Books to Look Out for in November 2020: Part One

Cover image for The Invisible Land by Hubert Mingarelli Lots of interesting novels to look out for in publishers’ last big push for a place on your Christmas present list, although occasionally December’s schedules offer further delights which may well be the case in this strange year. I’ll begin with one I couldn’t resist reading almost as soon as it arrived back in the summer: Hubert Mingarelli’s The Invisible Land. I was struck by Mingarelli’s exquisite writing in both A Meal in Winter and Four Soldiers, the preceding two parts of what’s billed as a loose trilogy on the theme of war. Not a description I’d expect to spring to mind when reading about the grimmest of subjects. Opening in July 1945, this third, haunting novella takes us from the last days of the war into its aftermath as a photographer sets out to record images of German villagers, driven by a naïve young soldier recently arrived from his native Suffolk. Taken together, Mingarelli’s three books form a compassionate, humane and profound exploration of war and its devastating consequences. Review to follow soon…

Movie-maker Phillipe Claudel’s writing shares the same elegant understatement that marks out Mingarelli’s, ranging from his unconventional scent memoir, Parfums, to Monsieur Linh and His Child, one of the saddest pieces of fiction I’ve read. His new novel, Dog Island, is set on a remote volcanic island in the Mediterranean where the bodies of three young black men are washed ashore. The first reaction of the islanders is to cover it up but when a detective arrives asking questions it’s clear that something is horribly amiss.

Sighting of a new Jonathan Coe in the publishing schedules was once the cause of a great deal of eager anticipation for me but I’ve gone off the boil with his Cover image for Mr Wilder and Me by Jonathan Coe writing recently. Mr Wilder and Me marks a move away from his state of the nation theme back into cinema territory with this story of a young woman who finds herself working for Hollywood director Billy Wilder in Athens in 1977. While Calista is thrilled by the turn of events, Wilder fears his career has hit the skids. ‘In a novel that is at once a tender coming-of-age story and an intimate portrait of one of cinema’s most intriguing figures, Jonathan Coe turns his gaze on the nature of time and fame, of family and the treacherous lure of nostalgia’ according to the publishers. I do hope this one’s better than Middle England, which was such a disappointment regardless of its Costa Award.

Moving from the big to the small screen with Charles Wu’s Interior Chinatown which inhabits the world of TV with its story of Willis Wu, a bit-player in a procedural cop show that never seems to end. Willis longs to taking on a starring role but even in his own head he’s a player of walk-on parts. ‘Playful but heartfelt, a send-up of Hollywood tropes and Asian stereotypes, Interior Chinatown is Charles Yu’s most moving, daring, and masterly novel yet’. I’ve not read Wu’s How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe but have heard good things about it and this new one sounds very tempting.

Cover image for The Forger's Daughter by Bradford Morrow As does Bradford Morrow’s The Forger’s Daughter which begins with the titular forger woken by a scream. His daughter hands him a package containing a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tamerlaine. Will has put his forging days behind him but, given the threats to himself and his family, sets about counterfeiting the book as demanded by his daughter’s attacker. ‘Part mystery, part case study of the shadowy side of the book trade, and part homage to the writer who invented the detective tale, The Forger’s Daughter portrays the world of literary forgery as diabolically clever, genuinely dangerous and inescapable, it would seem, to those who have ever embraced it’ according to the publishers which sounds like perfect winter reading.

That’s it for the first part of November’s new fiction. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should any have taken your fancy. Second instalment soon…

22 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in November 2020: Part One”

  1. LIke you, I was somewhat disappointed with Middle England, but this latest Jonathan Coe sounds interesting: Billy Wilder and Athens sound like a wonderful combination of favourite things to me!

    1. He’s great at his best but not so much lately. If you’d like a way in I’d recommend starting with What a Carve Up or The Rotters Club although I’m also a fan of the less well known The House of Sleep.

  2. That’s a great cover on the Mingarelli. I’m guessing it can be read as a standalone without prior experience of the other two? (I’ve read A Meal in Winter but not Four Soldiers.)

  3. The Forger’s Daughter sounds interesting. I’ve never heard of the author before, but looking at Goodreads it seems he’s quite prolific – have you read anything by him?

    1. I haven’t although I’ve come across his name before. Inevitably, it’s the bookish connection that’s attracted me to this one. I see there’s a preceding novel, The Forger, available on Netgalley

  4. I loved A Meal in Winter and think I’ll pick up Four Soldiers before this new one comes out. I did get excited when I saw the new Coe here but like everyone else have been a bit disappointed since, for me, Number 11. I so loved The Rotter’s Cub and have been hoping for more of that Coe.

    1. The Rotters’ Club was superb, wasn’t it. I’m hoping that a move away from state-of-the-nation back to cinema will have pressed his restart button. I hope you love Four Soldiers as much as I did.

  5. The only one here I know anything about is Interior Chinatown, and I’ve heard good things. (I think it might be a National Book Award finalist?)

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