New Contemporary Fiction for January

The selection of new contemporary fiction this month includes some brilliant writers, and some spell-binding narratives. Included are new novels from Louise Erdrich, Marcel Theroux and Ali Smith, and the best seller from Japanese writer Hiro Arikawa, titled The Travelling Cat Chronicles. Highly recommended is Nickolas Butler’s second novel, titled The hearts of Men.

Syndetics book coverThe travelling cat chronicles / Hiro Arikawa ; translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel.
“It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side. Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say. Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLove & fame / Susie Boyt.
“Eve, a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Across town, tabloid journalist Rebecca Melville is burning all her bridges while her devoted sister Beatrice, a therapist, tries her hardest not to intervene. How far can Eve and Rebecca go without losing the admiration of the people they love? This funny and heartbreaking story asks: do we get what we deserve in life? Must the show always go on?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe hearts of men / Nickolas Butler.
“Camp Chippewa, 1962. Thirteen-year-old Nelson, loner and over-achiever, is nicknamed the Bugler as he proudly sounds the reveille each morning. This is the summer that everything changes, marking the beginning of Nelson’s uncertain friendship with a popular boy named Jonathan, and the discovery of his father’s betrayal, which tears his family apart. As time moves on, Nelson, irrevocably scarred from the Vietnam War, becomes Scoutmaster of Camp Chippewa, while Jonathan marries, divorces, and transforms his father’s business. When something unthinkable happens during a visit from Jonathan’s grandson and daughter-in-law, the aftermath tests the depths and the limits of Nelson’s selflessness and bravery.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFuture home of the living god : a novel / Louise Erdrich.
“Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. For twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant. As society begins to disintegrate, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation. There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women, of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAn unremarkable body / Elisa Lodato.
“Katharine is found dead at the foot of the stairs by her 30-year-old daughter Laura. The medical examiner’s report, in which precious parts of her mother’s body are weighed and categorized, motivates Laura to write her own version of events. To bear witness to the unbearable blank space between each itemized entry. What emerges are a series of stories in which Laura attempts to discover how and why her mother died, as well as make sense of her own grief, by piecing her mother’s body back together. In doing so, she is forced to confront a woman silenced by her own mother and wronged by her husband, a woman who felt shackled by motherhood and unable to love freely.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe threat level remains severe / Rowena Macdonald.
“House of Commons secretary Grace has been counting the tea breaks in the same dull job for a decade. Brett, the new boy is on a mission to shake up the dusty backrooms of power and set to collide with Grace. Office life begins to look up when Grace receives some mysterious emails.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe Zanzibar wife / Deborah Rodriguez.
“Set both in Oman and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, the ancient land of frankincense, wind-swept deserts, craggy mountaintops and turquoise seas. This is a place where tales of evil spirits and eerie phenomena abound. Into this magical nation come three remarkable but very different women, each facing a crossroad in her life. Rachel, a troubled American war photographer, Ariana Khan, a bubbly British woman struggling to keep up with the glitz of Dubai and ready to give up on love, and Miza, a young woman living far from her beloved homeland of Zanzibar. As the second wife of Tariq, an Omani man, she remains a secret from his terrifying ‘other’ wife, Maryam. Until one day, when Tariq fails to come home. As the three women journey together across this weird and wonderful land, they are forced to confront their darkest fears and their deepest wishes. Because here in Oman, things aren’t always what they appear to be.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe secret books / Marcel Theroux.
“Seeking adventure, a young man flees the drudgery of shop keeping in Tsarist Russia to make a new life among the bohemians and revolutionaries of 19th century Paris. Travelling undercover in the mountains of British India, he discovers a manuscript that transforms the world’s understanding of the historical Jesus. Decades later, in a Europe threatened by unimaginable tragedy, he makes a despairing attempt to right a historic injustice.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFlights / Olga Tokarczuk ; translated by Jennifer Croft.
Flights is a series of imaginative and mesmerizing meditations on travel in all its forms, not only the philosophy and meaning of travel, but also fascinating anecdotes that take us out of ourselves, and back to ourselves, about life and death, about the very nature of humankind. Thrilling characters and stories abound, the Russian sect who escape the devil by remaining constantly in motion; the anatomist Verheyen who writes letters to his amputated leg; the story of Chopin’s heart as it makes its journey from Paris to Warsaw, stored in a tightly sealed jar beneath his sister’s skirt; the quest of a Polish woman who emigrated to New Zealand as a teen but must now return in order to poison her terminally ill high-school sweetheart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinter / Ali Smith.
“Winter? Bleak and cold, frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes with the shortest days, and the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering, the summer’s leaves? Dead litter.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New contemporary fiction from award-winning authors

