By Carole Reedy
An ample list of new books for year’s end highlights the very best of 21st century fiction writers: Javier Marias, T.C. Boyle, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwen, Dave Eggers, and Margaret Atwood, among others. Fans of fine literature will be emptying their pocketbooks to buy the latest selections, and the waiting lists at the libraries will be longer than those at the Sistine Chapel. Here are the highly anticipated novels, listed by publication date.
Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers
Dave Eggers´ fame lies in his ability to mix humor and angst in always-new themes, but especially in family dramas. This latest family saga follows a mother and her sons in the Alaskan wilderness. Those of you familiar with Eggers know that he became well-loved by readers beginning with his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. What Is the What (the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan) and novels such as The Circle have assured his place in the Great American Writer category. I wouldn’t miss a word he writes.
Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney
McInerney’s career took off decades ago when Bright Lights, Big City, also made into a fine movie, became successful. Since then he’s written six more, in which he keeps us abreast of the fast-paced life in New York City. With this novel, the dream of the successful main characters turns topsy-turvy with unexpected events, including the mortgage crisis.
Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Most serious readers have at some time read a novel by this most prolific author. Several of his books have received mixed reviews, but there is one novel upon which most reviewers and fans agree: Atonement, for which he won the coveted National Book Critics Award. Nutshell is a story of murder and deceit, classic themes delivered by a classy writer.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Bel Canto and State of Wonder have secured a firm place for Patchett in the modern world of fiction writers. Add to that her status as an award-winning author. She’s won both the PEN/Faulkner award and the Orange Prize. Commonwealth covers five decades starting with a chance incident that determines the lives of the future parents and children. Ann Patchett is also famous for her bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch
Popular in Europe, but less well-known on this side of the pond, Koch spins twisting, turning tales of families. This is his third book translated into English after the success of The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool. As in his other novels, the story is told from alternating points of view, and his wit shines through it all. Crisp and sardonic writing add to his allure.
The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
You’ll recognize this author for her recent hit book and movie, Room, though this reviewer thought the subject and treatment of Room was unconvincing and manipulative. However, I’ve enjoyed her other works–Astray, for one.
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Mario Vargas Llosa calls Juan Gabriel Vásquez “one of the most original new voices of Latin America Literature.” If you read his The Sounds of Things Falling you know the reason: a fine narrative chronicle of past and present Colombia told from the perspective of ordinary lives. Time Magazine says: “Like Bolaño, Vásquez is a master stylist and a virtuoso of patient pacing and intricate structure, and he uses the novel for much the same purpose that Bolaño did: to map the deep, cascading damage done to our world by greed and violence and to concede that even love cannot repair it.”
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Just as Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler tells Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew in modern verse with a twist, now Atwood retells The Tempest. These books form a part of the Hogarth series that began in October 2015, with the publication of The Gap of Time, Jeanette Winterson’s reinvention of The Winter’s Tale. The books remain true to the spirit of the Shakespeare plays from which they’re derived, while giving us something new!
The Terranauts by T. C. Boyle
After reading the 16 novels written by T. C. Boyle, this loyal fan anticipates and devours each new selection. No matter the subject, the writing is precise, subtle, and beautiful. He is a master when weaving a story about alienation or the environment. The characters are always memorable, and the plot sails along. It doesn’t hurt that his books are also loads of fun. The Terranauts are eight scientists, four men and four women, who agree to live in a prototype of an off-earth colony. Their task and troubles are told from the point of view of three characters.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Fans of Zadie Smith await her forthcoming novel, hoping it reaches the heights her fine writing in White Teeth and On Beauty. This one, as her others do, takes place in NW London and West Africa.
Thus Bad Begins by Javier Marías
This is the book for which I have been waiting. Absolutely one of the top literary writers of the 20th-21st century, Marías writes in Spanish, though the English translations are excellent. Marías himself is a translator to Spanish of Shakespeare and other classical writers. And just like Proust, he can write a sentence that is two pages long with perfect clarity. I wouldn´t miss a thing he writes. This novel was released in Spanish last year, and many of us have been patiently awaiting the English translation. Hari Kunzru in The Guardian calls Marías’ new novel “a demonstration of what fiction at its best can achieve.”
Transit by Rachel Cusk
Transit is the second in a trilogy about which I wasn’t even aware until I read of its pending publication. Many of us have read her mesmerizing Outline. We’re introduced to the protagonist in that short novel, and in this one she moves to London with her two sons, facing transitions and struggles. Cusk writes with a keen eye on emotions, fate, and change. The Globe and Mail credit Cusk with delivering “more human truths than most memoirs ever could”
Selection Day by Aravind Adiga
Man Booker Prize winner for The White Tiger, Adiga has written other novels that I’ve enjoyed equally. Selection Day concerns professional cricket players in Mumbai and is sure to capture the India the author so beautifully depicts in his stories.
Just writing this list brightens my day with the anticipation of living with and breathing in these books.