Books to Look Out For in October 2015

Golden AgeBit of a lean month for those of us who tend towards the more literary end of fiction. The novel that stands out above all others for me is Golden Age, the final part of Jane Smiley’s The Last Hundred Years Trilogy. Some Luck followed the Langdon family from just after the First World War, when Walter established the family farm, to the beginning of the ‘50s where the appropriately named Early Warning picked it up, beginning with the Cold War years and ending in 1986 with a new twist in the family story. Golden Age takes the Langdons into the twentieth-first century and I can’t wait to catch up with them. Smiley’s microcosm of an American century reflected through the fortunes of one family has been a triumph so far. Highly recommended.

A volume of short stories seems the antithesis of Smiley’s hefty endeavour. I’m a reader that likes to get my teeth into something hence the Smiley fandom but Colm McCann is one of my favourite writers and we’re promised a novella as well as three short stories in his new book. In the eponymous work an elderly man is attacked after meeting his son for lunch. Detectives must piece together what has happened based on any information they can glean. ‘Told from a multitude of perspectives, in lyrical, hypnotic prose, Thirteen Ways of Looking is a ground-breaking novella of true resonance, exploring the varied consequences that can derive from a simple act’ say the publishers. I can vouch for that ‘lyrical’ prose based on my reading of McCann’s novels.

Amélie Nothcomb’s Pétronille might be a handy counterbalance to what sounds like a somewhat serious read, even if it is distinctly post-modern with its friendship between Pétronille Fanto, a woman who refuses to drink alone, and a writer called Amélie Nothcomb. According to the publishers it’s a ‘literary Thelma & Louise, with a little bit of French panacheCover image and a whole lot of champagne thrown into the mix’ which makes it sound well worth a read. This is Nothcomb’s twenty-third novel, and she has quite a following.

Naomi J. Williams’ Landfalls is a debut set on board two ships which set sail from France in 1785, on a voyage of scientific and geographical discovery, returning four years later. It’s told from the perspective of different characters, all of whom have their own agenda, taking its readers from a remote Alaskan bay where tragedy hits to St Petersburg. The structure sounds an ambitious but very attractive one and if it comes off I think this could be a very absorbing novel.

Finally, Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire is here partly because at a stonking nine hundred and sixty pages it can’t be ignored. Set in New York, it explores the interconnections between a multitude of people surrounding the shooting of a young girl in Central Park on New Year’s Eve, 1976. It sounds immensely complicated so I’ll let the publisher’s blurb speak for itself: Cover imageFrom the reluctant heirs to one of New York’s greatest fortunes, to a couple of Long Island kids drawn to the nascent punk scene downtown. From the newly arrived and enchanted, to those so sick of the city they want to burn it to the ground. All these lives are connected to one another – and to the life that still clings to that body in the park. Whether they know it or not, they are bound up in the same story – a story where history and revolution, love and art, crime and conspiracy are all packed into a single shell, ready to explode. Then, on July 13th, 1977, the lights go out in New York City.’ A similar theme to Colm McCann’s book, then, but with considerably more pages. This is the kind of novel I get all excited about when I see it in a catalogue then watch its progress up my reading pile with a sinking heart. I have a copy and so I will be sampling it but whether a review will materialise or not remains to be seen.

That’s it for October. As usual a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis, although in the case of the Hallberg there’s not much more to say. If you’ve not yet caught up with my September previews, here are the paperbacks and here are the hardbacks, parts one and two.

27 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in October 2015”

  1. lonesomereadereric

    I’ve heard such good things about the first two books in Jane Smiley’s trilogy, I really want to read these as well. I wonder if I should wait to read them all at once or if that would be overdosing? I’m also keen to read Landfalls and City on Fire.

    I hadn’t heard of McCann’s book so I’ve noted it down. Thanks!

    1. The Smiley trilogy is excellent, Eric. She seems to be being compared to Tolstoy in some quarters and I think that fits well. I would portion them out if only becasue if you read all three I think it would be the most awful wrench to pull yourself out of the Langdons’ lives.

    1. I thought of you as I was putting together December’s preview, Jacqui. Very short – it’s never a busy publishing month – but all translations!

  2. Despite your advice to Eric, I’ve saved the Smiley trilogy so I can binge read it so I’m looking forward to doing that as soon as I have a week free *hollow laugh*. Landfills is on my pile already and I’m excited by the David Mitchell comparison so I’m looking forward to that. City on Fire’s attractive because it’s set in New York – seriously that’s all writers have to do to get me interested. But what had the biggest pull as I was reading your round-up was “a ‘literary Thelma & Louise, with a little bit of French panache and a whole lot of champagne thrown into the mix’ ” and I don’t think I’ve heard of Amélie Nothcomb despite the twenty-two other books. I’m intrigued.

    1. Ha! Not one for delayed gratification, then. I have the same weakness for novels set in New York but that Nothcomb blurb is irresistible, isn’t it?

  3. I started City on Fire and at 458 pages finally gave up. I may be completely wrong here but given that you felt Fates and Furies could use an editorial trim my guess is you will think this needs a full-on haircut. I’d say it’s 400 pgs too long. I do hope you give it a go so I can learn whether I ought to finish it or not!

    1. Oh, Catherine, I’m sure I will! I’m impressed that you made it that far. I’m approaching it more in hope than expectation. I’ll definitely start it but whether I finish it is another matter.

  4. Pingback: Books to Look Out For in November 2015: Part 1 | A life in books

  5. Pingback: Paperbacks to Look Out for in October 2015 | A life in books

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