Among the fantastic selection of new Contemporary Fiction there are new novels by many much acclaimed award winner authors. These include Isabel Allende, John Banville, Peter Carey, and Ali Smith. Along with very popular authors, Lee Child and John Grisham, this month’s selection promises many hours of wonderful holiday reading

Syndetics book coverIn the midst of winter : a novel / Isabel Allende ; translated by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson.
“A minor traffic accident becomes the catalyst for an unexpected and moving love story between two people who thought they were deep into the winter of their lives. Richard Bowmasterm, a 60-year-old human rights scholar, hits the car of Evelyn Ortega,a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What at first seems just a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, the professor asks his tenant Lucia Maraz, a 62-year-old lecturer from Chile, for her advice. These three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story that moves from present-day Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking the beginning of a long overdue love story between Richard and Lucia.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe death of the Fronsac / Neal Ascherson
“In 1940, during the Phoney War, a French destroyer blows up in the Firth of Clyde. The disaster is witnessed by Jackie, a young girl who, for a time, thinks she caused the explosion by running away that day from school; by her mother Helen, a spirited woman married to a dreary young officer; and by a Polish officer, whose country has just been erased from the map by Hitler and Stalin. Their lives, and the lives of many others, are changed by the death of the Fronsac. This is a story about divided loyalties, treachery, and exile; about people in flight from the destinies that seemed to be theirs before the war disrupted the world they knew.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMrs. Osmond : a novel / John Banville.Mrs. Osmond
“A novel that extends the story of Isabel Archer, the heroine of Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, into unexpected territory. Isabel Archer is a young American woman, swept off to Europe in the late nineteenth century by an aunt who hopes to round out the impetuous but naive girl’s experience of the world. When Isabel comes into a large, unexpected inheritance, she is finagled into a marriage with the charming, penniless, and as Isabel finds out too late, cruel and deceitful Gilbert Osmond, whose connection to a certain Madame Merle is suspiciously intimate. On a trip to England to visit her cousin Ralph Touchett on his deathbed, Isabel is offered a chance to free herself from the marriage, but nonetheless chooses to return to Italy.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA long way from home / Peter Carey.
“Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in western Victoria. Together they enter the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the ancient continent over roads no car will ever quite survive. With them is their lanky fair-haired navigator, Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed schoolteacher whose job it is to call out the turns, the grids, the creek crossings on a map that will finally remove them, without warning, from the lily-white Australia they know so well. This thrilling, high-speed story starts in one way and then takes you someplace else. Set in the 1950s amid the consequences of the age of empires, this brilliantly vivid and lively novel reminds us how Europeans took possession of a timeless culture, the high purpose they invented and the crimes they committed along the way.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe midnight line / Lee Child.The Midnight Line
“Jack Reacher takes a stroll through a small Wisconsin town and sees a class ring in a pawn shop window: West Point 2005. A tough year to graduate: Iraq, then Afghanistan. The ring is tiny, for a woman, and it has her initials engraved on the inside. Reacher wonders what unlucky circumstance made her give up something she earned over four hard years. He decides to find out. And find the woman. And return her ring. So begins a harrowing journey that takes Reacher through the upper Midwest, from a lowlife bar on the sad side of small town to a dirt-blown crossroads in the middle of nowhere, encountering bikers, cops, crooks, muscle, and a missing persons PI who wears a suit and a tie in the Wyoming wilderness. The deeper Reacher digs, and the more he learns, the more dangerous the terrain becomes and the ring was just a small link in a far darker chain” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverGo, went, gone / Jenny Erpenbeck ; translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky.
“A newly retired, widowed classics professor involves himself in the lives of African refugees in Berlin, getting an education in geography, linguistics, and human suffering as well as a chance to reexamine the various displacements in his life. Initially just curious about the men demonstrating at Alexanderplatz and living in a tent city in Kreuzberg, solitary, Richard listens to harrowing stories. Fascinated by the starkness of the refugees’ circumstances and their resilience, Richard discovers new compassion within himself. But there isn’t much he can do to stop the bureaucratic grind of the German legal system or the cruelties of EU immigration policy.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rooster bar / John Grisham.
“ Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam. But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, , well, yes and no.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

