Books to Look Out For Out for in October 2023

Cover image for Julia by Sandra NewmanEye-catching titles are thin on the ground for October although there are two strikingly good books and a few more for which I have high hopes. I’m not sure about Sandra Newman’s Julia which comes billed as a feminist reworking of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a bold, confident idea likely to meet with a degree of controversy. Well liked, Julia Worthing fixes the novel-writing machines in the Ministry of Truth’s Fiction Department, a pragmatist as happy to work with the authorities as she is to break the rules. When she becomes intrigued with Winston Smith, she begins to take risks which may prove to be fatal. ‘For the millions of readers who have been brought up with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, here, finally, is a provocative, vital and utterly satisfying companion novel’ promises the blurb. We’ll see.Cover image for Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford

There may well be a touch of the speculative about Francis Spufford’s Cahokia Jazz or perhaps a rewriting of history as Cahokia seems to be the site of an abandoned metropolis beside the Mississippi. In Spufford’s version of the city, a fragile peace and harmony is threatened by the discovery of a body on the roof of a skyscraper in 1922 sparking off a series of revelations in what the publishers are describing as ‘a lovingly created, richly pleasure-giving, epically scaled tale set in the golden age of wicked entertainments.’ Sounds intriguing.

Cover image for No Funeral for Nazi by Taha KeharAs does Taha Kehar’s No Funeral for Nazia which sees a celebrated author lay out a set of instructions to be followed by her sister after her death including delivering letters addressed to six guests invited to a posthumous party in lieu of her funeral. ‘Over the course of an extraordinary evening, secrets are revealed, pasts reconsidered, and lives are forever changed’ says the blurb, promisingly.Cover image for Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

Winner of Canada’s 2019 Indigenous Voices Award, renowned throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s Split Tooth is about an Inuk girl growing up in Nunavut, Canada in the 1970s rooted in her culture and the natural world around her. When she becomes pregnant she must find a way to cope. ‘In this acclaimed debut novel – haunting, brooding, exhilarating, and tender all at once – Tanya Tagaq explores the grittiest features of a small Arctic town and the electrifying proximity of the worlds of animals and of myth’ says the blurb promising a glimpse into a world I know nothing about

Cover image for Hazardous Spirits by Anbara SalamA couple of years ago I read and enjoyed Anbara Salam’s Belladonna, a page-turning piece of storytelling which followed two schoolfriends, one obsessed with the other. Hazardous Spirits sounds entirely different. Evelyn Hazard is sent into something of a tizzy when her husband suddenly announces he can speak with the dead, increasingly concerned that dark secrets will surface as they become entangled in the burgeoning spiritualist movement emerging from the First World War and the Spanish ‘Flu pandemic. ‘A gothic literary mystery, written in sparkling prose, Hazardous Spirits evokes the spirit of 1920s Edinburgh, in all its bohemian vibrancy’ according to the blurb.Cover image for Family Meal by Bryan Washington

Having loved both Lot and Memorial, I was keen to read Bryan Washington’s Family Meal as soon as I spotted it in the schedules. It follows Cam who returns to his hometown after losing his partner, caught up in a grief he can’t seem to let go. As a boy, he was taken in by TJ’s parents who offered him a home when he needed it. TJ was the quiet gay kid who stayed in his hometown, Cam the cool, city guy, now devastated. Neither are the people they once were and must get to know each other again. ‘This is a story about how the people who know us the longest can hurt us the most, but how they also set the standard for love, and by their necessary presence, create a family’ says the blurb. Review soon…

There are nine stories in Jhumpa Lahiris’s exquisite Roman Stories at the heart of which is The Steps, a suite of interlinked Cover image for Roman Stories by Jhumpa Lahiripieces following characters who live or work close to the titular steps climbed by a mother every morning who thinks of her son on another continent while she cares for her employers’ children. Written in elegant, precise language, Lahiri’s collection vividly summons up both the city and the many and varied people who live in it, some far away from their family others in the middle of a life marked by loss or discontent. Several stories explore racism – sometimes a subtle undercurrent, occasionally shocking – often accepted with a weary resignation by those at who it’s directed. Altogether an impressive collection, mostly translated by its author with three by Todd Portowitz, done so well I couldn’t see the join. Review shortly…

That’s it for October’s new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more. Paperbacks soon…

33 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in October 2023”

  1. Goodness, that’s a tempting batch! I like the sound of Cahokia Jazz, but will wait to see how it gets reviewed, I think. But I can’t resist Hazardous Spirits – sounds like it might be spookily fun, plus a Scottish author and setting! You are so not helping my TBR woes!

  2. Ooh I didn’t know Tanya Tagaq was writing a book. How fascinating. Her music is very interesting, I might have to take a look at that one. The Spufford looks interesting too. Haven’t read any of his fiction yet, but his non fiction is very interesting. Also jazz. Nice.
    Always a fascinating list.

    1. I’d not come across Tagaq before. Must look her up on YouTube. I’ve enjoyed Spufford’s non-fiction, too, but haven’t had much luck with his fiction. This one does look interesting, though.

      1. I came across her via Björk ( who I adore). She does a lot of throat singing, very interesting but not to everyone’s taste…well, like anything I suppose

  3. Ooh Spufford, I really enjoyed Golden Hill so.must look this up. Split Tooth intrigued me as well as does the Jhumpa Lahiri though I haven’t even got to Whereabouts after meaning to for ages now.

  4. Split Tooth is jumping out of me mainly because I know next to nothing about the Inuit way of life.

    Your description of Julia had my eyes rolling. I’m so tired of these re-tellings and re-imaginations – why can’t authors just come up with their own ideas instead of piggy-backing on the success of others??? (end of rant)

  5. The setting for the new Francis Spufford sounds great, but as someone who has tried and failed with one of his previous books (Golden Hill), I fear it might not be for me! I’ll be interested to hear what you think, should you decide to go for it…

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