After the paucity of potential treats on offer in July, I’m glad to say we’re back to two posts for August’s new title preview the first of which stays put in the United States throughout, beginning with Téa Obreht’s Inland, an exploration of the history and myths of the American West through frontierswoman Nora and Lurie, a former outlaw. ‘Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland is grounded in true but little-known history. It showcases all of Tea Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the myths of the American West, making them entirely – and unforgettably – her own’ say the publishers. It’s been eight years since Obreht won the then Orange Prize for Fiction with The Tiger’s Wife which I loved so hopes and anticipation are high for this one.
Moving on a century or so, Patrick Flanery’s Night for Day is set in Los Angeles in 1950, taking place over just one day in the midst of the Communist witch hunt. Director John Marsh and screenwriter Desmond Frank are trying to complete a noir update of the Orpheus myth, each of them struggling with personal and political difficulties. ‘With as much to say about the early years of the Cold War as about the political and social divisions that continue to divide the country today, Night for Day is expansive in scope and yet tenderly intimate, exploring the subtleties of belonging and the enormity of exile-not only from one’s country but also from one’s self’ say the publishers. It’s the setting of this one that interests me although it weighs in at well over 600 pages which is a little off-putting.
We’re staying in the American ‘50s for a while with David Bowman’s Big Bang which explores the decade leading up to the Kennedy assassination on the premise that the event defined the late twentieth century. Lucille Ball, Frank Sinatra, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Howard Hunt and a young Jimi Hendrix all make appearances, apparently.’ Written with an almost documentary film like intensity, BIG BANG is a posthumous work from the award-winning author of Let the Dog Drive. A riotous account of a country, perhaps, at the beginning of the end’ according to the publishers. I’m not entirely sure about this, not least because it’s another 600+ chunkstser.
Another decade, another book, another doorstopper and then some at just over 1,000 pages. Lewis Shiner’s Outside the Gates of Eden begins in the ‘60s and takes us all the way to the twenty-first century as it traces the rise and fall of counterculture through Alex and Cole who meet in high school. Alex would prefer to be an artist rather than join the family business while Cole’s future is decided at a Bob Dylan conference in 1965. ‘Using the music business as a window into the history of half a century, Outside the Gates of Eden is both epic and intimate, starkly realistic and ultimately hopeful, a War and Peace for the Woodstock generation’ say the publishers somewhat ambitiously. I’m very attracted to this one but somewhat intimidated by its length.
I’m finishing this first batch with Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes set in an upstate New York town where everything looks neatly and tidy. The Gleesons and the Stanhopes are neighbours, both new to Gilliam, but while the adults remain frostily separate their children form a friendship which will be threatened by a tragedy whose origins will remain hidden for many years. ‘A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love’ say the publishers which sounds a little run of the mill but it’s much loved by Meg Wolitzer which has swung it for me.
Here endeth part one of August’s rather weighty new novels. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Second instalment soon…