Back from lovely Edinburgh (more of which later in the week) with the first of a healthy two-part preview, kicking off with a novel eagerly anticipated by many, I’m sure. Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway sees Emmett about to take his little brother off in search of a spanking new future when two pals turn up having run away from the Kansas youth facility Emmett has just left himself. ‘Each young man sees this journey as his chance to pursue his dreams, settle scores and find riches. And a simple journey quickly becomes a dazzling odyssey filled with obstacles, villains and ruses fit only for heroes to overcome’ say the publishers. I loved Rules of Civility, A Gentleman in Moscow not so much. Having already read this one, I’d say it’s the best of the three and that jacket is brilliant.
I’m sure lots of readers remember Graeme Macrae Burnet’s His Bloody Project, shortlisted for the Booker when it was still the Man Booker in 2016. Not one I read but I like the look of Case Study, set in ’60s London where a young woman, convinced that Collins Braithwaite, a charismatic psychotherapist, has driven her sister to suicide, devises a dangerous scheme posing as a client, and recording her experiences in notebooks. ‘Burnet presents these notebooks interspersed with his own biographical research into Collins Braithwaite. The result is a dazzling – and often wickedly humorous – meditation on the nature of sanity, identity and truth itself, by one of the most inventive novelists writing today’ say the publishers which sounds fascinating.
I was one of those children who loved Alan Warner’s The Owl Service and enjoyed his adult novel, Strandloper, many years ago. Not an easy novel but a rewarding one. His new book, Treacle Walker, is about a friendship between a comic-loving young boy with a lazy eye and the rag and bone man who rides his pony and trap into the boy’s life one day. ‘Treacle Walker is a stunning fusion of myth and folklore and an exploration of the fluidity of time, vivid storytelling that brilliantly illuminates an introspective young mind trying to make sense of everything around him’ according to the blurb. I’m hoping for striking imagery and use of language with this one.
Entirely different, Lola Akinmade Akerstrom’s In Every Mirror She’s Black follows three women, all linked to an influential white businessman, all trying to establish themselves in Stockholm. One is a successful American marketing executive trying to fix a PR blunder; the second is a flight attendant whose encounter with the businessman results in a life which is not what she’d hoped and the third is a refugee working as a cleaner in the businessman’s office. ‘Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, In Every Mirror She’s Black is a timely, richly nuanced novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society’. Very much like the sound of that structure.
I’ve yet to read anything by Claire Keegan but if the likes of Douglas Stuart and Sarah Moss are to be believed, I’ve missed a treat. Small Things Like These is set in Ireland in the mid-80s and follows Bill Furlong as he delivers coal and timber to his customers in the build up to Christmas, haunted by memories of a difficult past. ‘The long-awaited new work from the author of Foster, Small Things Like These is an unforgettable story of hope, quiet heroism and tenderness’ say the publishers which sounds promising to me.
I still remember the explosive opening chapter of Domenico Starnone’s Ties four years after reading it. I’m hoping for more of that kind of writing with Trust which follows Pietro and Teresa’s stormy affair and its aftermath. After yet another row, the couple spends the day sharing secrets too shameful to tell others in an attempt to cement their intimacy. Then Pietro meets Nadia. ‘Trust asks how much we are willing to bend to show the world our best side, knowing full well that when we are at our most vulnerable we are also at our most dangerous’ say the publishers promisingly. Like Ties, Trust is translated by Jhumpa Lahiri.
That’s it for the first batch of October’s new novels. As ever, if you’d like to know more a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis. Part two soon…