Books to Look Out for in January 2017: Part Two

Cover imageThe first part of January’s preview roamed around the world taking in Pakistan, Poland, Estonia, Ghana and the UK – home for me. This second part has its feet firmly planted in the US, beginning with a debut which has caused quite a stir in my neck of the Twitter woods. Emma Flint’s Little Deaths takes a crime committed in 1960s New York and fashions it into a novel. In the heat wave of 1965, Ruth Malone wakes to find both her children are missing. Paying more attention to the wagging tongues keen to emphasise Ruth’s colourful life then they perhaps should, the police jump to conclusions but a tabloid journalist new to the job thinks otherwise. Crime fiction isn’t my usual territory but the setting and premise of this one makes me curious.

Addison Jones’ Wait for Me, Jack is set on the other side of the continent from Little Deaths near lovely San Francisco. Jack and Milly were married in 1952, caught up in the wave of optimism that swept through post-war America. Sixty years later, having weathered infidelity and disappointment, they’re still together despite sharing little in common. In what the publishers describe as ‘a love story that tells the truth – or one or two truths – about love and marriage’ Jones’ novel charts a long relationship and the social change that has transformed Jack and Milly’s world. Sounds very appealing to me.

I first spotted Nathan Hill’s The Nix back in the summer in a Berlin bookshop. I would have bought it then had we not been at the beginning of the holiday – it’s quite a doorstop. Samuel hasn’t seen his mother since her departure from the family home when he was a child. Now she’s everywhere, accused of committing the kind of crime that captivates the media who are painting her as a radical hippie. Samuel is inveigled by his publisher into telling his mother’s story but first he needs to get his hands on the facts. In a novel which ‘moves from the rural Midwest of the 1960s, to New York City during Occupy Wall Street, back to Chicago in 1968 and, finally, to wartime Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. Samuel will unexpectedly find that he has to rethink everything he ever knew about his mother – a woman with an epic story of her own, a story she has kept hidden from the world’ according to the publishers. Sounds right up my alley.Cover image

The two friends at the centre of Dana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others would have pounced on Faye’s story with glee, I’m sure. Film-makers Meadow and Carrie grew up together in Los Angeles. When Meadow becomes involved with a woman whose seductive powers of listening become the subject of one of her documentaries, she sets in train her own downfall. ‘Heart-breaking and insightful, Innocents and Others is an astonishing novel about friendship, identity, loneliness and art’ say the publishers. It sounds intriguing.

Kayla Rae Whitaker’s The Animators also explores friendship, coincidentally in the film world. Both from the rural South and both fanatical about comics, Sharon and Mel are visual arts majors at a snobby East Coast liberal arts college. Ten years after graduation they’re living and working together in Brooklyn, doing well for themselves in a small way. Their first full-length film is based on Mel’s childhood, making the private public which inevitably has consequences. ‘Sweeping and intimate at once, the novel is an exquisite portrait of a life-defining partnership. Whitaker captures the shifting dynamics between Mel and Sharon—between all the characters, really—with such precision and sharpness that it’s hard to let them go’ say the publishers which puts me in mind of Rachel B. Glaser’s wonderful Paulina & Fran.

Michael Chabon’s Moonglow ventures into that same public/private territory, drawing on stories told to him by his grandfather. The novel takes the form of a deathbed confession in which an old man tells his grandson stories long-buried, revealing a life far more adventurous than the grandson could ever have expected. ‘From the Jewish slums of pre-war Philadelphia to the invasion of Germany, from a Florida retirement village to the penal utopia of a New York prison, from the heyday of the space programme to the twilight of ‘the American Century’, Moonglow collapses an era into a single life and a lifetime into a single week’ say the publishers. Given Chabon’s storytelling skills this should be unmissable.

Cover imageMy final choice might well backfire horribly. In Everybody’s Fool Richard Russo revisits the down-at-heel town of North Bath a decade after the events of Nobody’s Fool, picking up the story of ‘Sully’ Sullivan, now beset by health problems. It sounds as if there’s a good deal to entertain in Russo’s novel, including an escaped cobra, but returning to the scene of a much-loved book is always a dicey game for a writer. The publishers promise ‘a novel which is a pure pleasure to read – genuinely funny, enormously heartfelt and imbued with the warmth and wisdom that are Richard Russo’s stock in trade’. Let’s hope they’re right.

That’s it for the goodie-packed January. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis if you’re interested and if you’d like to catch up with the first part it’s here. Paperbacks to follow shortly…

11 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in January 2017: Part Two

  1. naomifrisby

    This is an appealing list, Susan. I have two to read – the Spiotta and the Flint – but you’ve really made me want to read The Nix. I’ve been ignoring it because it seems to be everywhere – I think it came out in America this year? – but it sounds just my thing.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve read quite a lot of The Nix and it’s completely absorbing, Naomi. Yes, it was published this year in the States and made quite a lot of people’s books of the year lists, too. Very much like the sound of the Spiotta and the Flint. Picador’s January is looking particularly fine!

      Reply
  2. Rebecca Foster

    Moonglow is wonderful. I was lucky enough to review it for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last month. Enjoy!

    I think you’ve convinced me to request The Animators for a blog review.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Oh, that’s great, Rebecca! Very pleased to hear that, and I hope The Animators lives up to its enticing blurb.

      Reply
  3. Kate W

    I’ve got The Nix but not sure when I’ll start – it really is a big book but, as I’m about to begin summer holidays, it might be just the thing.

    Little Deaths sounds good – I’ll look out for it. Oddly, I’ve had an ARC for Innocents and Others in my TBR stack for most of this year. The US cover (which I have) doesn’t appeal at all but the UK cover makes me think twice about the book. Perhaps I’ll read it before The Nix? ;-D

    The Animators was a miss for me (not that that should put others off) but I don’t think the blurb represented the story well.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Having read it now, I can heartily recommend The Nix but only have the blurb to go on for Innocents and Others. Little Deaths sounds great, doesn’t it. Crime fiction doesn’t usually appeal but the setting for this one’s catnip to me – and thanks for the hint About The Animators.

      Reply
      1. Kate W

        I don’t normally read crime either but every once in a while I find it a good change of pace, particularly if I’ve had an ordinary run of books.

        Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve since read it and can report that it’s excellent – completely engrossing and very funny with it.

      Reply

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.