August 22, 2020
The end of summer is when many of us are accustomed to traveling for our holidays. So here are five new novels that I found especially intriguing, and can help you spend time far afield while sitting in your favorite reading chair.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
This Lovely City
By Louise Hare
Published by Anansi
With echoes of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste (see further down), Hare’s debut fiction examines South London in the Jazz-hot days of the post-war 50s through the lens of a clarinet-playing recent immigrant from Jamaica. He is one of many arrivals by ship, part of the British government’s attempt to bring in cheap labor from the Caribbean (a historically true event). This wonderful novel boasts a terrific ensemble of characters, a shocking mystery in the center, and a love story amid the powerful racial prejudice they encounter when they do not receive the open-armed welcome they were expecting.
A Room Called Earth
By Madeleine Ryan
Published by Penguin
Another debut, and another superb discovery, is Madeleine Ryan’s story about an autistic woman (like the Australian author herself) who is “more at ease with the animal part of myself than the human part . . .” The way in which Ryan accesses the inner life of her wholly original protagonist is really quite a marvel, and when her character begins to fall in love, the reader falls in love with the entire story..
By Charlotte Wood
Published by Riverhead
Stay in Australia as three old friends (plus a pathetic OLD dog), meet to clean out the beach house their beloved Sylvie owned and where they gathered each year until her recent death. What started out for me as a recognizable sort of Big Chill gained steam quickly, and these characters—unapologetic, fierce, grappling with the aging process—were so beautifully drawn and so real to me that I was choked up at the end.
By Cree LeFavour
Published by Grove
Love—in its most glorious and painful and banal forms—is scrutinized in this domestic novel of manners and marriage (“their knowledge and history cemented a terrifying and deeply reassuring continuity . . .”). It begins with a lost dog on the Upper West Side and takes the reader from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. LeFavour has crafted a deeply observed and intimate exploration of family that is also completely satisfying..
By Ray Loriga
Published by Mariner
If the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar called a novel a cross between Marguerite Duras and Jim Thompson, wouldn’t you pick it up? Surrender, translated from the Spanish by Carolina de Robertis (author of the wonderful Cantoras) tells the story of a family separated during a cataclysmic war, living in a glass-domed city. Loriga gives his dystopian, Atwood-ian (is that an adjective?) tale an urgency that keeps you plowing through the pages. Dark, yes but hopeful and timely too.
By Isabel Wilkerson
Published by Random House
And don’t miss this contemporary classic that reframes the discussion of racism today.
An instant classic, Isabel Wilkerson’s just-published Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents illuminates racism in America by linking it to the treatment of Untouchables in India and Jews in Nazi Germany. By looking at the history of racism around the world, Wilkerson creates a thought-provoking treatise and a brilliant book, sure to have a lasting place in the canon—and not to be missed..