Books to Look Out for in September 2019

Disappointingly, very few new titles have caught my eye for September. I’ve included the first, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments , more because I’d find it difficult to leave out a new Atwood than because I’m looking forward to it. Truth be told, I’m wary of sequels in the same way I’m wary of unpublished novels found mouldering in dusty desk drawers. Probably best to leave them there. Anyway, Atwood promises to reveal the fate of Offred in this new novel, prompted both by her readers’ pleas and by the state of the world.

I’m much more enthusiastic about The Dutch House, Ann Patchett’s new novel about a house in small-town Pennsylvania lived in by Danny Conroy, his older sister Maeve and their property-developer father. Their mother is both absent and never spoken of but Danny finds solace with his sister until his father brings his wife-to-be home. I’ve jumped the gun with this one and can tell you it’s everything an ardent fan could want it to be. So good, I included it on my Booker wish list. Review to follow…

I’m in two minds about Nell Zink’s Doxology having found her previous novels something of a curate’s egg but the synopsis makes it sound very attractive. It follows two generations of an American family, one either side of 9/11. The first are members of a punk band, two of whom have an unplanned child, Flora. Zink follows the grown-up Flora into the world of conservation with all its political and personal challenges. At once an elegiac takedown of today’s political climate and a touching invocation of humanity’s goodness, Doxology offers daring revelations about America’s past and possible future that could only come from Nell Zink, one of the sharpest novelists of our time’ say the publishers.

Regular readers could be forgiven for being surprised at the inclusion of a novel about time travel but the premise of Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold sounds delightful. The offer of something more than just a flat white or macchiato in a tucked away Tokyo coffee shop is taken up by four customers each of who has a reason to travel back to the past. ‘Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?’ say the publishers promisingly.

Past times are also revisited in Philippe Besson’s Lie with Me. When a famous writer sees a young man who resembles his first love, he’s catapulted back to 1984 when he was seventeen and embarking upon an intense affair with a classmate. I think we can assume there’s an autobiographical element here given that the famous writer shares the author’s name. ‘Dazzlingly rendered by Molly Ringwald, the acclaimed actor and writer, in her first-ever translation, Besson’s exquisitely moving coming-of-age story captures the tenderness of first love – and the heart-breaking passage of time’ say the publishers.

I’m finishing September’s new title preview with Etgar Keret’s Fly Already, whose blurb promises a collection of twenty-two short stories in which ‘wild capers reveal painful emotional truths, and the bizarre is just another name for the familiar. Wickedly funny and thrillingly smart, Fly Already is a collage of absurdity, despair and love, written by veteran commentator on the circus farce that is life’. I’m hoping for some light relief in amongst all that.

A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should any have taken your fancy. September paperbacks soon…

33 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in September 2019”

  1. I’m actively avoiding The Testaments; I was (unreasonably?) cross when it was announced. Not everything needs a sequel.

    I was looking forward to The Dutch House until I saw someone use the words ‘wicked step-mother’ and that put me off. I’m so moany this month!

    The Zink really appeals however, as does Before the Coffee Gets Cold; I love a bit of time travel.

    1. I won’t be reading The Testaments but urge you to ignore that rather lazy ‘wicked stepmother’ description and read The Dutch House. It’s superb!

      I’ll probably give Doxology a go but Before the Coffee Gets Cold is top of my list.

  2. The Kawaguchi sounds brilliant!

    I seem to have a lot of NetGalley proofs stacked up for September – The Dutch House is one of them but also Emma Donoghue’s Akin, Zadie Smith’s Grand Union and Jessie Burton’s The Confession. Looking forward to all of those!

  3. I am looking forward to The Testaments, I hope I’m not disappointed. I do understand other people’s reluctance at a sequel, I suppose I hadn’t ever thought The Handmaid’s Tale needed one. Still my curiosity means I will read it immediately, and my book group picked it for our October read. I have heard good things about The Dutch House though I’ve only read one novel by Patchett before.

    1. I hope you aren’t, too. I wonder if it’s the TV series that was the trigger. I’ll wait to see what you think of it. I’m in danger of gushing about The Dutch House!

  4. I read Before the Coffee Gets Cold and was not blown away by it – it’s charming but forgettable, what they call ‘heart-warming’ but actually a bit over-sentimental, and the translation sounded a bit false as well.

    1. I watched the first of the TV series but refused to watch the next two. I think The Testament may be a bid to get back control of it by Atwood but I may be wrong. Glad to hear that you’re enjoying The Dutch House.

  5. Ooo… I didn’t know about the new Ann Patchett!

    I will be reading The Testament, and I’ll let you know what I think. I am nervous about it, though – I won’t say I’m not! But MA has rarely let me down.

        1. Only to be expected, I suppose. I hope it’s not too wearing for her. I was astonished when a friend told me she was seeing Atwood at a tiny literary festival close to where she lives thanks to the perseverance of one of its employees. Not only that but Atwood was visiting a local school. What an absolute star!

  6. Like you, I’ll be quite happy to pass on the Atwood, particularly given the current political climate. (The TV adaptation of the Handmaid’s Tale proved too bleak for me in the end – there’s only so much trauma and torture one can take in these most trying of times.)

    As for the others, Doxology is the one that appeals to me the most. Will you read it, do you think? I’d be interested to hear more.

    (PS Molly Ringwald working as a translator. Who knew!)

    1. I know exactly what you mean about the TV series: the first was harrowing in the extreme; I was half-way through the first episode of the second and had to give up.

      I’ll let you know if I read Doxology. As for Ringwald, the publishers are making quite a thing out of her translation!

  7. Like you I am wary about the Atwood but then I’m not a great fan at the best of times. However, the Patchett is at the top of my September list. By the way, I was in Oxford yesterday, which means of course that I was in Blackwells and both Anna Hope’s Expectation and Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game came home with me on your recommendation. Jolyon Bear (he who looks after the money) isn’t speaking to either of us!

  8. Are the publishers holding back until the big push pre-Christmas gets underway?
    I’m very much of the same mind as you re sequels and even more so when the first book was such a joy to read…..

    1. I’d say they are, Karen. Timings have changed over the years since I went into the book trade, an alarming number of years ago, in that the big titles used to be wheeled out in late September/October but now it’s shifted to, often, November. Retail’s changd a huge amount in that time, of course.

      I was sorry to see this particular sequel announced. I haven’t read much about it but I wonder if it’s a response to what seems to have turned into a long running series of TV ‘sequels’ to the original.

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