Now that the last of the summer wine has been quaffed and the first bruised cloud has appeared on the horizon, it’s time to concede the arrival of Autumn, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. It is always the busiest time of year for the publishing industry, just in time for the Christmas market. This Autumn sees the publication of new novels from the heavy hitters in both British and Irish publishing. Of all years the harvest this Autumn is particularly bountiful with a succession of serious novels vying for readers attention. Some of my favourite authors have new novels out or just coming out in the next few days and short of taking a permanent duvet day, I wonder how I will read them all over the next few weeks.
1. The Dog by Joseph O’Neill – am disappointed that this fine novel didn’t make the Booker shortlist. It’s a great read for any fan of Netherland, again the themes of alienation and dislocation are explored, this time the protagonist has fled the U.S. for the glittering shores of Dubai. It’s an interesting immersion for any reader curious about the soulless civic life of Dubai, the truth behind the facade of this city in the desert sands.
2. The Zone Of Interest by Martin Amis – Fans of Amis will enjoy his latest offering, his second novel exploring the Holocaust, this time Amis moves among multiple narrators to show the seemingly normal daily lives of those involved in the horror of Auschwitz. With his usual style and élan Amis creates a darkly comedic world peopled by grotesques and allows the reader to glimpse the outline of that which is beyond words.
3. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – More entertainment from Mitchell and like the acclaimed “Cloud Atlas” interweaves large, related narratives, stretching from 1984 to 2043 and brings a variety of characters alive from Holly Sykes to Crispin Hershey, a successful English writer with just a whiff of the Martin Amis about him. Read it and enjoy.
4. The Children’s Act by Ian McEwan – Read this for a peek inside the mind of Fiona Maye,a high court judge confronting both private and work-related dilemmas; a marriage crisis and a delicate legal situation involving a teenage Jehovah Witness refusing a blood transfusion to treat leukaemia. What complicates matters is that the boy is no child and is about to turn eighteen. A must read for McEwan fans.
5. Outline by Rachel Cusk – This novel which was serialised in the Paris Review is a new departure for Cusk. The narrator is a writer, a divorced mother of two boys who goes to Athens to teach a writing course and plunges straight into a very descriptive account of her first class, in which she asks each student to talk about something they noticed en route. Their anecdotes reveal the complexity of the emotional reality of their lives and the novel continues with descriptions of encounters with other people throughout the stay in Athens. There is no major plot development , no political axe to grind. Instead “Outline”, just as the narrator is rejecting a certain way of being in the world, is a new type of fiction reminiscent of the instrospecive brilliance of Virginia Woolf fused with the modern memoiristic canons by Karl Ove Knausgaard and Sheila Heti.
6. Shark by Will Self – A sort of a sequel to “Umbrella”, fans of Self’s stream of consciousness and modernist style will delight in this novel peopled by a cast several dozen strong. Again a vehicle to show Self’s interest in the psychopathology of everyday life, the work is dense and a must read for any Jungian or Freudian scholars.
7. Nora Webster by Colm Toibin – Lovers of Brooklyn will love this new novel by Toibin as he returns to Ireland in the late 60’s and follows the trials and triumphs of Nora Webster and her four children in the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death. Character and place take precedence over plot in this quiet and atmospheric novel.
8. Funny Girl by Nick Hornby – From 1960’s Ireland to 1960’s London Hornby brings us on an adventure with the intrepid Sophie Straw as she transforms from a provincial ingenue to a television starlet where behind the scenes the cast and crew are having the time of their lives. Due for publication in early November 2014 this latest novel from Hornby is predicted to be a big seller.
9. Us by David Nicholls – I was a huge fan of “One Day” and can only imagine how difficult it was for Nicholls to write the follow up. The publication of “Us” has been eagerly awaited by readers and I have just got my copy today. This novel takes us on a European tour with a mismatched couple. This is a picaresque and poignant tale of a marriage under strain, where the biochemist anti-hero Douglas Petersen undertakes an InterRailing trip across Europe with his wife Connie and teenage son Albie. The holiday becomes Doug’s last chance to win back the affections of his wife and son, a story told with affection and humour by Nicholls whose skill as a writer helps to engage the reader’s empathy with all the characters. I expect it will be top of the list at all Book Clubs this year.