I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, as we used to say in days of yore, but November offers the slimmest of paperback pickings for me, although I’m starting with one of my books of 2022. Set in snowy New York state, Lynn Steger Strong’s Flight follows three siblings and their families facing their first Christmas without their beloved mother. Over the next few days, the family’s dynamics take a different shape, their relationship to each other brought into sharp focus by a crisis involving another family less fortunate than their own. This quietly absorbing novel portrays a middle-aged family brought face-to-face with its privilege with a perceptive empathy. That may not sound very exciting, but I found myself thinking about Strong’s book long after finishing it. Shame about that new cover, though.
Kevin Wilson’s Now Is Not the Time to Panic is an immersive, idiosyncratic coming-of-age story about two teenagers who spend the summer of 1996 creating and disseminating an artwork which has dramatic effects on their small Tennessee town. One morning in 2017, Frankie answers the phone to a journalist who plans to unmask her to the world. Realising that she wants their secret revealed, she knows she must find Zeke. Through Frankie and Zeke’s story, Wilson brilliantly portrays the way in which panic spreads, even before the turbocharge of the internet, with a humour which turns dark at times. I loved this one although not as much as Nothing to See Here, one of my books of 2020.
Named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists this year, Derek Owusu made quite a splash with Losing the Plot which was longlisted for several literary prizes. Picking up one of my favourite themes, it explores the immigrant experience through a mother and her son. ‘Driven by a deep-seated desire to understand his mother’s life before he was born, Derek Owusu offers a powerful imagining of her journey. As she moves from Ghana to the UK and navigates parenthood in a strange and often lonely environment, the effects of her displacement are felt across generations.’ says the blurb making me all the more keen to read it.
Edited by Helen Constantine and Eve Patten, Dublin Tales looks tailor made for me. Made up of a selection of short stories set in the titular city by authors ranging from Elizabeth Bowen to Kevin Power, William Trevor to John McGahern, it also includes bilingual versions of two stories originally written in Irish. ‘The stories in Dublin Tales are variously vibrant, evocative, humorous, and diverse, and engage in different ways with Dublin’s history, its culture, its cityscape, and its people’ says the blurb whetting my appetite nicely.
That’s it for November. A click on a title will take you to either to my review or to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more, and if you’d like to catch up with new fiction it’s here.