Paperbacks to Look Out for in October 2017

There’s a nicely varied bunch of paperbacks in the offing for October. I’ll start off with a book that’s been popular in my neck of the Twitter woods for quite some months. ‘What if I don’t want to hold your baby? – Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce? – What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult? – Is therapy pointless? – At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem? – Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?’ are some of the questions posed by Jami Attenberg’s All Grown Up, about twenty-first century womanhood narrated by a thirty-nine-year-old childless woman battling through society’s expectations and her own desires. I haven’t enjoyed everything Attenberg’s written but her last novel, Saint Mazie, was excellent and that blurb reminds me a little of Claire Messud’s take on the same subject, The Woman Upstairs, which immediately piques my interest.

My next choice also met with a good deal of tweeted enthusiasm when it was published in hardback although I’ve haven’t see much about it lately. Yaa Gyasi’s debut, Homegoing, follows the fortunes of two sisters – one sold into slavery, the other a slave-trader’s wife – taking her readers across three continents and seven generations. Homegoing tells ‘the very story of America’ according to the publishers, a somewhat ambitious claim but it does sound well worth a read.

I’m not sure I can say that about Paul Auster’s Man Booker shortlisted chunkster, 4321 which weighs in at over 850 pages. It’s the story of Archibald Isaac Ferguson, born on March 3rd 1947, just a month after Auster’s own birth – make of that what you will. The novel tells four parallel Cover image stories of Ferguson’s life. ‘Each version of Ferguson’s story rushes across the fractured terrain of mid-twentieth century America, in this sweeping story of birthright and possibility, of love and the fullness of life itself’ say the publishers which is all very enticing and I’m a fan of much of Auster’s writing but the size of this one is intimidating to say the least. Perhaps Annabel’s review over at Annabookbel will help you to make up your mind about this one.

Per Petterson’s Echoland explores childhood through twelve-year-old Arvid, on holiday with his family at his grandparents’ in Denmark. About to make the leap from childhood to adolescence, Arvid takes himself off exploring on his bike, escaping the household’s intergenerational tensions and glorying in his new-found freedom. ‘Echoland is an extraordinarily subtle and truthful snapshot of growing up, with an emotional depth that lingers long after its final pages’ say the publishers which sounds very much in Petterson territory to me. He writes the kind of beautifully clipped yet often lyrical prose of which I’m very fond.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler’s Perfume River looks at the fallout of the Vietnam War through the lens of one family, also beset by divisions. Although his father is close to death, Robert’s estranged brother refuses to come home. Instead a homeless stranger appears who will rock the entire family’s foundations. ‘Profound and poignant, Perfume River is an examination of relationships, personal choice, and how war resonates down the generations’ Cover image say the publishers.

My final choice, Gerard Reve’s The Evenings, is set in one of my favourite European cities which is one of its draws for me. It’s the story of ten evenings in the life of Frits van Egters as he walks the streets of post-war Amsterdam. That may seem a tad dull but it’s been voted one of the greatest novels of all time by the highly literary Dutch. Described by the publishers as ‘edgy, mesmerising, darkly ironical’ it sounds quite intriguing.

That’s it for October’s paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a fuller synopsis should you want to know more and If you’d like to catch up with October’s new titles they’re here.

16 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in October 2017”

  1. I have ‘Homegoing’ to a friend whose research is in African women’s literature and she was very impressed. It’s been in the back of my mind ever since; maybe the paperback will get me to read it myself.

    1. That’s a very encouraging recommendation. It was one of those titles that there was a great deal of buzz around when it first came out but I’ve not noticed much about it since.

  2. I’ve read and enjoyed Homegoing. I thought it was very cleverly done as the structure is impressive. But as each chapter deals with a different character, I connected with some more than others and sometimes felt as if I would have liked to have followed the journey of specific individuals rather than hop on to the next one.

  3. I thought Homegoing achieved its enormous ambition. It was really impressive and restored my faith in hyped contemporary fiction which I can find to be a bit of a let down!

    I’m very tempted by The Evenings

    1. You’re very welcome, Annabel. I thought readers deserved a more positive view from someone who’d actually read the book! And you’ve almost persuaded me. It’s just so big…

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed Jami Attenberg’s All Grown Up earlier this year. Think there’s something in there that’ll resonate with everyone. I’m looking forward to reading Homegoing, and The Evenings sounds interesting too.

  5. All Grown Up is top of my pile too, sounds very much my thing.

    Homegoing is one of my books of the year. I think it’s been overlooked in the UK and I don’t know why (perhaps we’re only allowed one slave novel a year and Colson Whitehead took the slot?).

    1. I thought it might be! Yes, Homegoing seems to have disappeared off the radar after a great deal of brouhaha earlier in the year. I’m reading a third novel about slavery at the moment – Jane Harris’ Sugar Money. Seems to be something of a trend.

  6. I think All Grown Up is the book that I need in my life right now. I had never heard of the author, but if the book brings back memories of Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, then I’m 99% sure I will love it. Thanks for the heads up!

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