Tag Archives: Books published in April 2017

Books to Look Out for April 2017: Part Two

Cover imageGiven all that’s been happening in the US over the past few years, it’s a brave author who decides to write a piece of fiction about contemporary America but perhaps Hari Zunzru’s White Tears isn’t the state of the nation novel it first appears, more a comment on race relations. Two very different young New Yorkers, friends since college, share a passion for music and are now the rising stars of the city’s music scene. A chance discovery of an old blues song sets in train a chain of events which leaves them in grave danger. ‘Electrifying, subversive and wildly original, White Tears is a ghost story and a love story, a story about lost innocence and historical guilt. This unmissable novel penetrates the heart of a nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge and exploitation, and holding a mirror up to the true nature of America today’ say the publishers. The music theme seems to have cropped up several times recently: last year saw the publication of both Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and Kim Echlin’s much overlooked Under the Visible Life which I’ll grab any chance I can to mention.

Set in the summer of 1920, Laird Hunt’s The Evening Road explores a more extreme racial tension. Two women are on the road, one black the other white. Smart, attractive Ottie Lee Henshaw is caught up in a suffocating marriage and suffering the unwelcome attention of a lecherous boss; Calla Destry is trying to find the lover who has promised to help her escape her violent circumstances. Meanwhile Klan members are gathering in Marvel. ‘The Evening Road is the story of two remarkable women on the move through an America riven by fear and hatred, eager to flee the secrets they have left behind’ say the publishers. Both Emma Donoghue and Hilary Mantel are fans. Cover image

Tensions run high in Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Devil and Webster which explores student politics at an elite New England college where Naomi Roth, a feminist scholar, has been elected president. When a student protest breaks out which includes her daughter, she’s initially supportive but the focus of attention on a Palestinian student strains the campus atmosphere to breaking point leaving her overwhelmed. ‘The Devil and Webster is shot through with caustic comedy, and yet the Faustian notes are a persistent reminder that the possibility of corruption – personal or institutional – remains our persistent companion, however good our intentions might be’ according to the publishers. I’m a sucker for campus novels and this one sounds particularly intriguing.

Staying in New England for what sounds like a very different novel: Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley has been billed by Ann Patchett as ‘one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade’ while the publishers liken it to Patrick Dewitt’s wonderful The Sisters Brothers which immediately snagged my attention. Samuel has spent years on the run but has moved to his late wife’s hometown with his teenage daughter who is increasingly curious about what happened to her mother not to mention the twelve scars on Samuel’s body, each from a bullet. ‘Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love most’ say the publishers whose synopsis suggests the makings of a rollicking good bit of storytelling.

Cover imagePhillip Lewis’ The Barrowfields takes us south of New England to the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Just before Henry is born, his father – a lawyer and frustrated novelist – returns to where he was brought up, moving into a gothic mansion nicknamed ‘the vulture house’. Henry grows up in awe of his brilliant father but a death in the family brings about an unravelling which leaves Henry’s respect for him in tatters. Henry flees the family home, forced to return by events many years later. I’m not entirely sure about this one but Jenni Fagan’s dubbed it ‘A beautiful, evocative novel with an amazing sense of place and an understated, dark sensibility. A brilliant debut’ so I’m willing to give it a go.

That’s it for new April titles. As ever a click on a title will take you to a longer synopsis should your interest be piqued and if you’d like to catch up with part one it’s here. Paperbacks soon…

Books to Look Out for April 2017: Part One

Cover imageDespite the many and varied delights on offer in April there’s absolutely no contest as to which of them sits at the top of my list. Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 has already met with a warm reception on social media and this time I’ve no doubt it’s justified. McGregor writes in lyrical, gorgeous prose – contemplative and beautiful. This new novel chronicles thirteen years following the disappearance of a teenage girl on holiday with her parents in the English countryside. One family has been devastated but village life goes on with all its small joys, sadnesses and mundane routines, always with a consciousness of what has happened. This sounds the perfect theme for McGregor whose quietly captivating If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things examined the events of a single day. Apologies for the gush but McGregor’s work is not to be missed. There’s even more gush if you can face it in my first Blast from the Past post which featured his So Man Ways to Begin, another lovely novel.

The theme of Donna Morrissey’s The Fortunate Brother sounds similar to Reservoir 13 in that it explores the aftermath of a tragedy in a small community, this time in Newfoundland. Suspicion falls on the Now family when a body is discovered in the local lake but as investigations progress it seems that there’s far more to the tragedy than meets the eye. ‘Compassionate and wise, beautiful and brutal, The Fortunate Brother is the story of a family and a community in turmoil and confirms Donna Morrissey’s place as one of Canada’s foremost storytellers’ say the publishers. I’m constantly being tempted by Canadian fiction not published in the UK by Naomi over at Consumed by Ink so I think I’ll snap this one up.

More dark secrets and revelations in Elanor Dymott’s Silver & Salt in which Ruthie’s father has Cover imagerecently died, prompting her return to his remote Greek villa from which she has been excluded for fifteen years. She and her elder sister settle into a sort of happiness, putting their dark childhoods behind them until the arrival of an English family and their daughter ’triggers a chain of events that will plunge both women back into the past, with shocking and fatal consequences. Devastating in its razor-sharp exploration of a tragic family legacy, Silver & Salt is the story of two sisters, bound by their history and driven to repeat it’ according to the publisher which sounds like perfect summer reading to me although a little premature.

Chequered family history seems to be something of a theme this April. Edward Docx’ Let Go My Hand explores secrets and lies through the lens of three sons and their father who has asked them to join him on a last journey through Europe. While Louis has his doubts about the idea, his two half-brothers are much more reluctant, unwilling to forgive their dying father his past transgressions. ‘Let Go My Hand is a darkly comic and deeply moving twenty-first-century love story between a son, his brothers and their father. Through these vividly realized characters, it asks elemental questions about how we love, how we live, and what really matters in the end’ according to the publisher. I’ve not had much luck with Docx’ fiction in the past but the idea of exploring the dark family secrets theme from a male point of view is an unusual one.

I have no such doubts about Delphine de Vigan’s Based on a True Story after reading No and Me last year. Identity theft seems to be the much darker theme of this one. The person doing the stealing is L., Delphine’s best friend with whom she has become enthralled. L. is the kind of beautifully turned out woman who seems to know what to do in every circumstance. Chillingly, she begins to dress like her new friend, offering to answer her emails, finding her way into every aspect of Delphine’s life until she takes control of it. It sounds quite riveting, and all the more so given that the author has given her protagonist both her name and her profession, not to mention that title.

Cover imageI began this first batch of April titles with one about which I have no doubts whatsoever but I’m ending it with another that could backfire horribly. Paul Bassett Davies’ Dead Writers in Rehab sees Foster James waking up in a strange house, assuming he’s taken a step too far for his few remaining friends and is back in rehab again. Then Ernest Hemingway punches him in the face, he finds himself in a group therapy session with Hunter S. Thompson, Collette, William Burroughs and Coleridge, later encountering Dorothy Parker. What’s going on? ‘This is a love story. It’s for anyone who loves writing and writers. It’s also a story about the strange and terrible love affair between creativity and addiction, told by a charming, selfish bastard who finally confronts his demons in a place that’s part Priory, part Purgatory, and where the wildest fiction can tell the soberest truth’ says the publisher. Hmm… We’ll see. Great jacket, though.

That’s it for the first part of April’s preview. If you’d like to know more, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis. As seems to be so often the case, part two will have its feet firmly planted in the US.