Books to Look Out for in August 2019: Part Two

August’s first instalment progressed smartly through the twentieth century while staying in the United States but this second preview lacks any neatly cohesive thread, I’m afraid. You may have noticed that it’s the centenary year of the Bauhaus school of design, the background for Theresia Enzensberger’s Blueprint which opens at the beginning of the 1920s. Luise dreams of becoming an architect, enrolling herself in the Bauhaus university where she’s taught by Walter Gropius and Wassily Kandinksy. While her art school friends immerse themselves in their work, street fights are breaking out in Berlin. ‘From technology to art, romanticism to the avant-garde, populism to the youth movement, Luise encounters themes, utopias and ideas that still shape us to the present day’ say the publishers. I already have my eye on Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game which shares the Bauhaus theme but I’m tempted by this one, too.

Back to the States for the next two titles beginning with Lot by Bryan Washington, set in Houston where a mixed-race boy, working in the family restaurant and fending off his brother’s blows, is coming to the realisation that he’s gay. ‘Bryan Washington’s brilliant, viscerally drawn world vibrates with energy, wit, and the infinite longing of people searching for home. With soulful insight into what makes a community, a family, and a life, Lot explores trust and love in all its unsparing and unsteady forms’ say the publishers promisingly.

Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels is set in San Diego where Big Angel is about to hold what may well be his last rowdy birthday party when his mother dies. Big Angel’s half-brother is in attendance at what is now both a party and a wake, all too well aware of his mixed race. The weekend passes in a celebration of both lives and the telling of a multitude of stories. ‘Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank’ say the publishers.

It’s its structure that attracts me to Livia Franchini’s debut, Shelf Life, which comes highly rated by Sophie Mackintosh who described it as ‘whip-smart and slyly heartbreaking’. Thirty-year-old Ruth works in a care home and has just been dumped by her fiancé. As she works her way through the week’s shopping list item by item, she tells her story which reveals a life spent looking after everyone else but herself. Sounds a bit thin, doesn’t it, but as a lover of lists I can’t resist the lure of this one.

I’m signing off August with Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything, which begins in 1989 when Saul Adler is hit by a car on Abbey Road. Apparently unscathed, he visits his girlfriend who insists on photographing Saul on the famous crossing then dumps him. Saul takes off to Berlin, two months before the Wall comes down. In 2016, he’s hit by a car on Abbey Road, dipping in and out of consciousness as a group of people gather at his hospital bedside, including his ex-girlfriend. ‘Slipping slyly between time zones and leaving a spiralling trail, Deborah Levy’s electrifying new novel examines what we see and what we fail to see, until we encounter the spectres of history – both the world’s and our own’ Very much like the sound of that.

That’s it for the second batch of August’s new titles. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that have caught your eye, and if you’d like to catch up with the first instalment it’s here. Paperbacks soon…

27 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in August 2019: Part Two”

  1. Blueprint looks FABULOUS. Almost tempted to buy it immediately, without doing my usual sample-chapter-read. I have a copy of Shelf Life – looks interesting – and I’m crossing my fingers for an ARC of the new Levy.

    1. I have a copy of The Hiding Game but that won’t stop me reading Blueprint at some point in the future. Looking forward to seeing what you make of Shelf Life.

  2. I’m also looking forward to the Naomi Wood so I’m not sure if I shall want two books on pretty much the same subject so close together. However, they might make the basis for a Summer School grouping next year!

    1. That would make an interesting summer school. How about a fiend trip to the Berlin museum or Dessau! I’ll be starting the Wood tomorrow and will be reviewing it shortly. I suspect I’ll wait until the paperback edition for Blueprint.

    1. It sounds excellen, doesn’t it. That flipping backwards and forwards between timelines technique is always attractive if handled well and I’m sure Levy will do that.

  3. I have Blueprint on my pile – it arrived just as I finished the Naomi Wood so I’ve put it aside for a while. The Hiding Game is superb, I thought. Very sophisticated.

    I’ve read the Deborah Levy too and it’s exquisite. So deftly handled. You’ve a real treat there too.

  4. The Deborah Levy sounds great. I haven’t read any of her books since Swimming Home, which I liked a lot. Looking forward to hearing your take on the new one in due course. 🙂

    1. It sounds great, doesn’t it. It took me a very long time to get around to reading Hot Milk – so much hype surrounding it – but I’m pleased to say that it lived up to that for me.

  5. Having heard Theresia Enzensberger speak at a first novel festival last year in Budapest, I’ll be curious to read your opinion of the book. It certainly sounded attractive, and its author quite confident and well-spoken.

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