Books to Look Out For in September 2021

September may not be as jampacked with potential goodies as I might like but there are several titles that shine out like a beacon beginning with Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World Where Are You. Readers would have to have been living on Mars not to know about this one by an author who arouses feelings of antipathy in some, adoration in others. Rooney’s novel is about four people, still young but aware that youth is slipping away as they fall in and out of love and lust. ‘Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?’ asks the blurb. Having enjoyed both Conversation with Friends and Normal People, I can’t wait to find out but you may be suppressing a yawn, or worse.

Sarah Gilmartin’s debut, Dinner Party, also appeared in my Twitter timeline a good eight or nine months before it was due to be published. Easier to get my hands on a copy of this one which I’ve already read. It begins with the titular dinner party, held by the Gleesons on the anniversary of Elaine’s death sixteen years ago, then explores the fraught family dynamics leading up to it, not least for her twin, Kate. That may sound a wee bit hackneyed but Gilmartin’s smartly turned out debut steers well clear of cliché, spiced with a little dark humour now and again. Review shortly…Cover image for Harlem Shuffle by Colston Whitehead

It seems an age since Colson Whitehead’s much hyped The Underground Railroad took the literary world justifiably by storm. Harlem Shuffle sounds very different, following a hardworking salesman, a good man who finds himself drawn into the criminal underworld by his cousin, at first just to make ends meet but then becoming involved in a full blown heist. ‘Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s.  It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem say the publishers enticingly.

Marlow Grenados’ debut, Happy Hour, is also set in New York but this time in the present day. Isa Espley joins her best friend for a hedonistic summer, both working all manner of precarious jobs to fund their flits around the city and out to the Hamptons. As their finances become more strained so does their friendship. ‘Through it all, Isa’s bold, beguiling voice captures the precise thrill of cultivating a life of glamour and intrigue as she juggles paying her dues with skipping out on the bill’ according to the blurb. This one sounds as if it could deliver an enjoyably flighty read.

Cover image for Keeping the House by Tice CinI’m not entirely sure I’d have included Tice Cin’s Keeping the House had I not read that Max Porter came out of editorial retirement after reading it. Spanning three generations, Cin’s novel is about a family whose women keep it afloat through dealing heroin. ’Offering a fresh and funny take on the machinery of the North London heroin trade, Keeping the House lifts the lid on a covert world thriving just beneath notice: not only in McDonald’s queues and men’s clubs, but in spotless living rooms and whispering kitchens’ say the publishers which sounds a world away your usual family saga.

Entirely different, Colm Tóibín’s new novel, The Magician, is an imagined life of the Nobel Prize-winning Thomas Mann, described by the publishers as ‘a sweeping novel of unrequited love and exile, war and family’. Mann had been a fervent supporter of the First World War but a prescient observer of the horrors of Nazism. A gay man at a time when open homosexuality was too dangerous to contemplate, he married and fathered six children. I know very little about Mann but I’m a great fan of Tóibín’s spare, lyrical style. Review to follow…Cover image for Em by Kim Thuy

Eagerly anticipating this last one by Kim Thúy whose Mãn I loved for its poetic use of language. Her new novel, Em, follows a set of linked characters on their journeys from wartime Saigon to the present day, building lives and businesses in their new homes, bent on surviving the trauma of their childhood. ‘Em is a poetic story steeped in history, about those most impacted by the violence and their later accomplishments. In many ways, Em is perhaps Kim Thúy’s most personal book, the one in which she trusts her readers enough to share with them not only the pervasive love she feels but also the rage and the horror at what she and so many other children of the Vietnam War had to live through’ say the publishers. Sounds unmissable to me.

That’s it for September’s new fiction. Slim pickings but I’m sure October will be more plentiful. As ever a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you wish to know more. Paperbacks soon…

21 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in September 2021”

  1. Rachel Moffitt

    Definitely giving Sally Rooney a miss! Dull and plodding are words that spring to mind! But many disagree – can’t like everything.

  2. Em sounds like one I’d certainly like to pick up.

    I have a bunch of books for September release on my NetGalley pile–from the fiction Richard Osman is one I’m most looking forward to, there’s a children’s mystery adventure set during the Hungry Ghost festival in Singapore, and then quite a pile of interesting non-fiction including a look at an English garden through Japanese micro seasons, a veterinarian’s memoirs, and a history of spaghetti and tomato sauce.

  3. I’m on the fence about Rooney! Enjoyed Conversations but found it flawed, couldn’t get into Normal People, so I’ll wait for the paperback of this one. I would love to read the Kim Thuy – they’ve done her another gorgeous cover. I’d be tempted by the Tice Cin now, knowing the Porter connection.

  4. I’m in the “yawn” camp regarding the Rooney, It will sell well I’m sure on the back of Normal People but I won’t be parting with my money for it.

    Colin Toibin though is an absolute must…

  5. Because I was impatient for Kim Thuy’s new novel, which wasn’t showing as on order when I first investigated, I requested the French edition, but i’ll have to ask for the English one after all, to make sure that I don’t miss the good stuff. Heheh (Being that I’m barely out of Babar with my French vocabulary and nuthin like a poetic prose stylist to remind you of that.) Am also very excited about the new Whitehead!

  6. I’m looking forward to the Rooney, although I’ll probably wait for the paperback once all the initial buzz has died down. It’s great for bookshops though, definitely a novel that will generate a lot of interest in September!

    1. I’m keen to read the Rooney although keener on Em. I know what you mean about Keeping the House. Not one that would particularly appeal were it not for that Max Porter story.

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