I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, although in a good way, introducing yet another preview as full to bursting with potential goodies beginning with Anne Tyler’s Redhead By the Side of the Road billed as ‘an offbeat love story’. Micah sounds a bit of an eccentric. Odd yet fondly regarded by family and friends, he’s quite content with his life until his partner tells him she’s to be evicted because of a cat. Then a teenager knocks on his door claiming to be his son further discombobulating him. ‘Redhead by the Side of the Road is an intimate look into the heart and mind of a man who sometimes finds those around him just out of reach – and a love story about the differences that make us all unique’ say the publishers. A new Tyler is always cause for celebration for me.
Haleh Agar’s debut, Out of Touch is also about ambivalent family reunions by the sound of it. A woman is knocked down by a man who visits her in hospital, bringing her flowers in apology together with the letter she dropped when she fell. Her brother has received the same letter in New York telling him that their estranged father is dying and wants to see them both. ‘With sharp wit and sensitivity, Out of Touch is a deeply absorbing story about love and vulnerability, sex and power, and the unbreakable bonds of family’ say the publishers promisingly. Quite a lot of brouhaha in my neck of the Twitter woods over this one and it does sound intriguing.
There’s a good deal of that surrounding Naoise Dolan’s debut, Exciting Times, which is about Ava, fresh from Dublin and teaching rich children English in Hong Kong, Julian, a banker who pays Ava a good deal of sexual attention but little of any other kind, and Edith, a lawyer who likes to take Ava to the theatre and listens to what she says. ‘Politically alert, heartbreakingly raw, and dryly funny, Exciting Times is thrillingly attuned to the great freedoms and greater uncertainties of modern love. In stylish, uncluttered prose, Naoise Dolan dissects the personal and financial transactions that make up a life and announces herself as a singular new voice’ say the publishers. I do like the sound of stylish, uncluttered prose.
Nicolas Mattieu’s And Their Children After Them follows a young boy over four summers, beginning in 1992 when fourteen-year-old Anthony steals a canoe, an act which will lead him to his first love, apparently. He and his friends are desperate to escape their small town which is caught in nostalgia and decline. ‘Winner of the Goncourt Prize and praised for its portrayal of people living on the margins of French society, Nicolas Mathieu’s eloquent novel becomes a mirror for the struggles of society today’ according to the blurb.
Elizabeth Ames’ The Other’s Gold follows a set of friends from young adulthood into later life, a catnip structure for me. Four students, all with childhood demons to face down, become roommates in their first year. Each of the four will make a dreadful mistake as they move from their wild student days into motherhood. ‘The Other’s Gold reveals the achingly familiar ways our life-defining turning points prompt our relationships to unravel and re-knit, as the women discover what they and their loved ones are capable of, and capable of forgiving’ say the publishers whetting my appetite further.
Ilaria Bernardini’s The Portrait narrows the focus to just two people. A well-known author is horrified when her prominent lover is struck down with a massive stroke, finding a way into his family home by commissioning his wife to paint her portrait. These two women become entranced with each other, apparently, sharing the stories of their lives while one sits and the other paints. ‘…as the portrait takes shape, we watch these complex and extraordinary women struggle while the love of their lives departs, in an unforgettable, breathless tale of deception and mystery that captivates until the very end’ according to the publishers which sounds excellent to me.
Grief is also a theme for my last choice, Conor O’Callaghan’s We Are Not in the World about a man trying to escape the pain of a long drawn out affair by taking a job driving a truck through France in the company of his twentysomething daughter, unkempt and disturbed. ‘As the pair journey down the motorways and through the service stations of France, a devastating picture reveals itself: a story of grief, of shame, and of love in all its complex, dark and glorious manifestations’ according to the blurb. Given that it was praised to the skies by the likes of Donal Ryan and John Banville, I’ve no idea how I managed to miss O’Callaghan’s debut, Nothing on Earth, but I did.
That’s it for April’s first instalment of new novels. Quite a promising selection, I hope you’ll agree. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take you fancy. More soon…