All the novels in this month’s selection of new contemporary fiction come highly recommended. With psychological thrillers, translated novels, romantic fiction, historical and gothic fiction, this selection will provided hours of enjoyable reading.
The Pacific room / Michael Fitzgerald.
“This remarkable debut novel tells of the last days of Tusitala, ‘the teller of tales’, as Robert Louis Stevenson became known in Samoa where he chose to die. In 1892 Girolamo Nerli travels from Sydney by steamer to Apia, with the intention of capturing something of Jekyll and Hyde in his portrait of the famous author. Nerli’s presence sets in train a disturbing sequence of events. More than a century later, art historian Lewis Wakefield comes to Samoa to research the painting of Tusitala’s portrait by the long-forgotten Italian artist. On hiatus from his bipolar medication, Lewis is freed to confront the powerful reality of all the desires and demons that R. L. Stevenson couldn’t control.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The music shop / Rachel Joyce.
“1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre, classical, jazz, punk, as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need. Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
You should have left : a novel / Daniel Kehlmann ; translated from the German by Ross Benjamin.
“A journal kept by the narrator that is a record of the seven days that he, his wife, and his four-year-old daughter spend in a house they have rented in the mountains of Germany, a house that thwarts the expectations of his recollection and seems to defy the very laws of physics. The narrator is eager to finish a screenplay, entitled Marriage, for a sequel to the movie that launched his career, but something he cannot explain is undermining his convictions and confidence, a process he is recording in this account of the uncanny events that unfold as he tries to understand what, exactly, is happening around him and in himself.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary
Goodbye, vitamin : a novel / Rachel Khong.
“Freshly disengaged from her fiancé; and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Three days and a life / Pierre Lemaitre ; translated from the French by Frank Wynne.
“In 1999, in the small provincial town of Beauval, France, twelve-year-old Antoine Courtin accidentally kills a young neighbor boy in the woods near his home. Panicked, he conceals the body and to his relief and ongoing shame, he is never suspected of any connection to the child’s disappearance. More than a decade later, Antoine is living in Paris, now a young doctor with a fiancée and a promising future. Meanwhile, the newly discovered body of Antoine’s childhood victim means that the case has been reopened, and all of his old fears rush back. Will Antoine finally be forced to confront his crime? And what is he prepared to do to keep his secrets buried in the past?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The sixteen trees of the Somme / Lars Mytting ; translated from the Norwegian by Paul Russell Garrett
“Edvard grows up on a remote mountain farmstead in Norway with his taciturn grandfather, Sverre. The death of his parents, when he was three years old, has always been shrouded in mystery, he has never been told how or where it took place and has only a distant memory of his mother. But he knows that the fate of his grandfather’s brother, Einar, is somehow bound up with this mystery. One day a coffin is delivered for his grandfather long before his death, a meticulous, beautiful piece of craftsmanship. Perhaps Einar is not dead after all. Edvard’s desperate quest to unlock the family’s tragic secrets takes him on a long journey, from Norway to the Shetlands, and to the battlefields of France, to the discovery of a very unusual inheritance.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The boy in the earth / Fuminori Nakamura ; translated from Japanese by Allison Markin Powell.
“An unnamed taxi driver in Tokyo has experienced a rupture from his everyday life. He cannot stop daydreaming of suicide, envisioning himself returning to the earth in what soon become terrifying blackout episodes. His live-in girlfriend, Sayuko, is in a similarly bad phase, surrendering to alcoholism to escape the memory of her miscarriage. He meets with the director of the orphanage where he once lived, and must confront awful memories of his past and an abusive family before determining what to do next.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The secrets she keeps / Michael Robotham.
“Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it’s Meghan Shaughnessy’s. These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common, a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear. Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
A boy in winter / Rachel Seiffert.
“Otto Pohl, an engineer overseeing construction of a German road in Ukraine, awakens to the unexpected sight of SS men herding hundreds of Jews into an old brick factory. Inside the factory, Ephraim anxiously scans the growing crowd, looking for his two sons. As anxious questions swirl around his mind he can’t quell the suspicion that it would be just like his oldest son to hole up somewhere instead of lining up for the Germans, and just like his youngest to follow. Yasia, a farmer’s daughter who has come into town to sell produce, sees two young boys slinking through the shadows of the deserted streets and decides to offer them shelter. An unflinching story, about compassion, courage, conflicting senses of duty and survival.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)