Books to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 1

Cover imageYes , I know – it’s not even Christmas week yet but if you’re a little weary of the same old titles popping up on Books of the Year lists – mine included – you might like a peek at what’s to come in 2016 which gets off to a very exciting start with a new Helen Dunmore. Regular readers of this blog will already know that I have a bit of a bee in my literary bonnet about how underrated Dunmore is alongside the likes of Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis who all get acres of coverage when she’s lucky to get a single football field’s worth. Exposure opens in November 1960 amidst the febrile atmosphere of the Cold War. Simon Callington stands accused of spying for the Soviets. His wife is determined to clear his name, unaware that Callington is hiding a damaging secret in his past.

Set at the other end of the Cold War in 1981, Francesca Kay’s The Long Room also explores the world of espionage but in a very different way. Stephen Donaldson is assigned the ultra-secret case of Phoenix, his task to assess whether or not his subject is betraying his country. Lonely and frustrated, Stephen finds himself falling in love with the voice of Phoenix’s wife.With her mastery of the perfect detail, Francesca Kay explores a mind under pressure and the compelling power of imagination.’ says the publisher. Given how much I enjoyed An Equal Stillness, I’m looking forward to this one.

The same goes for Gail Jones’ A Guide to Berlin. Sixty Lights, Sorry and Dreams of Speaking are all examples of very fine writing so my hopes are very high for this new one named after a Nabokov short story written in 1925. Six travellers – two Italians, two Japanese, an American and an Australian – meet in empty Berlin apartments to exchange stories and discuss Nabokov’s work until an act of violence splits the group apart. Jones’ writing is beautiful – elegant and delicately understated. This should be a treat.Cover image

Patrick Modiano is also a master of the understatement. I read my first Modiano this yearSo You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighbourhood and was as impressed as I had expected to be given the many fans in the blogosphere who had been singing his praises. Maclehose Press are publishing two more this year, the wonderfully named In the Café of Lost Youth which sounds as if it explores just that and The Black Notebook, in which a writer discovers a set of notes and sets off in search of a woman he loved forty years ago. There seems to be an element of mystery in both novels but if Neighbourhood is anything to go by, there will be more questions posed than answers.

Jonas Karlsson’s The Invoice appears to be the story of an unremarkable man, happy with his life working in a Stockholm video store and living alone in a small flat just a few yards away from an Ice cream stall that sells his favourite flavours. I know this hardly sounds riveting but I loved The Room with its portrayal of a man in the grips of a delusion – a wonderfully quirky novel with cringemaking descriptions of corporate office life which will be all too familiar to many, I’m sure.Cover image

Similarly, Samantha Hunt’s The Invention of Everything Else was a fine read which is why I’m including Mr Splitfoot despite its slightly unconvincing premise. Two orphans decide to jump ship and attach themselves to a travelling con man who claims to channel the dead. Decades later a young woman, in the midst of a crisis, is visited by her mute aunt. Together they set off on foot, travelling across New York.Ingenious, infectious, subversive and strange’ say the publishers – I particularly like the sound of subversive.

That’s it for the first batch of January titles.  As ever, if you’d like more detail a click on a title will take you to Waterstones website. More to follow soon.

22 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 1”

  1. Like you, I think Helen Dunmore is underrated, and Jonas Karlsson didn’t get the accolades he deserved for his surrealist, bitingly funny and sad The Room. Rather an interesting list, thank you, as usual… (I think).

    1. You’re welcome! I’d love to see Dunmore up there in the modern literary canon – she knocks spots off many of her male counterparts. Given the success of The Office you’d think that The Room would have been more acclaimed. Wacky it may have been but it was all too believable for those of us who’d worke in corporate offices.

  2. All the books by women are on my TBR, not all of whom have I read before so I’m pleased to see your endorsements, Susan. Like you, I’m also Team Dunmore. She’s one of only two female writers I’ve been reading since my teens – the other is Kate Atkinson. Neither of those have garnered the recognition they deserve, particularly with regards to the Booker Prize which seems (in my opinion) to think they’re ‘women’s writers’. Ack.

    1. Astonishing isn’t it? I was dumbfounded when A God in Ruins failed to appear on the Man Booker longlist at the very least.

  3. I have been meaning to read one of Dunmore’s books for a long time now – I have several on my list. I also have The Room on my list. If only writers would slow down a bit, I might be able to catch up. 🙂

    1. I know what you mean! I hope you’ll read a Dunmore, Naomi. I love her work – all words carefully chosen and not one wasted.

  4. I’m another who thinks that Dunmore is vastly underrated. I first came across her through her children’s literature and was delighted to find that she also plied her exceptional talents for adult readers. I’m particularly looking forward to ‘Exposure’ as she is writing about a time I can remember and with her remarkable eye for detail I can’t wait to see what she reveals.

    1. She’s extraordinarily versatile, Alex. An award-wining poet, too, which is part of what makes her fiction so beautifully written, I think. Just the one dud for me – Counting the Stars – but in what is quite a lengthy backlist, I think that’s pretty damn good!

  5. The Francesca Kay and the Gail Jones will be going on my list of titles to look out for. I’m so glad you liked Modiano. I’m writing about him for Numero Cinq at the start of 2016 and am have a pile of his novels to reread. Being Modiano, it’s a lot of books in a small pile!

    1. It was your post on Modiano that made me read Neighbourhood! I’ll look forward to your Numero Cinq piece. I suspect he’s a very interesting man.

    1. That’s interesting, Jacqui. I’m beginning to think the Maclehose Press are on a mission to introduce him to the UK with two in one month!

  6. Pingback: Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 1 | A life in books

  7. Pingback: Books to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 2 | A life in books

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