Ainslie HogarthAtlantic, £14.99, pp288
After Ralph’s mother kills herself in the basement, his wife Abby stays up all night scrubbing away the blood, little knowing that a far more onerous task awaits: exorcising Laura’s ghost. The couple moved into Ralph’s childhood home in order to help Laura cope with her depression, but now they are the ones who are ailing, dealing with dysfunctional childhoods and yearning for something better. Mental illness and the maternal urge become nightmarishly entwined in this gutsy, gory mashup of domestic horror and dark humour.
Alice VernonIcon Books, £16.99, pp272
Despite being one of those people who drift off with annoying ease, Alice Vernon does not sleep soundly, she sleeps “strangely”. Ever since childhood, she’s been prone to “parasomnias” – sleep disturbances that include nightmares, sleepwalking and ghostly hallucinations. In a discourse fired by lively inquiry and vivid personal anecdote, she looks to art, literature and science to demonstrate the profound effect these eerie and surprisingly common nocturnal states have had on the human imagination. It’s a fascinating debut – just don’t read it at bedtime.
Virginia CowlesFaber, £12.99, pp560 (paperback)
When aspiring foreign correspondent Virginia Cowles turned up to report on the Spanish civil war in 1937, she was a 26-year-old Boston debutante in heels. Over the next few years she would report from Paris as it fell to the Nazis, London on the first day of the blitz, and Berlin on the day Germany invaded Poland. She liked to say that her only qualification was curiosity, but as this timely reissue of her bestselling 1941 memoir proves, she also had courage, tenacity and a flair for observation. A penchant for name-dropping only makes it more irresistible.