Books to Look Out for in September 2016

Cover imageI like to kick off these previews with a novel that I can hardly wait to get my hands on. Sometimes there’s more than one, sometimes nothing that entirely fits the bill, but this month there’s no contest – the prospect of Jay McInerney’s Bright, Precious Days has me almost slavering in anticipation. Brightness Falls was one of my favourite novels of the ‘90s, summing up the heady days of 1980s New York through the lives of Corrine and Russell, a glittering couple in love with each other and pursuing successful careers in a world where anything seemed possible if you were young, bright and fearless until the Wall Street crash of 1987 when the bubble finally burst. Of course, we’ve since been buffeted by a much more damaging financial crisis but Russell and Corrine have that yet to come. Obama and Clinton are still rivals, Lehman Brothers have not yet crashed as the couple go about their lives, Russell running his own publishing company, still hankering after the bohemian life, while Corrine manages a food redistribution programme, longing for more than just a loft to live in for their twelve-year-old twins. ‘A moving, deeply humane novel’ say the publishers which exactly summed up Brightness Falls for me although I have to confess to being somewhat disappointed in its sequel, The Good Life.

Still in New York for Tom Connolly’s Men Like Air which is described by the publishers as ‘a glorious love letter’ to the city, sealing the deal for me. It’s about four men and their relationships with each other: nineteen-year-old Finn, fresh from the UK; Jack, the brother Finn’s determined to track down; Leo, lonely and envious of his best friend’s life and William, not only Leo’s oldest friend but also his happily married brother-in-law. The lives of these four interconnect in unexpected ways, apparently. The ‘love letter to New York’ may have been the hook for me but male friendship is an unusual theme which gives Connolly’s novel an added draw.

We’re off to city far less celebrated than New York in American fiction for Christopher Hebert’s Angels of Detroit. Hebert’s novel explores what was once a beacon of America’s industrial success, now bankrupt and on the point of dereliction, through the lives of a wide Cover imagerange of characters, from activists intent on saving it to an old woman trying to establish a community garden, from a carpenter with an idea for regeneration to an executive who remembers Detroit in its bustling prime. ‘Driven by struggle and suspense, and shot through with a startling empathy, Christopher Hebert’s magnificent second novel unspools an American story for our time’ say the publishers which sounds just the ticket to me.

I have something of an on again, off again relationship with Ann Patchett’s fiction – I loved The Magician’s Assistant but couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about with the Orange Prize-winning Bel Canto . Commonwealth sounds tempting, though. Deputy District Attorney Bert Cousins falls for the mother of the baby whose christening party he’s crashed in 1964. Twenty-four years later Franny meets her literary idol and tells him her family’s story unaware of the far-reaching consequences she’s setting in train. It’s described by the publisher as ‘a powerful and tender tale of family, betrayal and the far-reaching bonds of love and responsibility… …a meditation on inspiration, interpretation and the ownership of stories’. I’m particularly interested by the ‘ownership of stories’ idea.

Georgia Bain’s Ester in Between a Wolf and a Dog continually listens to the stories of others. Ester is a family therapist, helping clients to navigate their way through misery to happiness on a daily basis. However her own life is far from a delight. Lonely and estranged from both her ex-husband and her sister, each of whom have their own problems, she’s about to face the consequences of a choice made by her mother that will affect them all. Sounds right up my street.

Cover imageAs well as starting with a much-anticipated novel I like to end with one, too, and Carol Birch’s Orphans of the Carnival fits that slot beautifully. Picking up the performance theme of the marvellous Jamrach’s Menagerie with its Victorian East End setting, Birch’s latest novel has one foot in nineteenth-century Europe with Julia Patriana, known as much for her physical oddity as her singing and dancing talent, and one in present-day London with Rose who collects lost treasures. These two share ‘a wonderful and terrible link’ according to the publishers in what they describe as a ‘haunting tale of identity, love and independence’. If Orphans of the Carnival is only half as good as Jamrach’s Menagerie it will be well worth your time.

