April book of the month shortlist

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April's Book of the Month shortlist is all about gender-bending. More than race, class or religion, it is the difference between his 'n' hers that has shaped our world. Whether they're changing from man to woman or being both at the same time or not having any idea at all, all the heroes/heroines of our shortlisted novels encounter fear, mystery, prejudice and the truth behind the battle of the sexes.

Have a look at the choice and then vote for the book you'd most like us to discuss – and when you've read the winner, don't forget to share it with your other half...

sacred country coverRose Tremain: Sacred Country
Six-year-old Mary Ward has a revelation: she is not a girl; she is a boy and must grow up to be a man. So begins the soul-searching struggle to become Martin Ward, from stagnant village life in East Anglia to Swinging London of the 60s to Nashville, Tennessee. It's a novel about the journeys of people's lives, and the factors that shape them. In particular, it's about the struggles of non-conformists, and people trapped where they don't want to be: in the wrong body; in mental illness; in a small rural village with a mind-numbing job. The struggle of anyone, in fact, considered to be 'different'. Rose Tremain is imaginative, profound and compassionate. A moving and complex novel, with great humour and intelligence.

Jeffrey Eugenides: Middlesexmiddlesex cover
A beautifully written epic tale, spanning eight decades and three generations of a Greek family who migrate to America in the 1920s. Calliope Stephanides has inherited a rare genetic mutation that means that he is part-woman and part-man. His/her story is set against great sweeping social and political changes in 20th-century America. Funny, poignant, touching, compassionate, educational and imaginative, Eugenides is a master storyteller. He is daring. He tackles immense subjects with seemingly effortless ease. As the Los Angeles Times put it, "Eugenides has taken the greatest mystery of all – what are we, exactly, and where do we come from? – and crafted a story that manages to be both illuminating and transcendent." Not to be missed.

orlando book coverViginia Woolf: Orlando
Orlando has always been an outsider. Chasing a dream through the centuries, he bounds from Elizabethan England and imperial Turkey to the modern world, morphing from man to woman. Will he find happiness with the exotic Russian Princess Sasha? Or is the dashing explorer Shelmerdine the ideal man? Written by Virginia Woolf as a love letter to her close friend, Vita Sackville-West, she called this book 'a writer's holiday'. And it is definitely one of her most enjoyable novels, full of dry comments and fantastical adventure.


the left hand of darkness coverUrsula Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness
Welcome to the distant world of Winter, a cold and frosty land that has been isolated from the rest of the galaxy for millennia. A lone ambassador from Earth has arrived to welcome the people of Winter into the greater communities of the Galaxy. But here, the people are neither male nor female and there has never been a world war of any description. Le Guin takes us along through the lessons this strange planet has to teach about human nature. Although a relatively short novel, the world it creates is richly imagined and entirely believable – complete with geography, climate, culture, economy, psychology, religion, ideology, and mythology. A great classic, beautifully crafted.

Vote for the book you'd most like to be April's Book Club choice. The poll closes at midnight on Friday 27 March. 

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