Books to Look Out For in September 2015: Part 1

Sweet CaressJust back from my Baltic states jaunt – of which more in a few days – and barely unpacked so here’s one I made earlier. September’s traditionally a big month for publishing – Christmas is on the horizon for booksellers even if the rest of us are busy sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring it. Consequently there are some starry names shining out from the schedules but you won’t find all of them here, just the ones that appeal to me.

I’ll kick off with a novel by one of those stars, albeit one I’ve become a bit disenchanted with lately. I was a great fan of William Boyd’s Restless, the first of his novels that could be called a thriller. He’s continued in that vein for the last three or four books but the novelty’s worn off for me; Waiting for Sunrise very nearly put the kybosh on my Boyd fandom. Sweet Caress, however, looks like a welcome return to Any Human Heart territory. It follows the life of Amory Clay  whose Uncle Grenville fills the gap left by her emotionally and physically absent father and who gives her a camera setting her on a path that will take her from snapping socialites in his London studio to Berlin in the ’20s, New York in the ’30s and on to a career as a war photographer. Lovers, husbands and children flesh out a life fully lived, apparently. Sounds like a thoroughly enjoyable return to form to me.

Truth be told I’ve also fallen out of sympathy with Margaret Atwood’s novels over the past few years but I like the look of The Heart Goes Last. It’s about Stan and Charmaine, living in desperate economic straits. An advertisement for the Positron Project, a social experiment offering stable jobs and a home, seems to be the answer. All they have to do is give up their freedom on alternate months, swapping their home for a prison cell. Soon they’re in the Cover imagegrips of an obsession about the couple who live in their house when they’re not there. ‘A sinister, wickedly funny novel about a near-future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free’ according to the publishers.

Published a few years ago, Gregoire Delacourt’s charming The List of My Desires had a super-sweet jacket but a nicely sharp edge. In The First Thing You See young car mechanic Arthur Dreyfuss opens his apartment door one day to find a distressed Hollywood starlet but neither Arthur nor Jeanine Foucamprez, with her fake American accent, are quite what they seem. I’m hoping for some thoughtful insight wrapped up in a nice little story.

This one may seem an obscure choice but Beate Grimsund’s A Fool, Free sounds intriguing. It looks at mental illness through Eli Larsen, a talented and successful author and film-maker who has heard the voices of Espen, Erik, Prince Eugen and Emil in her head since she was a child, but kept them secret. Described as a ‘candid and beautiful novel’, Grimsund’s book won the Norwegian Critics Prize.

Cover imageI’ve enjoyed all five of Tessa Hadley’s novels. She writes the kind of quietly intelligent books packed with shrewd observations that I associate with Carole Shields. In The Past three sisters and a brother share a few hot summer weeks together in their grandparents’ old house which is to be put up for sale. Inevitably all does not run smoothly as past and present tensions take hold. I expect lots of entertaining sniping amongst the reminiscing, and we’re promised ‘an ugly secret in a ruined cottage in the woods’. Sounds excellent.

That’s it for the first batch of September titles – a click on the title will take you to Waterstones website for a more detailed synopsis should you be interested. And if you’re still catching up with August, here are the hardbacks and here are the paperbacks. Part two will be here in a week or so.

14 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in September 2015: Part 1

  1. hastanton

    I’m with you on the William Boyd thing ….he’s such an uneven writer! I first came across him with An Ice Cream War which I loved . Any Human Heart is , of course, genius but so many others have been disappointing. I do hope his latest is a return to form .

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Isn’t he, just. I’ve read most of his early stuff. He’s also a very fine comic writer – Stars and Bars had me in stitches with its portrayal of a Brit imitating a Southern accent in order to be understood. It seemed funny yet improbable at the time until a Belgian ‘translated’ for us at a Boston B&B when we were trying to have a conversation with a Southerner! Fingers crossed for Sweet Caress.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Pleased to hear that, Rebecca. Pop back and let me know how the Atwood turns out for you.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I thought Restless was excellent but he’s been on a slide since that for me. I do have hopes for this one, though.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Indeed! I think this may be my first Atwood for a while although if pushed I couldn’t say why it appeals more than than the last few but it seems an intriguing premise to me.

      Reply
  2. litlove

    Oh I hope you’ve had a lovely break away! Your list of look-fors resembles my list almost identically! I know what you mean about Margaret Atwood. A month or so ago, I settled down with The Blind Assassin, which I’d been looking forward to for years (I can’t quite believe it, but about 15 years, it seems…) and was rather disappointed. It never caught fire for me. But I did love the short stories of hers I read last year. So fingers crossed this new novel will be the business.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I did, thanks. It was a little adventure! Nice to know that we’re in sync on the first batch of September’s hopes, and we’ll see about Ms Atwood.

      Reply
  3. JacquiWine

    Just noticed Jenny Erpenbeck’s Visitation on your ‘reading next’ list, Susan. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts on it if you get a chance – Twitter is perfectly fine if you’re not planning to review. I spotted it in the library the other day, although I still have to get to The End Of Days!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It’ll be a tweet rather than a review but happy to let you know how I get on, although it will probably take me a little while to get around to it. I bought it after reading the wonderful The End of Days!

      Reply

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