Tag Archives: Books Published in August 2016

Books to Look Out For in August 2016: Part 2

Cover imageThe first selection of August titles I have my eye on were all about the USA. This one ranges further afield, heading south first with Clancy Martin’s Love in Central America. Brett embarks on a passionate, destructive affair with her husband’s friend which sees her slipping away for weeks with her lover and blacking out in hotels. Brett knows what she’s doing but finds it impossible to stop. Included in the publisher’s blurb is this sharp little quote – ‘Cheating on your husband is like doing cocaine… …It’s rarely a pleasure, but try quitting’ – which is enough to sell the novel to me, and that is such a stylish jacket.

Off to Spain but still in the land of relationships, Gonzalo Torné’s Divorce is in the Air sees Joan-Marc telling his estranged second wife all about his past, beginning with the breakdown of his first marriage and the holiday that was meant to save it. As the story of his life unfolds in a series of flashbacks we learn of his first sexual encounter, his father’s suicide and his mother’s breakdown. Described by the publisher as ‘an unapologetic exploration of memory, nostalgia, romance, the ways in which the past takes hold – a powerful portrait of a man struggling with his illusions about life and love’ this is the first novel by Torné to be translated in to English and sounds very promising.Cover image

Helen Sedgwick’s The Comet Seekers takes us to Antarctica where Róisín and François meet for the first time. Róisín is from an Irish hamlet, passionate about science. François was raised by his beautiful young mother, unable to turn her back on her past. Their stories unfold separately, joining only when a comet is visible in the sky. ‘Theirs are stories filled with love and hope and heartbreak, that show how strangers can be connected and ghosts can be real, and the world can be as lonely or as beautiful as the comets themselves’ say the publishers in a somewhat overblown blurb. There’s a great deal of pre-publicity hoo-ha about this one which doesn’t always bode well but both the setting and the parallel story idea appeal.

Cover imageAnd finally, on surer ground, Joan London’s The Golden Age takes us to Australia where thirteen-year-old Frank Gold’s family have escaped Second World War Hungary. Frank is sent to the eponymous hospital shortly after they arrive, diagnosed with polio. There he meets and falls in love with Elsa, scandalising the staff. Meanwhile Frank’s parents struggle with finding their way in this strange new place, so different from the country they’ve fled. ‘With tenderness and humor, The Golden Age tells a deeply moving story about illness and recovery. It is a book about learning to navigate the unfamiliar, about embracing music, poetry, death, and, most importantly, life’ say the publishers. I’ve enjoyed London’s previous novels very much so have high hopes for this one.

That’s it for August’s new novels. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with part one here it is. Paperbacks soon…

Books to Look Out For in August 2016: Part 1

Cover imageAugust is yet another month with a strong showing for American fiction, kicking off with The Lauras by Sara Taylor whose wonderful debut, The Shore, was longlisted for the Baileys last year. A mother bundles her thirteen-year-old daughter into the car in the middle of the night and sets off on a journey towards a new life. Just like all thirteen-year-olds, the daughter thinks of her mother as just that, with no aspirations to be anything else, but as their route takes them away from Virginia, she learns more about her mother’s life and secrets. The Shore was one of my favourite books of 2014 so I’m hoping from great things, fuelled further by the publisher’s description of ‘an extraordinary story of a life; a stunning exploration of identity and an authentic study of the relationship between a mother and her child’.

For some reason I never got around to reading Peter Ho Davies’ The Welsh Girl which was raved about by all and sundry when it was published back in 2007. There’s been nothing from him since but The Fortunes sounds well worth the wait. Spanning 150 years, Davies’ novel explores the Chinese-American experience through the lens of four characters: Ah Ling, the son of a prostitute, sent alone to California as a young boy in the 1860s; Anna Mae Wong, the first Chinese Hollywood movie star; Vincent Chin murdered in 1982 just because he looked Japanese and John Ling Smith, visiting America to adopt a child. Apparently, Davies has mixed real and fictional characters, drawing on his own mixed-race experience in what sounds like fascinating read.Cover image

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s debut, Harmless Like You, also explores how it feels to be an outsider, following Yuki Oyama as she tries to forge a career as an artist in the 1960s after her parents have returned to Japan leaving her alone in America. Running alongside Yuki’s story is that of the son she abandoned when he was only two so that she could pursue her art. Buchanan’s novel encompasses New York, Berlin and Connecticut – two of my favourite settings in there which alone would guarantee it a place in this preview but the premise sounds excellent, too.

Hide, Matthew Griffin’s debut,  looks at the plight of the outsider from another point of view. Wendell and Frank meet after the Second World War in a depressed textile town in the American South. They decide to cut themselves off from the rest of the world, well aware of the dangers their relationship poses. Decades later, when Wendell finds Frank collapsed outside it seems that the carefully constructed face they present to the world may fracture. Wendell attempts to maintain the façade as Frank continues to deteriorate but ‘faced with giving care beyond his capacity, he must come to terms with the consequences of half a century in seclusion: the different lives they might have lived – and the impending, inexorable loss of the one they had’ say the publishers. This sounds like a heart-wrenching novel, a story that’s to be hoped will play out less and less in real life.

Cover imageEnding on a high note, for me, at least, is Ron Rash’s Above the Waterfall. I’ve long been an admirer of Rash’s pared back, spare writing. I first came across him when I read Serena his reinterpretation of Macbeth which I very nearly passed over, sporting, as it did at the time, a somewhat overblown romantic jacket. This new novel follows Sheriff Les Cary as he embarks on his last case in a small town riddled with violence and drug addiction in which someone has poisoned the local trout stream. ‘Poetic and haunting’ say the publishers which aptly describes Rash’s writing for me, and no complaints whatsoever about that gorgeous jacket.

That’s it for the first batch of August goodies. The second will extend far outside of the USA, you may be pleased to hear. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis if you’d like to read more.