The passage of love / Alex Miller.
“Sitting in a New York park, an old man holds a book and tries to accept that his contribution to the future is over. Instead, he remembers a youthful yearning for open horizons, for Australia, a yearning he now knows inspired his life as a writer. Instinctively he picks up his pen and starts at the beginning. At twenty-one years, Robert Crofts leaves his broken dreams in Far North Queensland, finally stopping in Melbourne almost destitute. It’s there he begins to understand how books and writing might be the saving of him. They will be how he leaves his mark on the world. He also begins to understand how many obstacles there will be to thwart his ambition. When Robert is introduced to Lena Soren, beautiful, rich and educated, his life takes a very different path. But in the intimacy of their connection lies an unknowability that both torments and tantalises as Robert and Lena long for something that neither can provide for the other.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDunbar / Edward St. Aubyn.
” Henry Dunbar, the once all-powerful head of a global corporation, is not having a good day. In his dotage he hands over care of the corporation to his two eldest daughters, Abby and Megan, but as relations sour he starts to doubt the wisdom of past decisions. Imprisoned in a care home in the Lake District with only a demented alcoholic comedian as company, Dunbar starts planning his escape. As he flees into the hills, his family is hot on his heels. But who will find him first, his beloved youngest daughter, Florence, or the tigresses Abby and Megan, so keen to divest him of his estate?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWinter / Ali Smith.
“Winter? Bleak,frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes, the shortest days, the longest nights. The trees are bare and shivering. The world shrinks; the sap sinks. But winter makes things visible. And if there’s ice, there’ll be fire. It’s the season that teaches us survival.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)

New contemporary fiction featuring Aussie award winners

This month’s selection of new contemporary fiction show cases the best latest works from several well-known, much acclaimed writers. There are three debut authors, whose novels have been much praised. Also two award winning Australian writers, Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan and this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award winner Josephine Wilson. These come highly recommended, as do all the novels in this selection.

Syndetics book coverFirst person / Richard Flanagan.
“A young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal, $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghost write his memoir in six weeks. But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him, his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder, who is Siegfried Heidl and who is Kif Kehlmann?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMunich / Robert Harris ; [map by Gemma Fowlie].
“September 1938 Hitler is determined to start a war. Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace. The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there. Munich. As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Fuhrer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own. Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power; they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again. When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray, your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverAffections / Rodrigo Hasbún ; translated by Sophie Hughes.
“The eccentric, fascinating Ertl clan, headed by the egocentric and extraordinary Hans, was once the cameraman for the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. Shortly after the end of World War II, Hans and his family flee to Bolivia to start over. There, the ever-restless Hans decides to embark on an expedition in search of the fabled lost Inca city of Paititi, enlisting two of his daughters to join him on his outlandish quest into the depths of the Amazon, with disastrous consequences.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverStandard deviation / Katherine Heiny.
“Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting.In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize, are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well? Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverElmet / Fiona Mozley.
“Daniel is heading north. He is looking for someone. The simplicity of his early life with Daddy and Cathy has turned menacing and fearful. They lived apart in the house that Daddy built for them in the woods with his bare hands. They foraged and hunted. Cathy was more like their father: fierce and full of simmering anger. Daniel was more like their mother: gentle and kind. Sometimes their father disappeared, and would return with a rage in his eyes. But when he was at home, he was at peace. He told them that the little copse in Elmet was theirs alone. But that wasn’t true. Local men, greedy and watchful, began to circle like vultures. All the while, the terrible violence in Daddy grew.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverActs of vanishing / Fredrik T. Olsson, translation by Michael Gallagher.
“It was ten past four on the afternoon of the third of December. Everything was darkness and ink, and the snow falling turned to water. Through it ran Sara Sandberg, the girl who was about to die, and somewhere in the cold, lead-grey hell that was Stockholm was a man who called himself her father. In her rucksack, she had a warning for him. Now whether he would receive it or not was all down to her.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMan with a seagull on his head / by Harriet Paige.
“Under the intense summer sun on the Essex coast a gull falls from the sky and strikes an unassuming local council worker sitting on the beach below. From that moment on he is obsessed, a crazed visionary repeatedly depicting the scene and the unknown figure within in it which filled his view at the moment of impact. The mysterious beauty of his creations draws others to him but can they lay hold of that which possesses him and what of his anonymous muse?”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe last hours / Minette Walters ; [maps by Janet Hunt].
“When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness. But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. With her brutal husband absent from Develish when news of this pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. The people of Develish are alive but for how long and what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverExtinctions / Josephine Wilson.
“Professor Frederick Lothian, retired engineer, world expert on concrete, and connoisseur of modernist design, has quarantined himself from life by moving to a retirement village. His wife, Martha, is dead and his two adult children are lost to him in their own ways. Surrounded and obstructed by the debris of his life-objects he has collected over many years and tells himself he is keeping for his daughter, he is determined to be miserable. When a series of unfortunate incidents forces him and his neighbour, Jan, together, he begins to realise the damage done by the accumulation of a lifetime’s secrets and lies, and to comprehend his own shortcomings. Finally, Frederick Lothian has the opportunity to build something meaningful for the ones he loves.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New contemporary fiction featuring your favourite authors

Some of contemporary fictions most popular, much acclaimed writers are included in this month’s selection of new contemporary fiction. Included are the much awaited new novels from Dan Brown, Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan, Alan Hollinghurst and John Le Carre. There is much to enjoy.

