Books to Look Out For in November 2021: Part One

Cover image for The Fell by Sarah Moss A pleasing two-parter preview for November’s new fiction, the first of which begins with one I’ve already read. I had no intention of reading a pandemic novel, having had enough of it in real life, but then Sarah Moss’ The Fell turned up so that idea went out of the window. Just as her previous novel, Summerwater, spans a single day in the lives of a group of holidaymakers, The Fell takes place over one night during last year’s November lockdown when Kate breaks quarantine desperate to be outside, only intending to be absent for a short time but injuring herself badly in a fall. Moss’ narrative flits in and out of her characters’ heads as the night unfolds. Loneliness, financial insecurities, mental health, domestic violence are all subtly woven through this brief novella along with the background hum of climate change. Review soon…

I’ve also read Jocelyn Nicole Johnson’s striking My Monticello which is set in a near-future, storm-battered Charlottesville under attack from white supremacists. The black descendent of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemmings, Da’Naisha has fled with her grandmother and white boyfriend, boarding an abandoned bus with friends and strangers and heading to Jefferson’s plantation home where they stay for nineteen days as the city burns. Both Colson Whitehead and Roxanne Gay are fans, apparently. Review shortly… Cover image for Seesaw by Timothy Ogene

Timothy Ogene’s SeeSaw takes a very different approach to race as a Nigerian author is selected for an emerging writers’ programme in Boston. Once installed, Frank realises that he and his colleagues are expected to perform duties which only serve to reinforce their cultural stereotypes. When Frank’s expelled for not complying, he sets off to visit his father’s old friend in Nebraska with surprising results. Seesaw is an energetic comedy of cultural dislocation – and in its humour, intelligence and piety-pricking, it is a refreshing and hugely enjoyable act of literary rebellion’ say the publishers bringing Percival Everett’s novels to mind.

I remember spotting Dan Rhodes’ Sour Grapes on social media shortly after Scott Pack announced he was bowing out of publishing. Rhodes’ novel was Pack’s last as an editor and it sounds entirely appropriate. Broad Bottom is hosting its first literary festival, its villagers unprepared for who’s about to descend on them, not least Wilberforce Selfram, known for his bad behaviour. ‘Sour Grapes is a hilarious satire of the literary world which takes no prisoners as it skewers authors, agents, publishers and reviewers alike. It is bound to cause a storm when it is published, especially when the literati find caricatures of themselves within its pages’ promise the publishers. Can’t wait for this one.

Cover image for Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket by Hima Wolitzer November’s short story collection comes from a writer unknown to me, although her daughter is one of my favourite novelists. Introduced by Elizabeth Strout, Hilma Wolitzer’s Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket is a set of linked short stories, many published in the ‘60s and ‘70s, which explore the intimate world of domesticity. ‘Wolitzer captures the tensions, contradictions and unexpected detours of daily life with wit, candour and an acutely observant eye’ say the publishers promisingly of a collection much praised by the likes of Lauren Groff and Emma Straub. It sounds right up my street.

That’s it for the first instalment of November’s fiction. A click on a title with take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Part two soon…

31 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in November 2021: Part One”

  1. An interesting selection so far, I look forward to your reviews and to the response to the satire. I just started watching Call My Agent and I’m beginning to understand the strategic game they play, and the farcical lengths they go to, to seduce the grand players. The subject of looking into the back office of representation seems to be a popular one at the moment.

  2. Well now, you’ve made me curious about Sour Grapes – I did like Call My Agent (and the fact that the famous actors were good sports about lampooning themselves). And I cannot wait for the latest Sarah Moss, am a through-and-through fan, although I felt that Summerwater was a bit too short and sudden.

  3. Like Marina, I had some reservations about the abrupt ending in Summerwater, so I’ll probably adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach with The Fell. Moss is a clearly a very fine writer, though – that’s not in doubt.

  4. Seesaw looks excellent and I’m going to put it on my wishlist. I’m reading a book about Nigeria by Nigerian writers at the moment, too, so a good match for that.

      1. It’s called “Of This Our Country” – I’ve finished it now, a book of essays by Nigerian writers, some of whom I’d heard of and read books by, some of whom were less well-known to me. Review should be out on Friday with any luck …

  5. How exciting to have the Moss in hand already. I’ve just requested the US edition (she’ll be my next focus author, receiving similar treatment to Emily St. John Mandel and Lauren Groff) due here in March. Also love the sound of the Wolitzer collection; I’m sure you’ll enjoy her style as much as her daughter’s.

  6. I have The Fell, though I have still to read it. Hopefully I’ll get to it this month. It looks like one I can squeeze in amongst the other books I have lined up.

  7. Sour Grapes looks like fun, although the rest I can leave (phew!). Have to say, I’ve officially given up on Sarah Moss – clearly I’m missing something because I know others love her work.

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