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

Cover image for Wife by Charlotte MendelsonThere’s a marriage theme running through the first part of August’s preview, not happy ones but those don’t tend to make for interesting fiction. I enjoyed Charlotte Mendelson’s The Exhibitionist so was delighted when Wife popped through my letterbox. Zoe and her supremely egotistical wife, Penny, have two daughters and a complicated set of co-parents, all intent on an equal share no matter what the children think. Mendelson weaves the events of Zoe’s final day in the family home, having reached the end of her tether, through the story of this supremely dysfunctional relationship. It’s very funny at times – Mendelson has a talent for acerbic social observation which saves it from melodrama – and Zoe is an engaging character but strong echoes of The Exhibitionist left me wondering if Mendelson might venture into different territory for her next novel. Review to follow…Cover image for Liars by Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso’s Very Cold People was one of my books of 2022. Written in spare, crisp prose, it’s a bleak novella about an abusive childhood. Liars is the equally bleak story of a broken marriage told from the perspective of Jane who meets John when they’re in their thirties. She’s a successful writer but his artistic career founders. Neither had planned to have children, but a few years into their marriage Jane becomes pregnant with their son. John not only declines to help but undermines Jane at every opportunity. A tale of bad behaviour, manipulation, and misery, there’s a feeling of autofiction about this one, borne out by a little internet research, although to what extent isn’t clear. Review soon…

Cover image for The Most by Jessica AnthonyJessica Anthony’s The Most opens on a November Sunday in 1957 when Kathleen Beckett, one time tennis champion, now housewife to Virgil, an insurance salesmen and woman chaser, refuses to get out of the swimming pool of the complex where they live. The blurb describes this one as ‘A tightly wound, consuming tale about a 1950s American housewife, for fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen and Taffy Brodesser-Akner’. I like the sound of that.

Ursula Parrott’s Ex-Wife is the latest from the excellent Faber Editions imprint which aims to revive titles that have sunk intoCover image for Ex-wife by Ursula Parrott obscurity but deserve better. Set in 1920s New York, it follows Patricia and Peter who enjoy an open marriage until Peter decides he’s had enough, forcing Patricia to build a new life as an ex-wife in a society that doesn’t look kindly on divorcées. ‘A sensational bestseller in 1929, yet utterly timeless, Ex-Wife plunges us into the ‘era of the one-night stand’. It evokes not only the Manhattan bars, fashion advertising offices, female friendships and all-night parties of a dazzling city, but the hollow affairs, emotional hangovers, backstreet abortions, and struggles for sexual freedoms amidst the moral double standards of a patriarchal world’ says the blurb which sounds right up my street.

The World After Alice by Lauren Aliza GreenLauren Aliza Green’s debut, The World After Alice, sees the wedding of Alice’s younger brother to her best friend, twelve years after she took her own life. As the couple prepares for the ceremony, their extended families make their way to the venue where they will be spending three days in close proximity, bringing a great deal of emotional baggage with them. There’s a thread of almost farcical humour to lighten the narrative but inevitably this is a novel with a great deal of sadness at its heart. Green’s style is a tad overdone for me but her characterisation stood up well, and she wisely leaves messy loose ends untied. Not Elizabeth Strout, as promised by the blurb but certainly good enough to make me want to read her next novel. Review shortly…

Evie Wyld’s The Echoes spans three timelines and two continents following Hannah who left Australia for London to escapeCover image for The Echoes by Evie Wyld the legacy of her childhood. She and her husband have been together for six years, Max contemplating a proposal and the hopes of a child, when he dies suddenly. As Hannah grapples with her grief, Max observes her, discovering more about her past than she ever divulged to him in life. If the idea of a dead narrator feels like a step too far, don’t be put off. It’s a risky device, but it works, perhaps because Wyld laces Max’s strand with a light humour in contrast with Hannah’s much darker narrative through which themes of colonialism and abuse are woven. An engaging, unorthodox love story which I enjoyed although its resolution felt a little strained. Review to follow….

Cover image for Blue Hour by Tiffany Clarke HarrisonThe unnamed narrator of Tiffany Clarke Harrison’s powerful, deeply moving Blue Hour is a photographer of mixed race whose parents and younger sister died in a car crash for which she blames herself. Her husband, Asher, passionately wants a child while she is ambivalent, and when she does conceive it ends in sadness and loss. When a student on the community photography course she runs is shot, she decides to make a documentary, interviewing the mothers of children murdered because of the colour of their skin. Racism and police brutality are the underpinning themes of the novel but it’s the love between our narrator and Asher, and their struggle to have a family that is to the fore. A beautifully expressed piece of fiction that ends in hope. Review soon…

Regina Porter’s The Rich People Have Gone Away opens in 2020 when Theo Harper and his pregnant wife Darla Cover image for The Rich People Have Gone Away by Regina Porterhave departed locked down Brooklyn for their summer cottage leaving the less fortunate behind. Theo reveals something about himself which sparks a row after which Darla disappears and Theo finds himself a prime suspect. ‘From the critically acclaimed author of The Travellers, The Rich People Have Gone Away is an engrossing novel about ordinary New Yorkers brought together in a story of betrayal, race, what connects us to each other – and what sets us apart’ says the blurb. I remember enjoying The Travellers very much when I read it a few years back.

That’s it for August’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…

32 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For Out for in August 2024: Part One”

  1. Every single one of these looks worth a try. Though I didn’t get on with Bass Rock, which makes me an outlier: but it gives me the opportunity to put SOMETHING at the back of the queue.

  2. Complicated relationships is certainly the theme in this selection. The theme of the Parrott book reminds of Mary McCarthy’s book The Company She Keeps written some years later. I really enjoyed McCarthy’s book. I love discovering books from past eras that are still relevant today.

  3. I’ll read the Manguso, Mendelson and Wyld for sure. I wasn’t so keen on Anthony’s previous novel but would be willing to try her again. (Anthony was my maiden name!)

    1. It’s a great month, isn’t it, and more to come. Perhaps it’ll help make up for this dismal summer although fingers crossed it will have improved by August.

  4. The dead narrator would be a turn off for me but this is Evie Wylde who I’ve only recently discovered and love. So willing to put my doubts aside….

  5. I’m not a big fan of books about marriage struggles but I’ll definitely be reading The Echoes, and Blue Hour also sounds great.

  6. Ooh this is a rich bunch with a lot that are interesting to me, perhaps especially the Faber reissue. I have very mixed feelings about Charlotte Mendelson. I want to like her novels but the lack of compassion in them can leave me feeling cold. I still haven’t read The Exhibitionist, though thematically it’s right up my street.

    1. Faber seem to have a sharp editorial eye for titles deserving of a second outing. I did feel that Wife strongly echoed the themes in The Exhibitionist. A change of direction next time around would be welcome.

      1. jenniferbeworr

        Susan, having some trouble getting a comment through. I hope to read the Evie Wyld. Can you please let me know if you get this comment? Thank you?

  7. Ooh, I didn’t know Charlotte Mendelson had a new one – thank you! I have The World After Alice from NetGalley but I’m not sure it won’t be too sad for me. We’ll see …

  8. I’m echoing Margaret’s comment at the start, finding each of these appealing. Whether that’s open-mindedness or lack-of-focus-ness, count me into that group. 🙂

Leave a comment ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.