Syndetics book coverOrigin : a novel / Dan Brown.
“In keeping with his trademark style, Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code and Inferno, interweaves codes, science, religion, history, art, and architecture into this new novel. Origin thrusts Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon into the dangerous intersection of humankind’s two most enduring questions, and the earthshaking discovery that will answer them.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSmile / Roddy Doyle.
“Who is unreliable? Just moved in to a new apartment, alone for the first time in years, Victor Forde goes every evening to Donnelly’s pub for a pint, a slow one. One evening his drink is interrupted. A man in shorts and pink shirt brings over his pint and sits down. He seems to know Victor’s name and to remember him from school. Says his name is Fitzpatrick. Victor dislikes him on sight, dislikes too the memories that Fitzpatrick stirs up of five years being taught by the Christian Brothers. He prompts other memories too, of Rachel, his beautiful wife who became a celebrity, and of Victor’s own small claim to fame, as the man who says the unsayable on the radio. But it’s the memories of high school, and of one particular Brother, that he cannot control and which eventually threaten to destroy his sanity.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverManhattan Beach : a novel / Jennifer Egan.
“This novel begins in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Image from Mightyape.co.nzThe Sparsholt affair / Alan Hollinghurst.
“In 1940, Dax and David, two young men from very different backgrounds, meet at Oxford University. Hollinghurst’s masterly novel takes us through several generations and across key periods of change in British society. From the darkest days of WWII, it moves to the socially and sexually liberated London of the 1960s, before landing in the mid-1970s.” (Adapted from Syndtics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe rules of magic / Alice Hoffman.
“In New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverForest dark : a novel / Nicole Krauss.
“Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty-eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York legal firm where he was a partner, he’s felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate. With the last of his wealth, he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents. In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project, a film about the life of David being shot in the desert, with life-changing consequences. But Epstein isn’t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA legacy of spies / John Le Carré.
“Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized under disturbing criteria by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe golden house : a novel / Salman Rushdie.
“When the aristocratic Golden family moves into a self-contained pocket of New York City, a park in Greenwich Village called “The Gardens,” their past is an absolute mystery. They seem to be hiding in plain sight: Nero Golden, the powerful but shady patriarch, and his sons Petya, a high functioning autistic and recluse; Apu, the successful artist who may or may not be profound; and D, the enchanting youngest son whose gender confusion mirrors the confusion and possibilities of the world around him. And finally there is Vasilisa, the Russian beauty who seduces the patriarch to shape their American stories. An aspiring filmmaker decides the Golden family will be his subject. He gains the trust of this strange family, even as their secrets gradually unfold. Meanwhile, an insane Presidential Candidate known as only The Joker grows stronger and stronger, and America itself grows mad.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverHome fire / Kamila Shamsie.
“Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she is finally studying in America, resuming a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream: to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. Then Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Handsome and privileged, he inhabits a London that is worlds away from theirs. As the son of a powerful British Muslim politician, Eamonn has his own birthright to live up to or defy. Is he to be a chance at love, the means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined, in this searing novel that asks: what sacrifices will we make in the name of love?” (Adpated from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSing, unburied, sing : a novel / Jesmyn Ward.
“ Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. This novel grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

A mixed bag of new Contemporary Fiction

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.

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverYou 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

Syndetics book coverGoodbye, 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)

Syndetics book coverThree 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)

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverA 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)

New Contemporary Fiction for August

The new contemporary fiction selected this month includes novels from Australia, Sweden, India, Denmark, France and Scotland. Highly recommended is the award winning novel by Su Bristow titled Sealskin.

