The books and films we’re looking forward to this autumn

— by Alyson Walsh



Whether you’re staying in or going out, I’ve tried to find something for everyone this autumn. Now is the time to line up a few good books and I wanted to create as eclectic a list as possible for my autumn must-reads. There is a little gothic horror for the Halloween period. Escapes into other eras and experiences for those days when you want a change of scenery. But mostly, I have kept true to my love of strong female voices in this all female short-list:



The Fraud, Zadie Smith, [Hamish Hamilton] out now

The nature of truth is on trial in this novel inspired by Victorian England’s controversial Tichborne Trial. In her first work of historical fiction, Smith circles ‘round the Australian butcher who is the ‘Fraud’, and focuses on her protagonist Eliza – a Scottish housekeeper obsessed with the case – and its star witness, Andrew, a formerly enslaved plantation worker from Jamaica.

Our Strangers, Lydia Davis, [Cannongate] 3 October 2023

They say never judge a book by its cover, but its Zen-ness caught my eye. The image alludes to “A Matter of Perspective”, a poetic story about a mysterious white object. Perhaps the self-effacing humour of the “Claim to Fame” stories will win you over. This book of shorts had me when I heard that Davis requested it only be available through independent bookstores and retailers. Respect.

Rouge, Mona Awad, [Scribner] out now

Margaret Atwood has named Awad her heir apparent. Praise indeed. Many women inherit dysfunctional views on beauty from their mothers. Awad exploits this premise in her darkly humourous, gothic novel about a shop assistant whose mother’s early demise leads her to a spa she frequented and down the horror-tinted road of youth and beauty obsession.

Let Us Descend, Jesmyn Ward, [Bloomsbury] 24 October 2023

After National Book Awards for fiction for her first two books, many are anticipating a hat-trick with this beautifully written third. We follow an enslaved teenage girl, who has been sold by the Slave-owner who fathered her, on her long journey from the rice fields of North Carolina to the sugar plantations of Louisiana. Even in the most harrowing of situations, Ward is able to find the beauty.

Mama’s Sleeping Scarf, Nwa Grace-James (aka Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), [HarperCollins] out now

We normally don’t recommend children’s books, but this is Adichie’s first. Her last book was inspired by her father’s death, this one is inspired by her daughter. The scarf in the title protects mama’s hair at night, but in the day when she is at work, little Chino takes the scarf on many an adventure. If you hold an object dear because it reminds you of someone you love, this book will strike a cord.

Roman Stories, Jhumna Lahiri, (Publisher) 10 October 2023

This Pulitzer Prize winner moved to Rome ten years ago to learn Italian. She began writing in her new language and observing its people. These stories about them: locals, migrants and tourists, with keen eye for those that have been uprooted but are busy making their way in the Eternal City.

Wednesday’s Child, Yiyun Li, (Publisher) out now

Li is best known for The Book of Goose, now she has a new collection of short stories – many of which were previously published in the New Yorker. They are 11 stories of loss, alienation and other heart-breaking, but very relatable themes.


Photo: String Furniture




Behind the Seams, Dolly Parton (Ebury, £39.99) out now

Recommended by my friend Annie who is a big Dolly Parton fan (yep, she’s been to Dollywood), Behind the Seams: My Life In Rhinestones shares the stories, stage costumes and photos of the legendary country star. ‘From early on I loved the big hair and makeup, the long nails, the high heels, the flashy clothes,’ writes Dolly, ‘But believe it or not, I had to fight for that look.’

Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World, Naomi Klein, [Allen Lane] out now

Social Activist Naomi Klein gets mistaken for Naomi Wolf (author The Beauty Myth) all the time. But during the pandemic Klein was confused to be trolled for her ‘extremist views’. Deep diving into conspiracy culture, she discovers her feminist doppelganger has turned anti-vaxxer and celebrity conspiracy theorist. This sets Klein off on an exploration of a misinformation-filled world where “the other Naomi” thrives, and confronts how our doppelgangers hold a mirror to ourselves.

