There are four award winning authors included in this month’s selection of new Contemporary Novels. These are Paul Auster, Sebastian Barry, Bernard Schlink, and George Saunders, an award winning short story writer with his first novel, titled Lincoln in the bardo.
4 3 2 1 : a novel / Paul Auster.
“On March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four Fergusons made of the same genetic material, four boys who are the same boy, will go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Loves and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Chapter by chapter, the rotating narratives evolve into an elaborate dance of inner worlds enfolded within the outer forces of history as, one by one, the intimate plot of each Ferguson’s story rushes on across the tumultuous and fractured terrain of mid twentieth-century America.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Days without end : a novel / Sebastian Barry.
“Thomas McNulty, barely seventeen and having fled the Great Famine, signs up for the U.S. Army in the 1850s. With his brother in arms, John Cole, Thomas fights in the Indian Wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Orphans of terrible hardships, the men find these days to be vivid and alive, despite the horrors they see and are complicit in.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The book of mirrors / E.O. Chirovici.
“Princeton, 1987 : renowned psychologist Professor Joseph Weider is brutally murdered . New York, twenty-five years later : literary agent Peter Katz receives a manuscript. Or is it a confession ?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
War and turpentine : a novel / Stefan Hertmans ; translated from the Dutch by David McKay.
“The life of Urbain Martien–artist, soldier, survivor of World War I, lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his story, the notebooks giving him the impetus to imagine his way into the locked chambers of Urbain’s memory.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The Nowhere man / Gregg Hurwitz.
“He was once called Orphan X. As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children’s home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it still exists. But he broke with the program, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves. One day, though, Evan’s luck ran out. Ambushed, drugged, and spirited away, Evan wakes up in a locked room with no idea where he is or who has captured him. As he tries to piece together what’s happened, testing his gilded prison and its highly trained guards for weaknesses, he receives a desperate call for help.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Dear Mr M / Herman Koch.
“Mr M is being watched. As a famous writer, he is no stranger to the limelight, although interest in his work has been dwindling of late. His print runs are smaller than they used to be, and so are the crowds at his bookshop signings. But there is someone still interested in Mr M and keeping an extremely close eye on him, someone whose own story bears more than a passing resemblance to the plot of Mr M’s bestselling thriller, in which a teacher has an affair with a student, only to be brutally murdered by the girl and her teenage boyfriend. In Mr M’s book, the body is never found, but in real life, bodies have an awkward habit of turning up.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Behind her eyes / Sarah Pinborough.
“Since her husband walked out, Louise has made her son her world, supporting them both with her part-time job. But when she meets David Young, successful and charming, Louise cannot believe a man like him would look at her twice let alone be attracted to her. But that all comes to a grinding halt when she meets his wife Adele, beautiful, elegant and sweet, Louise’s new friend seems perfect in every way. As she becomes obsessed by this flawless couple, entangled in the intricate web of their marriage, they each, in turn, reach out to her. But only when she gets to know them both does she begin to see the cracks. Is David really is the man she thought she knew and is Adele as vulnerable as she appears? Just what terrible secrets are they both hiding and how far will they go to keep them?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Lincoln in the bardo : a novel / George Saunders.
“February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.
Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The woman on the stairs / Bernhard Schlink ; translated from the German by Joyce Hackett and Bradley Schmidt.
“For decades the painting was believed to be lost. But, just as mysteriously as it disappeared, it reappears, an anonymous donation to a gallery in Sydney. The art world is stunned, so are the three men who loved the woman in the painting, the woman on the stairs. One by one they track her down to an isolated cottage in Australia. Here they must try to untangle the lies and betrayals of their shared past, but time is running out.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
City of friends / Joanna Trollope.
“The day Stacey Grant loses her job feels like the last day of the only life she’d ever known. For who was she if not a City high-flyer, Senior Partner at one of the top private equity firms in London? As Stacey starts to reconcile her old life with the new, one of long days at home with her dog and ailing mother, waiting for her successful husband to come home she at least has The Girls to fall back on. The girls, now women, had been best friends from the early days of university right through their working lives, and for all the happiness and heartbreaks in between. But these career women all have personal problems of their own, and when Stacey’s redundancy forces a betrayal to emerge that was supposed to remain secret, their long cherished friendships will be pushed to their limits.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)