Books to Look Out for in August 2018: Part One

Cover imageMuch jostling for position at the top of August’s list of new titles, three of which I’ve already read but not yet reviewed. I’m starting with Andrew Miller’s Now We Shall Be Entirely Free which is up there up there alongside Ingenious Pain and Pure, his two best novels for me. Set in Somerset just after the turn of the eighteenth century, it’s about Captain John Lacroix whose health has been so devastated by the disastrous campaign against Napoleon in Spain that he goes on the run rather than return to the front once recovered. ‘Taut with suspense, this is an enthralling, deeply involving novel by one of Britain’s most acclaimed writers’ say the publishers and I’d have to agree.

Patrick Gale’s Take Nothing with You is also set in Somerset, this time in 1970s Weston-Super-Mare where ten-year-old Eustace finds a passion for the cello when his mother signs him up for lessons with a glamorous teacher. Lessons of another kind are learned when Eustace enrols on a holiday course in Scotland, apparently. ‘Drawing in part on his own boyhood, Patrick Gale’s new novel explores a collision between childish hero worship and extremely messy adult love lives’ according to the blurb. I’ve long been a fan of Gale’s writing, going right back to The Aerodynamics of Pork in the ‘80s.

Melissa Harrison’s All Among the Barley is also a coming-of-ageCover image novel with much to say about the dangers of nostalgia and nationalism. Set on a Suffolk farm in 1933, it’s about Edie, to whose family the farm belongs, and Constance, who arrives from London to record the area’s traditions and beliefs. Edie finds herself attracted by their visitor’s sophistication but it seems Constance may have a secret or two. I’m a great fan of both At Hawthorn Time and Clay but Harrison’s surpassed herself with this one.

Claire Fuller’s previous novels Our Endless Numbered Days and Swimming Lessons were a delight and I’m pleased to report Bitter Orange turns out to be one too. In the summer of  1969, Frances is drawn into a relationship with her fellow tenants of a crumbling country mansion: ‘But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up – and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. Amid the decadence of that summer, a small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand all their lives forever’ says the blurb, neatly setting the scene.

I’m ending this batch with the winner of last year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize, an award of which I’ve Cover imagelearned to take notice. Described as a darkly comic thriller, Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square is about Jean Mason whose friends and acquaintances tell her she has a doppelgänger. Jean sets about tracking down her likeness, becoming obsessed with this other woman who has been seen haunting Bellevue Square. ‘A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants–the regulars of Bellevue Square–are eager to contribute to Jean’s investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, she fears her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate much stranger than death’ according to the publishers. As is often the case with Canadian books, I first came across this one at Naomi’s excellent Consumed by Ink blog.

That’s it for the first selection of August’s new novels. As ever a click on a title will take you to a fuller synopsis should you wish to know more. Second instalment soon but not before my Man Booker wishlist…

37 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in August 2018: Part One

  1. Kath

    I’m really looking forward to reading new Andrew Miller, Patrick Gale and Claire Fuller books but I think I might have to make this the summer I read Melissa Harrison – I have both Clay and At Hawthorn Time on the TBR shelf, and I’m going to want to read All Among the Barley by the sounds of it but I should probably read the ones I have first before buying anymore!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      It’s a great month, isn’t it, and more goodies to come next week too. You already have two treats in store there, Kath. I particularly enjoyed the nature writng in Clay.

      Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Ha! Always a pleasure, Cathy. It was Naomi’s review that sold Bellevue Square to me, although I have ead something by him before and enjoyed it.

      Reply
    2. Naomi

      I can understand the mixed reviews for Bellevue Square. The author is trying to keep the reader as confused as the protagonist is herself. You have to be okay with not really knowing what’s going on. But it’s brilliantly done!

      Reply
  2. Kate W

    Can’t wait to read the Fuller – loved her first two books (but especially Swimming Lessons because I always write in books – notes, passages I like…). All Among the Barley looks good.

    Reply
  3. Naomi

    I’ve read Fuller’s first two books, so I expect I’ll be reading Bitter Orange – glad to hear it’s just as good as her others!
    Andrew Miller’s also really appeals – I love it when characters are “on the run”.
    I’m happy to see Bellevue Square has made it’s way over there! It’s interesting to see the new cover. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

    Reply
  4. Elle

    I just read Andrew Miller’s book this weekend and it is SUPERB. Honestly surpassed even my breathless expectations. Fully approve of its being given top billing here!

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve come to the conclusion that Miller’s at his best with historical fiction. It’s not that his more contemporary novels aren’t good but the atmosphere in the three 18th/19th century books is so vividly evoked.

      Reply
  5. JacquiWine

    A friend is a big fan of Andrew Miller’s work, so I’ll have to let her know about his new one. Thanks for the tip.

    All Among the Barley sounds excellent too. As I’m sure you know by now, the 1930s is my kind of era. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      You’re welcome, Jacqui. If your friend prefers Miller’s historical fiction I think this one will go down well. The Harrison should suit you!

      Reply
      1. April Munday

        Yes to both. She creates very clear pictures of the physical world without seeming to describe anything. I’ll probably have to read it again when I’ve finished to try and work out how she does it.

        Reply
        1. Susan Osborne Post author

          She used to post a weekly piece of flash fiction based around a photograph which may explain how she polished her observation skills. It was a regular treat to look forward to but I suspect she’s a bit too busy these days.

          Reply
  6. buriedinprint

    All of these sound good but I am thrilled to think that you are finally going to get to read Bellevue Square, the first in a triptych. It was one of my favourite reads from last year although, as Naomi has said above, it’s designed to be disorienting, so I understand completely why it’s not to every reader’s taste. (The bookstore bits are nice too. That always adds some shine to a story, doesn’t it?)

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I love novels with scenes in bookshops probably because I worked in one for so long. It arrivd two days ago, I’m pleased to say. Looking forward to becoming a little disorientated!

      Reply
  7. Liz

    I really like Patrick Gale’s work and am seeing him at the Edinburgh Book Festival soon, so looking forward to reading his new book.

    Reply

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