My Name is Barbra, Barbra Streisand, [Century] 7 November 2023

Barbra’s biog is going head-to-head with new releases by divas Madonna and Britney Spears this autumn. Our money is on this one because Babs (who is notoriously private), has produced a 992-page book on her terms. We hope it will spill the beans on her personal life as much as the building of her amazing career.

How to Say Babylon, Safiya Sinclair, [Fourth Estate] 3 October 2023

This book has echoes of Educated in that it peels back the curtain to an unfamiliar world. Poet Sinclair’s debut memoir, lyrically depicts her disturbing escape from a strict Rastafarian household in Jamaica. She finds herself and her voice in America and is finally able to confront her abusive father and the militant culture that was the foundation of so much of her childhood trauma.

The Young Man, Annie Ernaux, [Fitzcarraldo Editions] out now

2022 Nobel Prize winner Ernaux embarked on a passionate, but brief, affair in her 50s with a man in his 20s. In this short (64-page) book, she reflects on how the affair changed her views on love and aging. While it was published last year, the English translation has only now become available.

Opinions: A Decade of Arguments, Criticism, and Minding Other People’s Business, Roxane Gay, [Corsair] 10 October 2023

From Trump, to women’s rights, to questions of modern work etiquette, this is a collection of some of Gay’s best known New York Times essays and columns. It comes almost a decade after Bad Feminist, but it’s worth the wait.






Since the pandemic I’ve not been to the cinema as much as I’d like. Though I did catch this year’s must-see, the incredibly beautiful Past Lives – and I’ve been singing Talking Heads’ songs all week after watching the re-released version of Stop Making Sense. What I am looking forward to this autumn is seeing women of all ages, and their stories, front and centre on the big screen. Better still, women are also telling their stories as writers, directors and executive producers:




See this as a companion to the Lee Miller: Dressed exhibition in Brighton. Kate Winslet plays war journalist Lee Miller in this star-studded film adaptation of 1985 book The Lives of Lee Miller.  Liz Hannah and Marion Hume were part of the team that adapted it and it is directed by Ellen Kuras.

Out now


Smoke Sauna Sisterhood

This is the first documentary by an Estonian director to win a Sundance prize. Anna Hints’ empathetic film shares the rituals, secrets and experiences of a community of women at a traditional smoke sauna.

Out now



Director Sofia Coppola sets her sights on another famous female consort in this adaptation of Pricilla Presley’s memoir, Elvis and me. Stars one-to-watch Australian actor Jacob Elordi who is also in Saltburn (below).

In cinemas 3 November 2023


Swan Song

This intense behind-the-scenes documentary follows former Ballerina and Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Canada, Karen Kain, as she directs her final project before retiring – a production of Swan Lake. Actress Neve Campbell, a former ballerina herself, executive produces.

At BFI Film Festival, London UK, October 2023



Biopic about 64-year-old Diana Nyad’s (final) attempt to be the first to swim ‘un-caged’ from Cuba to Florida. Annette Benning (Diana) and Jodie Foster (best friend/coach Bonnie Stoll) star while Oscar-winning Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (Free Solo) directs.

In cinemas 20 October; On Netflix 3 November 2023



Award-winning actress/filmmaker/writer Emerald Fennell goes from strength-to-strength with this much-anticipated psychological thriller. It’s debut at the BFI Film Festival was a hot ticket, thanks to actresses Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan and Alison Oliver and co-producer Margot Robbie.

In cinemas 17 November 2023


American Fiction

After winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, this satirical comedy is getting a lot of buzz. Based on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everrett, it stars Jeffrey Wright as a frustrated novelist who uses a nom-de-plume to re-right Black exploitation. Tracee Ellis Ross, Sterling K Brown and Issa Rae form part of an exceptional cast.

In wide release, 22 December 2023



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