That’s it for September. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis, should you be interested.

18 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in September 2016

  1. naomifrisby

    Ah, New York and in September too! I reeled when I saw September at the top of your blog but, despite the warm weather we’re about to have, I’ve already started dreaming of the crisp air and the changing leaves.

    I’ve never read Jay McInerney, I take it from your comments that I should! I’ve at least one on the shelf.

    Men Like Air made me think of A Little Life which puts me off as I can’t imagine anything living up to that (others will disagree, I know).

    No surprise that the Birch is on my TBR. It’s right up my PhD street; looking forward to comparing notes.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Brightness Falls struck a chord for me but most would say that Bright Lights Big City is McInerney’s best. After my disappointment with The Good Life I’m not sure all those high hopes are going to be fulfilled but I’m still keen to find out how Corinne and Russell are getting along. I suspect the Connolly is considerably lighter than A Little Life and, yes, I knew you’d have the Birch!

      Reply
  2. Annabel (gaskella)

    I’m looking forward to the Jay McInerny – it’s on my pile! I like the sound of Men Like Air (but worry it could be this year’s A Little Life). Carol Birch’s novel will be a must-read too – I loved Jamrach’s Menagerie. What a lovely selection.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’m a little nervous that the McInerney won’t live up to my sky-high expectations! I’ve a feeling that Men Like Air will be an easier read than A Little Life but I could be wrong.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I enjoyed This is the Story of a Happy Marriage very much but haven’t got around to any other non-fiction by her. Is there anything you’d particularly recommend, Claire?

      Reply
  3. Kate W

    I have Bright, Precious Days waiting for me in the TBR stack – had the crazy idea that I might re-read the whole series first…!

    Can’t wait to get my hands on Commonwealth.

    Reply
  4. buriedinprint

    I can see why you are so excited about the Jay McInerney, but I’ve never read anything by him. Because he was so often discussed with Bret Easton Ellis, and because I didn’t love his stuff, I never moved ahead. Maybe I should give it a try after all.

    The Ann Patchett’s I’ve read (about 5,I think) have all been consistently good IMO but I do have my favourites because some subjects appeal to me more than others. Her book about her friendship with Lucy Greeley really struck my fancy, Truth and Beauty. Although it seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it for most.

    Jamrach’s Menagerie was so visceral, so emphatic. And, yes, very well done. The time period of this new one does sound intriguing, and the element of performance. Hmmm. I’m still scarred, I guess!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      That may be the Bright Lights, Big City McInerney – Brightness Falls is much softer and more involving, I think. Not a trace of American Psycho in sight!
      I enjoyed This is the Story of a Happy Marriage very much and most of the fiction of Patchett’s that I’ve read.
      I’ll let you know about Orphans of the Carnival which is sitting on my to be reviewed shelf.

      Reply
  5. bookbii

    Another great crop of books Susan. I very much enjoyed Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder so Commonwealth looks favourite to me, especially with that gorgeous cover. Reminiscent of an Ali Smith cover.

    Reply
  6. Gemma

    I always enjoy reading these posts of yours Susan, I always come away with new books added to my TBR list – often ones I haven’t come across before 🙂 Orphans of the Carnival sounds particularly interesting – somehow it seems an ideal book to read in autumn. Between a Wolf and a Dog has also been added to the list!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      That’s lovely to hear, Gemma! I have high expectations of the Birch after reading Jamrach and Between a Wolf and a dog sounds intriguing.

      Reply
  7. Lectito

    Ooh, I have Bright Happy Days and Commonwealth waiting on my pile and I can’t wait to get stuck in. Also very keen to get my hands on a copy of Orphans of the Carnival. It’s looking like a great month of reading!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Isn’t it just! I’m pleased to say that both the McInerney and the Patchett arrived today – hurrah!

      Reply

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