Books to Look Out For Out for in January 2024: Part One

Cover image for Day by Micahel CunninghamI’m sure I’ll be casting another look over my shoulder at the reading delights of 2023 before the year’s out but for now I’m looking to the future and finding lots of books to look out for, several of which I’ve already read.

I’ve been a Michael Cunningham fan since I read A Home at the End of the World many years ago. His new novel, Day, charts a single April day in the life of an unconventional family over three years, beginning in 2019 when Isabel is living in a cramped Brooklyn apartment with her husband and two children. Her brother Robbie has the top floor, half-heartedly looking for his own place while making up Instagram posts for Wolfe, his and Isabel’s childhood fantasy ideal. By 2021, much has changed for all of them as it has for the world. A beautifully expressed novel about love, loss and carrying on. Review shortly…Cover image for The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez

Set during the spring of 2020, Sigrid Nunez’s The Vulnerables follows an unnamed writer who takes up residence in a palatial apartment to care for a parrot whose owner has been left stranded with her in-laws during lockdown. Entertained by this gorgeous playful creature, she’s resentful when the bird’s original caretaker turns up again, chucked out by his parents. Witty, erudite and wonderfully discursive, Nunez’s novel is packed with literary allusions, memories and stories about acquaintances and friends. Given the many references to the blurring of autobiography and fiction together with similarities to Nunez’s own life, it’s hard not to view this as a slice of autofiction although perhaps a personal meditation might be a better description. Review to follow…

Cover image for Normal Women by Ainslie HogarthI put up my hand for Ainslie Hogarth’s Normal Women after spotting that eye-catching cover which fits the novel perfectly. It follows Dani, recently returned to her hometown, thanks to her husband’s promotion, before giving birth to Lotte to whom she’s now a full-time mother. Dani slips into a routine brunching with ‘mom friends’ to whom she persists in feeling superior until she’s brought up short by a realisation of her financial dependence. When she meets the charismatic Renata, she becomes obsessed, prey to ever more baroque theories when her new friend disappears. Written in the kind of waspish, snarky tone I enjoy, Hogarth’s novel is hugely entertaining although does lose its way a little. Review soon…Cover image for Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

It was its Georgian setting that attracted me to Leo Vardiashvili’s debut, Hard by a Great Forest, which takes his narrator back to the country he left with his father and brother in 1992 when he was eight, leaving his mother behind as civil war broke out after Soviet funding dried up. Eighteen years later, his father has returned, followed by his brother. Both are now missing and Saba is determined to find them, helped by a taxi driver who takes pity on him. As Saba and Nodar take off on a dangerous journey which leads them over the closed border into breakaway Ossetia, the narrative takes on the pace of a thriller. Vardiashvili knows how to spin a good story, laying bare the fallout from the Soviet Union’s demise and its effects on ordinary people while reminding us there will always be hope. Review to follow…

Cover image for Hyper by Agri IsmailI’m not entirely sure about Agri Ismail’s debut, Hyper, about a Kurdish family who flee Tehran for London. Founder of the Communist Party of Kurdistan, Rafiq Hardi Kermanj and his wife struggle with statelessness and poverty in their new home. His only daughter turns her back on an unhappy marriage in Iraq, raising her daughter in Dubai while both sons work in finance, one on Wall Street the other in London. ‘At once a subversion of the family saga and a love letter to the systems novel, Hyper is a story about what remains of our humanity in a world increasingly dominated by the flows of capital’ says the blurb slightly puzzlingly which is what makes me doubtful.

I’ve still not got around to reading Colin Barrett’s collection of short stories, Homesickness, despite all the praise heaped uponCover image for Wild Houses by Colin Barrett it by some of my favourite writers. Wild Houses sees the town of Ballina getting ready for its biggest weekend of the year. Meanwhile, a simmering feud between a group of small-town gangsters has reached boiling point resulting in violence and mayhem. ‘The beautifully crafted, thrillingly-told story of two outsiders striving to find themselves as their worlds collapse in chaos and violence, Wild Houses is the long-anticipated debut novel from award-winning and critically-acclaimed short story writer, Colin Barrett’ says the blurb, whetting my appetite nicely.

That’s it for January’s first batch of new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take you fancy. Part two soon…

 

26 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in January 2024: Part One”

  1. I’d really like to read some Sigrid Nunez—do you think The Vulnerables would be a good place to start? I’m also keen on The Friend, of course…

  2. The Michael Cunningham sounds great. Oddly enough, I’ve only read The Hours, but I know he’s very highly regarded by many in the literary world. Maybe this new one would make a good re-entry point?

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