dead. Set during the countryside enclosures of the 18th century, it begins enticingly: "Two twists of smoke at a time of year too warm for cottage fires surprise us at first light, or they at least surprise those of us who've not been up to mischief in the dark …."

Deborah Levy had already written three novels and several plays before last year's Man Booker shortlisting. Her new collection, Black Vodka And Other Stories (26 Feb) – are set across Europe, and are fragmented but beautiful.

Deborah Moggach is practically a national treasure now, especially after the film adaptation of her last novel, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Her next, Heartbreak Hotel (Chatto & Windus, 28 Feb) is about a "Courses for Divorces" wheeze run from a rural Welsh B&B, Myrtle House, and is just as gentle, funny and wise as Marigold Hotel.

According to Little Brown, a "remarkable debut novel" from Kevin Maher is one of its books of the year, and it should be. The Fields (7 Mar) introduces Jim Finnegan, the youngest in his family with five raucous sisters. It has all the energy and fun of Roddy Doyle's early novels … but then Jim meets the local beauty, Saidhbh, and things take a turn for the modern.

Another favourite author brings us a new novel – her first since 2010's Started Early, Took My Dog. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (Doubleday, 14 Mar) tells of a sort of "Groundhog Century" in which Ursula Todd, who was born and died during a snowstorm in 1910, gets to live the turbulent century again and again.

Two fabulous – and wildly different – childhood memoirs are published in spring. She Left Me the Gun: My Mother's Life Before Me, by Emma Brockes (Faber & Faber, 4 Apr), is all about her South African mother, who used to say: "One day I will tell you the story of my life, and you will be amazed." She never did. So, after she died, Brockes, a journalist, set out to find out for herself. The result is warm and funny – as is Maggie & Me, by another journalist, Damian Barr, inset far left, (Bloomsbury, 9 May). The story of his 1980s childhood – poor, lanky and gay in a small town near Glasgow – is shocking and funny in equal measure, and will have you weeping with laughter and sorrow, and singing "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" for days.

In a landmark move for publisher Mantle, it has announced it will publish Charlotte Mendelson's "breakthrough novel" this summer, calling it "stunning, moving and important" and saying it is "written in the most exquisite language, and in the most warm-hearted way". We thought that the Orange Prize-shortlisted author had already broken through, but we can't wait for Almost English – set in an English boarding school in the 1980s, with Hungarian exiles longing for home.

The most anticipated novel of the century so far will probably not be published in 2013. Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light – the last of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy – is still being researched and is unlikely to appear before 2015.

Face to watch

Anyone contemplating a New Year mission would do well first to read Cheryl Strayed's Wild: A Journey From Lost to Found (Atlantic, £12.99). The story of her three-month trek from top to bottom of America on the Pacific Crest Trail, it is bold and life-affirming, and a good lesson in why not to take on crazy challenges (the bits about her feet in particular). This is already a bestseller in the US – it's bound to do the same here.