Books to Look Out for in August 2017

Top of my August list has to be Nicole Krauss’ Forest Dark. I remember taking The History of Love on holiday one year and losing myself in it; one of those books that stayed with me for some time. I wasn’t quite so enamoured with Great House but hopes are high for this one which is about two people: a retired lawyer who takes off from New York for the Tel Aviv Hilton to the mystification of his family and a novelist who has left her husband and children in Brooklyn, heading to the same hotel – familiar from childhood holidays – in the hope of clearing her writer’s block. ‘Bursting with life and humour, this is a profound, mesmerising, achingly beautiful novel of metamorphosis and self-realisation – of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite’ say the publishers rather grandly.

Jonathan Dee’s The Locals also features a character fleeing New York, this time for a small town in New England just after 9/11. Hedge fund manager Phillip Hadi employs Mark Firth, recently swindled by his financial advisor, to make his new home secure. These two men are from very different worlds: one rural middle class, the other urban and wealthy. Hadi’s election to mayor has a transforming effect on Firth’s home town, one that will have implications for Firth and his extended family. ‘The Locals is that rare work of fiction capable of capturing a fraught American moment in real time. It is also a novel that is timeless in its depiction of American small town life’ say the publishers which sounds very appealing to me.

One more New York link then we’re off to Boston followed by two jaunts outside of the USA. It seems that the success of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko has prompted her publishers to re-issue Free Food for Millionaires which I remember reading and enjoying when it was first published here in the UK ten years ago. It’s about Casey Han, the daughter of working-class Korean immigrants, whose years at Princeton have left her with a decent education and a set ofCover image expensive habits but no job. She and her parents both live in New York but they inhabit very different worlds. ‘As Casey navigates an uneven course of small triumphs and spectacular failures, a clash of values, ideals and ambitions plays out against the colourful backdrop of New York society, its many layers, shades and divides…’ say the publishers. I remember Casey as a particularly endearing character.

Over to Boston for J. Courteney Sullivan’s Saints for All Seasons which follows sisters Nora and Theresa from their small Irish village to Boston. When Theresa becomes pregnant, sensible Nora comes up with a plan, the repercussions of which will echo down the generations for fifty years by which time Nora is the matriarch of a large family and Theresa is a nun. ‘A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together’ say the publishers which may sound a little over the top but I do love a family secret theme and I remember being completely engrossed by Sullivan’s previous novel, Maine.

It sounds as if dark secrets may be at the heart of Jens Christian Grøndahl’s Often I am Happy, a novel he’s translated himself from his native Danish. Ellinor is addressing Anna, killed forty years ago in the same skiing accident that felled Henning who was both Ellinor’s first husband and Anna’s lover. Anna’s husband, who became Ellinor’s partner, has died and Ellinor is taking stock, looking back over her life and confiding in her long dead best friend ‘because there are some secrets – both our own and of others – that we can only share with the dead. Secrets that nonetheless shape who we are and who we love’ say the publishers, whetting my appetite nicely.

Cover imageI couldn’t quite work up the enthusiasm for reading Fiona Melrose’s Midwinter, for some reason. I’m not sure why. Lots of other readers seemed very keen. Johannesburg with its appealing structure sounds much more up my street. The events of the novel take place during the day Nelson Mandela’s death was announced in what sounds like a panoramic story of a scattering of the eponymous city’s inhabitants including a ‘troubled novelist called Virginia’, a polite nod of acknowledgement to Ms Woolf for borrowing her structure. ‘Melrose’s second novel is a hymn to an extraordinary city and its people, an ambitious homage to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, and a devastating personal and political manifesto on love’  say the publishers.

That’s it for August. Let’s hope the sun will be out and those of us who hail from often overcast Northern Europe can get out and read in it. If you’d like to know more about any of the books, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis. I’m off on my hols for ten days on Friday morning, earlier that I can bear to think about, planning to post my Man Booker wishlist on my return.

34 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in August 2017”

      1. I remember being interested in the Fiona Melrose and think I’d enjoy reading Midwinter and clearly this second novel as well, if it interests you! I’m a bit out of touch with new books currently so thank you for the update and have a lovely reading summer.

        1. Thanks, Claire. These posts are a pleasure to write. I have a copy of Johannesburg so will post a review of that next month along with the Krauss and Grøndahl. A very happy reading summer to you, too!

    1. I’m delighted to see that the Lee is being reissued, and I have a soft spot for Sullivan’s novels. That’s lovely to hear, Rebecca. They’re fun to write, too!

  1. I loved The History of Love, so I’m really hoping this new one will be as good. I haven’t read Great House yet, although I like the premise of it.

  2. I’ve got Forest Dark waiting for when I’ve the head space to sit and read again. I’m of the opposite opinion to you on her previous work though, The History of Love didn’t do anything for me, I thought it was overly sentimental. Great House is one of my favourite ever books though.

    I didn’t know J. Courtney Sullivan had a new one coming; I loved The Engagements.

    Very much looking forward to the Fiona Melrose too. I think you’d like Midwinter – I’d put it in a similar bracket to Melissa Harrison’s At Hawthorn Time.

    1. We’ll have to agree to differ on Krauss, then.

      Have you read Maine? Well worth seeking out if you liked The Engagements.

      Having dipped into Johannesburg since writing this post I now have Midwinter on my list. Can’t imagine why it wasn’t there in the first place!

  3. All of these books seem super interesting! I’m definitely going to check Forest Dark out further because the title really pulled me in. Awesome post!

    I’m new to blogging and book reviewing, and I was wondering if you had any tips for newbie bloggers and book reviewers.

    If you have the time, please check out my blog @breenysbooks. I’d love any feedback. Have a wonderful day.

    1. Thanks, Breeny, and welcome to the wonderful world of blogging. I’ll pop over and take a look.

      I’m sure lots of other bloggers would offer a variety of advice but I’d say have a good look around at what others are doing, follow the ones you like and comment on what interests you. I’m sure you’re already on Twitter but that’s a must. Also, be patient – it can take a little while for things to take off – and enjoy what you’re doing. Have fun!

  4. Not a hugely diverse crop of books for August, perhaps a symptom of the holiday season? Thankfully (!) nothing that piques my interest there, though I could do with a month or two off. Temptation is ever-pressing! Any favourites for you from this selection?

  5. Good to see a new book from Nicole Krauss in your list. She’s definitely a writer of interest to me. I recall enjoying The History of Love at the time, even if I’m struggling to remember much about it now. Great House was more my cup of tea if I’m being honest – I loved that one.

    1. I think you’ll like this one then, Jacqui. I’ve read some of it since writing this post – it’s an erudite, witty book, and there’s a great deal about Kafka in there.

  6. I loved History of Love but I admred Great House, so I’m really looking forward to her new one as well (although hoping, admittedly, for another love affair!). Great selection, though: many I’d be quite happy to read!

    1. You’re very welcome, Lucy. I remember Maine as book to sink into and forget about the world so I’m hoping for something similar with Saints for All Seasons.

  7. My favourite has to be the new J. Courteney Sullivan. I LOVED The Engagements, it’s a book that still remains with me even years after reading it. Also, confession time: I haven’t read anything by Krauss, but I feel should.

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