In brief: Happiness Falls; In Memoriam; All the Lonely People – reviews

<span>Alice Winn: ‘exquisite characterisation’.</span><span>Photograph: Maria Spann/The Observer</span>
Alice Winn: ‘exquisite characterisation’.Photograph: Maria Spann/The Observer

Happiness Falls
Angie Kim
Faber, £16.99, pp400

When 20-year-old Mia Parkson’s father goes missing, her family search for clues as to his disappearance. Where Mia is headstrong and forthright, her older brother, John, is more amenable, while her younger brother, Eugene – autistic and nonverbal – was with their father when he vanished. Multilayered and intricately structured, Kim’s second novel is a philosophical and compelling examination of neurodiversity, measures of happiness and the intricate tapestry of familial relationships.

In Memoriam
Alice Winn
Penguin, £9.99, pp400 (paperback)

What begins as an evocative literary novel about repressed homosexual desire in an English boarding school swiftly morphs into a gripping tale about life in the trenches of the first world war. Protagonists Henry and Sidney struggle against their illicit love for each other, portrayed by Winn with incredible tenderness and emotional complexity. She infuses her plot with propulsive narrative drive, exquisite characterisation and visceral descriptions of warfare. Quite simply one of the best debut novels to have been published in recent years.

All the Lonely People: Conversations on Loneliness
Sam Carr
Picador, £16.99, pp256

In a series of interviews, Carr explores human loneliness with those who’ve experienced bereavement, loss, poor parenting and social isolation. There is Veronica, whose mother wrongly accused her father of sexually abusing her, and 87-year-old Frank, who has spent his life in an emotional wasteland. Interspersed with these discussions are Carr’s own experiences. While the accumulation of these stories can make for bleak reading, his conclusion is that “empathy may be the most important antidote we have for loneliness”.