This month’s selection of new Contemporary Novels, from our recently received new fiction, illustrates the diversification of theme and plot within the modern novel. Highly recommended is the new novel from Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, titled Exit West.
Calling Major Tom / David M. Barnett.
“There’s a star man waiting in the sky. And his name is Thomas. He is very happy to be on his own, far away from other people and their problems. But beneath his cranky exterior lies a story and a sadness that is familiar to us all, and he’s about to encounter a family who will change his view of the world forever.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
A line made by walking / Sara Baume.
“Struggling to cope with urban life, and with life in general,Frankie, a twenty-something artist, retreats to the rural bungalow on ‘turbine hill’ that has been vacant since her grandmother’s death three years earlier. Finding little comfort in human interaction, Frankie turns her camera lens on the natural world and its reassuring cycle of life and death. What emerges is a profound meditation on the interconnectedness of wilderness, art and individual experience, and a powerful exploration of human frailty” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The heart’s invisible furies / John Boyne.Proxy Error
“Cyril Avery is not a real Avery or at least that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from, and over his three score years and ten, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country and much more.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Harmless like you / Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.
“Set across New York, Berlin, and Connecticut, following Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront the mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old. The novel opens when Yuki is sixteen and her father is posted back to Japan. Though she and her family have been living as outsiders in New York City, Yuki opts to stay, intoxicated by her friendship with the beautiful aspiring model Odile, the energy of the city, and her desire to become an artist. But when she becomes involved with an older man and the relationship turns destructive, Yuki’s life is unmoored.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The dark circle / Linda Grant.
“The Second World War is over, a new decade is beginning but for an East End teenage brother and sister living on the edge of the law, life has been suspended. Sent away to a tuberculosis sanatorium in Kent to learn the way of the patient, they find themselves in the company of army and air force officers, a car salesman, a young university graduate, a mysterious German woman, a member of the aristocracy and an American merchant seaman. They discover that a cure is tantalizingly just out of reach and only by inciting wholesale rebellion can freedom be snatched.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Exit west : a novel / Mohsin Hamid.
“In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet, sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors, doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. Exit West follows the couple as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Ice / Ulla-Lena Lundberg ; translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal
“In the summer of 1946, a young priest, Petter, his wife and baby daughter, arrive by mail boat at a tiny island. They are to take over its drafty homestead from where Petter is to minister to the scattered community. In this evocative tale, Ulla-Lena Lundberg draws us into the minutiae of an austere yet purposeful life where the demands of self-sufficiency, cows to milk and sheep to graze, are tempered by the kindness of neighbours. With each season, the family’s love of the island grows and when the winter brings ice a new and tentative link is created.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
A book of American martyrs / Joyce Carol Oates.
“When evangelical Luther Dunphy assassinates abortion doctor Augustus Voorhees, the two grieving families find their lives intricately linked.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Lillian Boxfish takes a walk / Kathleen Rooney.
Lillian Boxfish took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed and has not.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Solitaire / Jane Thynne.
“June 1940: the first summer of the war. Berlin is being bombed and nightly blackouts suffocate the city. Then France falls and a shadow descends. A shadow has fallen over Clara Vine’s own life, too. She is an Anglo-German woman in a country that hates England. Virulent anti-British propaganda is everywhere. Then she is summoned to meet the Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels who has decided that Clara should adopt a new role, as his spy and that she must go to Paris on a mission. Much as she dislikes the idea, Clara realises this might be the chance to find an escape route to England. But Goebbels has other ideas and soon Clara is drawn into a web that threatens to destroy her. As everything she holds dear is taken as ransom, she must fight to protect her family and to survive.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)