By Carole Reedy
Publishers know that September to December is a prime book-buying period and therefore the créme de la créme of new novels by best-selling authors will begin to appear on bookstore shelves in the next few weeks.
The names alone of these ten distinguished writers will whet your reading appetite. Of course this is just a sample of the hundreds of books to be published in the upcoming trimester. I’ve chosen these books based on the welcome feedback I’ve received from readers of this column and THE EYE over the past eight years.
Transcription by Kate Atkinson
Perhaps the most popular author on this list, Atkinson has given us such gems as Life After Life and A God in Ruins, both Costa Prize winners. Her latest novel takes place during WW2. Atkinson’s protagonist, a young woman, joins the British Spy Service and then embarks on a career with the BBC.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
In our Mexico City book club, Barker’s WWI Regeneration Trilogy remains on our classics bookshelf because it’s respected and admired by everyone and nobody wants to part with it. The Observer named it as one of the 10 best historical novels. Barker continued her tradition with a trilogy about WW2, but that series failed to receive similar praise from our group. Her newest historical fiction is a retelling (in modern language) of the Iliad from the perspective of the captured Trojan princess. Barker is a Booker prize winner.
Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
An unusually short illustrated novel for people of all ages. You will remember Hosseini as the author of the highly acclaimed The Kite Runner. His novels have sold more than 55 million copies in 70 countries worldwide. This small gem is written as a tribute to Syrian refugees in the form of a letter from a father to his son composed the night before their fatal sea-crossing journey. The author’s book proceeds will go to the UN Refugee Agency and the Khalid Hosseini Foundation to help fund lifesaving relief efforts supporting refugees around the globe.
The Shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Colombian writer and former translator for Joseph Conrad, John Dos Passos, and Victor Hugo, Vasquez has charmed us recently with stories from his country. The Economist calls him “the most famous novelist to come out of Colombia since Gabriel Garcia Marquez.” His The Sound of Things Falling won Spain’s Alfaguara Prize, Italy’s Von Rezzori Prize, and the 2014 IMPAC Literary Award. His most recent novel, Reputations, echoes current attitudes and mores in all parts of the world. This new novel examines the politics of Colombia, with two political assassinations, 30 years apart taking center stage. Seemingly unconnected, they reflect the violence that haunts Colombia.
Berta Isla by Javier Marias
Named the best book of the year according to Babelia, an annual publication of best books that is a creation of the internationally read Spanish newspaper El Pais. A new novel by Marias brings praise from all corners of the world. Another author on our list here, Juan Gabriel Vasquez, says of the Spaniard Marias’ latest: “A wonderful novel…Berta Isla reminds us why fiction, in the hands of its best practitioners, is still the only way to know each other fully.” Here’s a story of waiting and the evolution of a young married couple unsuspecting of the coincidences, pretenses, and secrets that lie ahead of them. Marias should be in line for the Nobel Prize for Literature when that committee can recuperate from its recent scandals and reassemble to become an organization of some stature again.
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
The Poisonwood Bible put Kingsolver on the map more than ten years ago. Since then she has written books about nature and preservation, perhaps due to her career as a biologist. The winner of many literary awards, she’s the founder of the PEN/Bellweather Prize and also has been awarded the National Humanities Medal, the country’s highest honor for service through the arts. Kingsolver’s latest novel appears to be a clever weaving of the past and future. In it, two families in two different centuries live in the same place and struggle, each in his/her own way, in an uncertain changing world. Kirkus Review says the novel is “Exceptionally involving and rewarding. There is much to delight in and think about while reveling in Kingsolver’s vital characters, quicksilver dialogue, intimate moments, dramatic showdowns and lush milieus…”
Love Is Blind by William Boyd
William Boyd, now 66, has lived an exceedingly interesting life. Born to Scottish parents in Ghana, he lived in Africa during his formative years before going to school in Scotland. His father was a doctor specializing in tropical diseases. Boyd continued his studies in France, Scotland, and England. In 1983 he was named one of the 20 best young British novelists by Granta and Book Marketing Council. However, Boyd is just as well known as a screenwriter of films and television as well as a writer of plays, short stories, and nonfiction. He has won the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Somerset Maugham Award for A Good Man in Africa and the Costa Book award for Restless, among numerous other writing prizes. His newest book, Love is Blind, is the story of a pianist and his piano tuner that takes place across Europe, from Paris to St. Petersburg. Without giving anything away, let’s just say it is a story of passion, family, power, and secrets.
Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks
A Moroccan runaway teenager, an American postdoctoral researcher, and the streets of Paris are key elements in this story by a former journalist turned novelist. His WW1 historical novel Birdsong has been voted one of Britain’s most-loved books. The Sunday Times writes: “Faulks captures the voice of a century,” and the Sunday Telegraph called Faulks “the most impressive novelist of his generation.”
Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin
Fans of Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories will be pleased to know that 22 more of her stories will be published this November under the title Evening in Paradise. These stories are in chronological order, the characters reflecting the wacky life of Lucia Berlin, who died in 2015. Kirkus Review states: “No dead author is more alive on the page than Berlin: funny, dark, and so in love with the world.”
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
Murakami’s novels are always highly anticipated, and for good reason. They’re a surprise each time and include various elements about art and creation. Although the title of this new one leaves us wondering, the answer is simple. Killing Commendatore is the subject of a painting the protagonist finds in another artist’s attic. The painting depicts the scene from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni in which Donna Ana’s father (the Commendatore) is killed. As in other Murakami masterpieces, it’s a multilayered tome. But each of his novels is unique, which is one reason readers return in anticipation of getting lost in the maze of the structure, style, and tone. His novels have been translated into more than 50 languages.
It seems to me that secrets pervade the books on this list. Enjoy!