Books to Look Out For in August 2021

Cover image for The Echo Chamber by John BoyneNot unexpectedly in a month when publishers’ sights are firmly set on summer reading, I’ve only come across enough titles for a single preview post although it’s a pleasingly mixed bag, several of which I’ve already read.

I’m starting with John Boyne’s The Echo Chamber which I practically inhaled as soon as it arrived. It follows the Cleverley family, made famous by self-proclaimed national treasure George Cleverley, over the course of five days in which they find themselves caught up in a social media maelstrom after George gets his pronouns in a twist. Boyne uses humour very effectively in a slapstick satire which pokes fun at the sanctimonious outrage so often spouted on social media while conveying a serious message about the damage it inflicts. It’s the third novel I’ve read on this theme this year: both Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts and Patricia Lockwood’s Women’s Prize longlisted No One is Talking About This took it on, the latter more successfully than the former for me. Review soon…

Virginia Feito’s Mrs March would also suit readers after an immersive read, living up to the promise of its striking jacket hinting at something nasty as a cockroach makes its way towards an elegantly attired woman’s carefully manicured hand. Married to a successfulCover image for Mrs Marsh by Virginia Feito novelist, Mrs March is beginning to worry about his latest book which seems to be all about her. Anxious and already oversensitive to gossip, Mrs March’s life unravels spectacularly in this witty, gripping debut. Already looking forward to seeing what Feito comes up with next. Review shortly…

If, like me, foreign holidays are still a no-no, Daisy Lafarge’s Paul will take you to the French Pyrenees where Frances has volunteered to work on a sustainable farm having left Paris under a cloud. Paul is not quite what she expected, eager to tell her about his travels in the South Pacific and proclaiming himself an anthropologist rather than a farmer. As the week wears on, Frances becomes embroiled in a coercive relationship in which she seems almost complicit. It’s a powerful story but the most enjoyable aspect for me was Lafarge’s gorgeous descriptions of the French countryside. Review soon…

We’re staying in France with Dominique Barbéris’ A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray which follows a woman making her way from her own Parisian flat to her sister’s suburban home, anticipating another uncomfortable meeting. Once Jane has settled, Claire Marie reflects on a past encounter and the expectations it raised. ‘Sharply observed and wryly funny, A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray is a haunting novel about half-shared Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silbertruths and desires that can never fully be expressed’ says the blurb suggesting a quiet treat.

I read Joan Silber’s quietly impressive Improvement back in 2019 ending my review hoping to see more of her novels published in the UK. I was delighted, then, to spot Secrets of Happiness in the publishing schedules. Silber’s new novel explores our yearning for happiness through the shocking revelation of the second family of an apparently happily married man. It reads like an intricately connected set of short stories, each character’s story narrated in their own voice, often overlapping with others in surprising ways. An absolute delight which left me hoping that her UK publishers won’t forget the rest of her pleasingly long backlist. Review shortly…

Mario Levrero’s The Luminous Novel sees a writer faced with what feels like the impossibility of completing the novel for which he’s won a very large Guggenheim grant, procrastinating for all he’s worth. ‘Insomniacs, romantics and anyone who’s ever written (or failed to write) will fall in love with this compelling masterpiece told by a true original, with all his infuriating faults, charming wit and intriguing musings’ say the publishers. Very much like the sound of that.

I suspect Antonio Muñoz Molina’s To Walk Alone in the Crowd will fall into the love it or hate it bracket. We’re invited to join the author on a series of walks throughCover image for To Walk Alone in the Crowd by Antonio Munoz Molina Madrid, Paris, London and New York for this novel made up of newspaper headlines, billboards and overheard conversations. ‘This is the digital metropolis, captured in notebooks, recorded on the iPhone, where Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Charles Baudelaire, Thomas de Quincey, Fernando Pessoa and Walter Benjamin step beside us, all of us writing the unfinished poem of the crowded city’ according to the blurb. Well worth giving a try although I’m prepared for the possibility of disappointment.

Claire-Louise Bennett’s name may well be familiar to short story fans. Checkout 19 is her debut novel in which a young woman revisits the crucial events in her life. ‘Fusing fantasy with lived experience, Checkout 19 is a vivid and mesmerising journey through the small traumas and triumphs that define us – as readers, as writers, as human beings’ say the publishers. I’m not keen on fantasy but that premise is very appealing.

Cover image for Afterparties by Antonio Munoz MolinaAugust’s short story collection is Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So which draws on his own background, exploring the lives of Cambodian-Americans, many of them the children of those who fled the Khmer Rouge. ‘With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humour and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So’ say the publishers which sounds right up my alley. Sadly, So died in December last year, aged only twenty eight.

That’s it for August’s new fiction. I’m sure there’ll be much more for us all to look forward to in September. As ever a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you wish to know more. Paperbacks soon…

22 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in August 2021”

  1. As usual, may thanks for the roundup! Oddly enough, I already have two of them: Silber’s Secrets of Happiness and Barbéris’ A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray (not to say they’ll be read anytime soon!). Although I certainly don’t need to add anything to Mount TBR, which currently threatens to crush my house, I’m also very tempted by Mrs. March!

    1. Well, at the risk of toppling that teetering mountain, Mrs March is very good indeed! I enjoyed the Silber and very much like the sound of A Sunday in d’Avray

  2. Oh, go right ahead and give the mountain a shove, as Mrs. March is definitely going on the pile! It just looks too good to resist. I was just checking online and discovered the U.S. version has a different cover — an elegant pair of gloves. Guess the publisher(s) decided that nasty bug was just too graphic for the U.S. market . . .

  3. Another fascinating selection. That cover for Mrs March is so striking, I love it. It is A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray that appeals to me most. Yet another one to look out for.

    1. Thank you. It’s the publishing arm of Daunt Books who are bringing out A Sunday… and they seem to have a reliable sharp editorial eye. That cover fits Mrs March perfectly!

  4. As others have said, a very interesting selection. I’m intrigued by the setting in Mrs March, particularly as the cover image suggests ‘Mad Men’ to me. When’s it set? (I’m hoping you might say the 1950s!)

    A Sunday in Ville-d’Avray sounds excellent too.

    1. It’s not, I’m afraid , Jacqui, but don’t let that put you off. It does have an oddly old fashioned feel about its setting. I’d be interested to see what you think of it if you do decide to read it.

  5. I’m not sure about To Walk Alone in a Crowd, it may be brilliant or completely unreadable. I’ll be interested to see what people make if it. The Mrs March cover is stunning!

  6. I’m swayed by Daisy Lafarge’s novel – the premise sounds interesting but really it’s the setting that’s drawing me in. I’ve never been to that part of France and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get there in real life for quite some time

  7. So many of there are really appealing, although it’s the Bennett that I’m most looking forward to. I enjoyed Boyne’s Ladder to the Sky and will be interested to see what you make of his new one. Mrs March is new to me and is going straight on the wish list.

    1. I loved The Echo Chamber. It hit just the right note for me although I suspect he’ll come in for some flak but I’m sure he’s prepared for that. Mrs March is wonderful! I’ll be interested to hear what you think about the Bennett.

      1. John came to HomePlace a few years back and I liked him a lot. I get the feeling he gets in a lot of Twitter spats, so I’m sure he’s ready for any backlash.

  8. The only one on my TBR currently is Afterparties, which I’m looking forward to. (Short stories for the win!)

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