Books to Look Out for in October 2018

Cover imageOctober’s the month in which the big literary guns are rolled out in the battle for our Christmas present lists although the publicity campaign for Sarah Perry’s Melmoth has already been in full swing for months. Helen Franklin is hiding from an unforgivable act she committed twenty years ago. Her sheltered life is threatened by the discovery of a manuscript telling a story in which the mythic figure of Melmoth frequently appears, complete with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet. The novel’s described by the publishers as ‘a profound, ambitiously realised work of fiction which asks fundamental questions about guilt, forgiveness, moral reckoning and how we come to terms with our actions in a conflicted world’ and having read it, I’d say they’re right. The Essex Serpent is a hard act to follow but Perry’s more than met expectations with this one.

I finally got around to reading Paraic O’Donnell’s The Maker of Swans earlier this year and enjoyed it very much. He’s a writer who knows how to spin a good yarn which raises hopes for The House on Vesper Sands. Set in a snowy London in 1893, its sounds like a second pleasing slice of Gothic involving a man whose one-time love is found stretched out in front of an altar, a seamstress with a message stitched into her skin and her employer who disappears into the night, all under the watchful eye of a society columnist keen for a real story.

Eoin McNamee’s The Vogue sounds as if it may also have a foot in Gothic territory or perhaps that’s just the slightly opaque blurb. In 1944, two teenagers silently dance in an aerodrome. She draws the outlines of their footwork in eyebrow pencil; he loses their bet. Decades later, a body is found. ‘Set against an eerie landscape, awash with secrets, The Vogue is a grimly poetic dance through the intertwined stories of a deeply religious community, an abandoned military base, and a long-shuttered children’s Care Home’ say the publishers promisingly.Cover image

Season Butler’s Cygnet sees a young girl, stranded on an island seemingly abandoned by her parents. Swan Island is home to an ageing separatist community who have turned their back on the mainland to create their own haven and have no wish to have their carefully constructed idyll shattered by an incomer, let alone a young one. ‘Cygnet is the story of a young woman battling against the thrashing waves of loneliness and depression, and how she learns to find hope, laughter and her own voice in a world that’s crumbling around her’ according to the publishers. This one could go either way but it’s an interesting premise.

Something that could also be said Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered which intertwines the stories of Willa Knox who is grappling with a host of domestic problems in 2016, and schoolteacher Thatcher Greenwood whose ambitions to teach Darwinism in 1871 are met with obdurate opposition in the town. ‘A testament to both the resilience and persistent myopia of the human condition, Unsheltered explores the foundations we build in life, spanning time and place to give us all a clearer look at those around us, and perhaps ourselves’ say the publishers, rather ambitiously comparing it with George Eliot’s work. I prefer Kingsolver’s earlier fiction to her more recent novels.

I’m much more confident about Hubert Mingarelli’s Four Soldiers, described by Hilary Mantel as ‘a small miracle’. The titular soldiers set up camp in a forest close to the Romanian frontline of the Russian Civil War in the winter of 1919. They fill a lull in the fighting, trying to forget the horrors they’ve seen, enjoying a brief freedom and the beauty of their surroundings. ‘Tightly focused and simply told, this is a story of friendship and the fragments of happiness that can illuminate the darkness of war’ say the publishers. The spare prose of Mingarelli’s A Meal in Winter made a lasting impression on me when I read it five years ago

Cover image Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore sounds wacky enough to please even the most ardent fan. A portrait painter discovers a strange painting in the attic of a famous artist, opening a Pandora’s box in the process. To close it he must do all manner of things involving ‘a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors.  A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art – as well as a loving homage to The Great GatsbyKilling Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers’ say the publishers. Can’t wait.

That’s it for October’s new novels. As ever a click on a title will take you to a fuller synopsis should you be interested. Paperbacks soon…

43 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in October 2018

          1. BookerTalk

            I don’t know where our local branch is so that’s good, I don’t have to go out of my way to avoid them now. Although I bet Morrison’s won’t be far behind – they were selling Hot Cross buns in January last year

  1. Café Society

    I’m very much looking forward to the new Kingsolver, but I simply couldn’t see what all the fuss was about where The Essex Serpent was concerned so the new one is definitely one to miss as far as I’m concerned.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Yes, The Vogue caught my imagination too. I know what you mean about hype but I can vouch for Melmoth. The publicity campaign does seem to have started a tad early, though.

      Reply
  2. Kath

    So many great books here and October’s my birthday month! Although I am feeling a little bad about not having read their previous books yet because they’re still sitting on a TBR pile somewhere around the house. If only someone would pay me to read…

    Reply
  3. JacquiWine

    Nice to see there’s another Mingarelli on the way. Like you, I was a fan of A Meal in Winter, so I’ll be interested to hear what you think of Four Soldiers. Do you know if it’s a fairly recent book or an older one that’s just been translated?

    Reply
  4. Elle

    I think Melmoth is significantly better than The Essex Serpent—it’s certainly more morally complex and interesting. I’ve also got Unsheltered, as you know! And a colleague has snaffled our only proof of Killing Commendatore, but I’m sure it’ll go down well…

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I’ve avoided the retelling of the Greek myths trend on the whole although the Kamila Shamsie was good and I gather Pat Barker’s The Silence of Girls is excellent.

      Reply
  5. hopewellslibraryoflife

    Barbara Kingsolver is a favorite though I could not get into the Lacuna. I also found Animal, Vegetable, Miracle to be a tad precious-preachy, but still enjoyed it. I’m going to try the new one and see how it goes. Very good post.

    Reply
  6. madamebibilophile

    I’m in the minority who didn’t rate The Essex Serpent at all, so at least I can dodge the Melmoth hype! I adored A Meal in Winter though, so I’m very excited at the prospect of a new Mingarelli 🙂

    Reply

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