Books to Look Out for in June 2017

Cover image Top of my list for June is Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends which I’m pretty sure isn’t aimed at my age group but sounds enticing all the same. Four friends in their twenties talk about everything under the sun but it’s Frances and her affair with a much older married man who eventually takes centre stage. ‘You can read Conversations with Friends as a romantic comedy, or you can read it as a feminist text. You can read it as a book about infidelity, about the pleasures and difficulties of intimacy, or about how our minds think about our bodies. However you choose to read it, it is an unforgettable novel about the possibility of love’ according to the publishers, kindly leaving the choice up to their readers.

Love is also the subject of Catherine Lacey’s The Answers which comes at it in a very different way. Mary is desperate for work when she sees a job advertised as part of The Girlfriend Experiment whose aim is to analyse the nature of relationships – what works and what doesn’t – through role-playing. She is to be Emotional Girlfriend, joining a team which includes Angry Girlfriend and Maternal Girlfriend, playing against the Hollywood actor whose idea the whole thing is. ‘A novel of die-hard faith and fleeting love; of questions which probe the depths of our society, and answers that will leave you reeling’ say the publishers. It’s an interesting premise which has the makings of a great book not to mention a film, although I’m sure that’s been considered already.

Kevin Wilson’s Perfect Little World is about another kind of social experiment, this one focusing on families. Alone and pregnant with her art teacher’s baby, Isabelle is offered a place in The Infinity Family Project whose billionaire founder is pursuing a utopian ideal: raising nine babies as part of an extended family in a Tennessee compound. ‘Can this experiment really work – or is their ‘perfect little world’ destined to go horribly wrong?’ ask the publishers. Given the number of unhappy children brought up in communes who’ve shared their experiences with the world in one way or another, I suspect we can guess the answer. Cover image

Here’s one that has attracted a good deal of attention in my neck of the Twitter woods. Julie Buntin’s Marlena follows naïve fifteen-year-old Cat who finds herself becoming best friends with her neighbour when she moves to a new town in rural Michigan. Cat and Marlena make the town their own, partying like there’s no tomorrow until Marlena is found drowned in nearby woods. Decades later Cat is still trying to come to terms with her past. ‘Alive with an urgent, unshakeable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull ourselves back from the brink’ say the publishers a little dramatically.

The trials and tribulations of settling into a new home also play a part in Amanda Craig’s The Lie of the Land which follows the Bredins – who can neither afford a divorce nor their London home – to a remote part of Devon. No one seems very happy with the arrangement and everyone wonders why their rent is so low. ‘The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them’ say the publishers which promises the revelation of dark secrets. I’ve enjoyed Craig’s previous novels and this one comes with a stonking endorsement from Helen Dunmore.

Allegra Goodman’s The Chalk Artist is about the all-consuming nature of computer gaming and the way it can threaten to take over real life, explored through a teenage boy living in smalltown America. Aidan is at the top of his game when playing EverWhen, putting the problems of adolescence behind him, but when he’s sent a mysterious black box from the game’s designers he finds himself physically taken into EverWhen’s world, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. It’s a fascinating subject – remember Second Life and the divorce it prompted? – and I’ve enjoyed Goodman’s fiction very much in the past.

Cover imageI’m ending this preview with a book by an author whose first novel is sitting on my shelves but I have yet to read. Paula McGrath’s A History of Running Away follows three women: one wanting to box at a time when boxing is illegal for women in Ireland; the second contemplating a job offer but wondering if she can bring herself to abandon her mother in her nursing home; and a third who takes up with a biker gang as a means of escape. ‘A History of Running Away is a brilliantly written novel about running away, growing up and finding out who you are’ say the publishers which sounds very appealing but perhaps I should get around to reading Generation first.

That’s it for June’s new books. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that appeal. Paperbacks to follow soon…

14 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in June 2017

  1. Hayley at RatherTooFondofBooks

    I’d only heard of the Sally Rooney book so I’ve now found a few more books to add to my wish list. I’m especially interested in Perfect Little World and Marlena so I’ll be eagerly awaiting the publication days for these.

    Reply
  2. bookbii

    Catherine Lacey is a writer I’ve had on my radar for a while and the premise of The Answers is pretty interesting, might be one I’ll plunder my library for once it’s out. A History of Running Away sounds pretty cool too. Interesting selection, as always.

    Reply
  3. Naomi

    All of these sound good! But the first two probably sound the most appealing right now. And The Chalk Artist sounds kind of scary. Looking forward to hearing what you think of them!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I started The Chalk Artist today. It’s a little slow but very promising. Can’t judge the gaming authenticity: it’s not something I’ve ever done but I can see that it might offer an attractive escape from everyday misery, particualary of the adolescent variety.

      Reply
  4. Claudia

    Perfect Little World sounds a bit like the overall premise of Lucinda Riley’s Seven Sisters series, which I’m enjoying as she completes them. Marlena interests me as well.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      That’s interesting. I’ve come across Riley before. I have noticed a little trend for novels about Utopian communities that go horribly wrong – Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, for instance.

      Reply
  5. Kate W

    I’ve got Conversations with Friends (must admit that it was the cover that attracted me). The Answers also looks good *pops over to Netgalley*

    Reply
  6. litlove

    Hurray! I have copies of The Lie of the Land, and The Answers. I’ll hope very much to get to both of those soon. And several others on your list sound most intriguing. Conversations with Friends seems particularly tempting!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve since read The Lie of the Land and very much enjoyed it. A thoroughly engrossing piece of accessible intelligent fiction. Hope you enjoy it too.

      Reply

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