Books to Look Out for in November 2018: Part One

Cover imageNovember’s packed to the gills with goodies, not all of them obvious Christmas presents although I’d be surprised if Jonathan Coe’s Middle England doesn’t appear on one or two wish lists. Set in the Midlands and London, it follows the last eight years through the lives of a set of characters including a political commentator and a Tory MP. Dubbed ‘a story of nostalgia and irony; of friendship and rage, humour and intense bewilderment’ by the publishers, it sounds like the kind of novel at which Coe excels. It feels a very long time since Number 11 and the return of the Winshaws so expectations are high.

A close contender for top of my own wish list is Georgina Harding’s Land of the Living which is set partly in India during the Second World War from which Charlie has returned, marrying, settling on a farm and hoping to turn his back on what happened in the remote mountains of Nagaland. ‘A beautifully conceived, deftly controlled and delicately wrought meditation on the isolating impact of war, the troubling legacies of colonialism and the inescapable reach of the past, Georgina Harding’s haunting, lyrical novel questions the very nature of survival, and what it is that the living owe the dead’ say the publishers. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Harding, including her last novel, The Gun Room, which also tackled the theme of war.

Walter Kempowski’s Homeland examines the legacy of the Second World War from a different perspective. In 1988, a journalist is commissioned to report on a car rally, an assignment which will take him back to the place he was born in 1945 as refugees fled the Russian advance. ‘Homeland is a nuanced work from one of the great modern European storytellers, in which an everyday German comes face to face with his painful family history, and devastating questions about ordinary Germans’ complicity in the war’ say the publishers promisingly. And it’s translated by one of my favourites: Charlotte Collins

Gerard Reve’s Childhood comprises two novellas: one set in wartime Amsterdam as a young boy watches the German occupation of his city, the other about a children’s secret society and its treatment of a newcomer. ‘In these two haunting novellas from the acclaimed author of The Evenings, the world of childhood, in all its magic and strangeness, darkness and cruelty, is evoked with piercing wit and dreamlike intensity. Here, the things seen through a child’s eyes are far from innocent’ say the publishers no doubt hoping for the same success that met Reve’s bleak but darkly funny The Evenings.Cover image

I’m polishing off this first selection on a more cheerful note with Matias Faldbakken’s The Waiter, set in Oslo where the eponymous waiter works at the city’s grandest restaurant. Our waiter knows his clientele well, tending to their every whim while sharply observing their various shenanigans. ‘Exquisitely observed and wickedly playful, The Waiter is a novel for lovers of food, wine, and of European sensibilities, but also for anyone who spends time in restaurants, on either side of the service’ say the publishers which sounds just great.

That’s it for the first batch of November’s goodies. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for anything that’s taken your fancy. Second instalment to follow soon…

23 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in November 2018: Part One”

  1. I plan to review Middle England, and I like the sound of The Waiter. (I must apologize: you commented on my birthday post last year saying we had the same birthday, and I let it slip my mind in the intervening year – which isn’t like me.)

      1. I’ve read Coe’s two latest novels but don’t know the earlier books whose characters he revisits. I don’t think prior knowledge is necessary, though?

        P.S. I started reading The Bird Artist yesterday as a birthday treat. What a terrific first paragraph!

    1. Hopes are super high for the Coe. He’s so good at state of the nation novels served with a hefty dollop of humour which most of us feel in need of at the moment. Fingers crossed for The Waiter too.

  2. Coe is very popular here in France, and is a little intimidated by his fans, many of whom have read everything he has written, so when he attends readings here, he has to really prep himself for the questions, which are likely to traverse more than one novel and not necessarily his most recent one. I still have Number 11 to read, must get to it! Thanks for the heads up on what’s coming out, I’m not reading a lot at the moment but I like to know what’s coming out. 🙂

    1. I’d heard that he was popular in France but not that his fans were likely to give him the third degree! You’re very welcome, Claire. I always enjoy putting these posts together.

    1. Ha! I’ve given up hope of a Coe proof, Annabel, so it’ll be a finished copy for me too. I think Harding’s one of those underrated authors who deserves more coverage than she gets.

  3. I’ve yet to try Coe and I have a feeling I’ve said that before to you, so I really should do something about it. On another note, I love books about the restaurant/service industry: such potential for revealing facts about relationships and intersections, small details that say more.

  4. I’ve only read one of Jonathan Coe’s novels, What a Carve Up, which I really enjoyed. It feels like right time for the publication of one of his books, particularly given his interest in state-of-the-nation narratives.

    1. Sadly true – we are in a right old state. You might be interested in Number 11 which picks up the story of the Winshaws, Jacqui. It’s Coe’s post-crash novel, painfully funny at times.

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