The Guide delves beneath the covers of the latest fiction and non-fiction releases.

Next To Love by Ellen Feldman is published as a trade paperback by Picador, priced £12.99. Available now.

This offering from Ellen Feldman follows on from the success of her Orange Prize-nominated Scottsboro.

It follows the lives of Babe, Grace and Millie; three friends living in small-town America at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The novel sees them try to cope with the dramatic upheaval and emotional turbulence caused by the war.

The young women must first watch their men leave for Europe, not knowing whether they will return. Then come the dreaded telegrams from the War Department, while the women whose men do return are heartbroken to find them changed due to the horrors they have witnessed.

Feldman’s saga paints a vivid picture of the war's effects on women, their relationships and sense of self. It also touches on wider issues such as sexism, racism and anti-Semitism.

It is beautifully written in rather poetic language, while being populated with complex, very real characters.

Silk Road by Colin Falconer is published in hardback by Atlantic Books, priced £17.99. Available now.

Josseran Sarazini is a Knight Templar who undertakes a journey to the end of the world in a vain bid to form an alliance that can save the far outposts of the Christian Empire from the Saracens.

In Colin Falconer's epic tale, Josseran and his companion William, a Dominican friar in search of his own place in history, travel to the famed Xanadu of Khubilai Khan in order to bargain with the Mongol horde.

An entertaining and exciting story, Silk Road takes the companions on a journey that is as much a trek to discover their own souls as an attempt to keep Palestine from the clutches of the Saracens.

Falconer, a former TV, radio and freelance journalist whose books have been translated into 17 languages over the last 25 years, has spun together a fiction which will appeal to readers of all ages.

With several twists to keep the reader engaged until the very last, Silk Road is sure to find its way on to the bookshelves of lovers of a thrilling tale.

The Sound Of Gravity by Joe Simpson is published in hardback by Jonathan Cape, priced £16.99. Available now.

Joe Simpson is best known for his autobiographical account of his near-death experience climbing in the mountains of Peru, featured in Touching The Void.

His second fictional novel, The Sound Of Gravity, also centres on a tragic climbing accident. Mountaineer Patrick undertakes a difficult climb in the middle of winter with his partner, only for it to end with her plummeting to her death, forcing a stricken Patrick to deal with his grief alone on the mountain, and to compound his misery, survive an approaching storm.

The second half of the book explores the aftermath of the accident and profound effects it has upon Patrick’s life.

The tale is deftly woven with an air of immediacy and a visceral, intimate feel, drawing heavily on Simpson’s mountaineering experiences, but its strengths are also its weaknesses, because the detail becomes tiresome and is often monotonous.

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham At The Court Of Elizabeth I by John Cooper is published in hardback by Faber and Faber, priced £20. Available now.

The first Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham (c1532-1590) was one of the most powerful men in England, but has remained a shadowy figure until now.

This is partly because most of his personal papers were thrown away after his death.

For this book, university lecturer and historian John Cooper has delved deep and come up with a clearer picture of the formidably hard-line Protestant who devoted a third of his life to protecting the Queen and her realm from Catholic plots and, in 1588, an unsuccessful invasion bid by Spain.

Unlike so many at court, Walsingham was not in the job for money and his agents were his own servants.

He used them throughout the British Isles and abroad, employing invisible inks, codes and other ingenious techniques, and was chillingly ruthless with people he perceived as a threat to Elizabeth and the nation.

Cooper’s complex book is a scholarly work, which will be welcomed by Tudor enthusiasts and readers with a taste for detailed English history.

Girl In A Green Gown: The History And Mystery Of The Arnolfini Portrait by Carola Hicks is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £16.99. Available now.

A picture paints a thousand words. And this is certainly true when looking at The Arnolfini Portrait, an enchanting and curious 15th century painting from the Netherlands, and one of the most important works of art in Western cultural history.

The medieval couple featured in the painting seem to be conveying a message, but historians have long argued its enigmatic meaning.

Art historian Carola Hicks has been fascinated by the painting for many years and her book does full justice to both the mystery and the history behind its creation, and its meandering path to its current home in the National Gallery in London.

Hicks has a mastery of this kind of forensic storytelling, and doesn't disappoint the reader as she brings to life the people and the times of the painting’s creation and then the equally fascinating history of the painting's subsequent journeys. Inviting and gripping – and thoroughly recommended.