Syndetics book coverI am behind you / John Ajvide Lindqvist ; translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy.
“Four families wake up one morning in their caravans, next to their cars, on an ordinary campsite in southern Sweden. However, during the night something strange has happened. Everything else has disappeared, and the world has been transformed into an endless expanse of grass. The sky is blue, but there is no sign of the sun; there are no trees, no flowers, no birds. And every radio plays nothing but the songs of sixties pop icon Peter Himmelstrand. As the holiday-makers try to come to terms with what has happened, they are forced to confront their deepest fears and secret desires, and in many cases expose the less appealing aspects of their character. Can any of them find a way back to reality?” (Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSealskin / Su Bristow.
“Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThese dividing walls / Fran Cooper.
“In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building. Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers. But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe French art of war / Alexis Jenni ; translated from the French by Frank Wynne.
“It was the beginning of the Gulf War. I watched it on TV and did little else. I was doing badly, you see. Everything was going wrong. I just awaited the end. But then I met Victorien Salagnon, a veteran of the great colonial wars of Indochina, Vietnam and Algeria, a commander who had led his soldiers across the globe, a man with the blood of others up to his elbows. He said he would teach me to paint. In return, he wanted me to write his life story. And so he talked, and I wrote, and through him I witnessed the rivers of blood that cut channels through France, I saw the deaths that were as numberless as they were senseless and I began finally to understand the French art of war.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhen I hit you ; or, A portrait of the writer as a young wife / Meena Kandasamy.
“Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealized version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back, a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMirror, shoulder, signal / Dorthe Nors ; translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra.
“A poignant, sharp-witted tale of one woman’s journey in search of herself when there’s no one to ask for directions. Sonja’s over forty, and she’s trying to move in the right direction. She’s learning to drive. She’s joined a meditation group. And she’s attempting to reconnect with her sister. But Sonja would rather eat cake than meditate. Her driving instructor won’t let her change gear. And her sister won’t return her calls.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA fortune foretold : a novel / Agneta Pleijel ; translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy.
“The story takes place in the 1950s in the suburbs of Stockholm, in the university town of Lund, and in the United States. Neta’s childhood is in disarray. She reads, words give form to the vagueness of existence, and is busy thinking about the female sex, family, and the stupendous diversity of people in the world. Her father, a mathematician, and her mother, a musician, are in constant conflict, but she loves them both. Gradually Neta realizes that she’s grown up in a lie and that she must step carefully through the war zone of her parents’ marriage.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverFava beans for breakfast / Suzanne Salem.
“In 1974, Nayeema reluctantly leaves Sydney’s inner city to move to Burraboo, a tired coastal town, with her husband Fawzy. In doing so, Nayeema surrenders her only dream, but once there she falls under the sway of new infatuations. On a houseboat in the pristine bay nearby, she sells the comforting food of her Egyptian childhood, but keeps her income a secret from her husband. Through this act of defiance and independence, Nayeema unwittingly unlocks a mysterious connection with her new land.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverMissing Fay / Adam Thorpe.
“A spirited, restless fourteen-year-old, Fay, goes missing from a Lincoln council estate. Is she a runaway, or a victim, another face on a poster gradually fading with time? The story of her last two days before she vanishes is interwoven with the varied lives of six locals, whether aware or unaware of her presence or absence, all touched in life-changing ways. All are involuntary witnesses to the lost girl; paths cross, threads touch, connections are made or lost. Is Fay alive or dead, or somewhere in between?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKiss Carlo / Adriana Trigiani.
“It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match. Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction for July

With the large number of new fiction received this month, it was difficult to select only ten novels that will tempt readers. We hope that we have catered to most reader’s preferences, but all provide brilliant, exciting, and at times thought provoking reading. Highly recommended is Spoils: a novel by Iraq War veteran Brian Van Reet.

Syndetics book coverDragon teeth : a novel / Michael Crichton.
“The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe summer house party / Caro Fraser.
“In the gloriously hot summer of 1936, a group of people meet at a country house party. Then a shocking death puts an end to their revelry, changing everything in an instant.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverEleanor Oliphant is completely fine / Gail Honeyman.
“No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe leavers : a novel / Lisa Ko.
“One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, goes to her job at a nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left mystified and bereft. Eventually adopted by a pair of well-meaning white professors, Deming is moved from the Bronx to a small town upstate and renamed Daniel Wilkinson. But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his adoptive parents’ desire that he assimilate with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe nothing / Hanif Kureishi.
“Waldo, a feted filmmaker, is confined by old age and ill health to his London apartment. Frail and frustrated, he is cared for by his lovely younger wife, Zee. But when he suspects that Zee is beginning an affair with Eddie, “more than an acquaintance and less than a friend for over thirty years,” Waldo is pressed to action: determined to expose the couple, he sets himself first to prove his suspicions correct and then to enact his revenge.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverRich people problems : a novel / Kevin Kwan.
“When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside, but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park, a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore, the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises, as relatives’ claw over heirlooms.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe fractured life of Jimmy Dice / Ronan Ryan.
“Jimmy is born a twin, and while he doesn’t know it, his nearest sibling has stayed with him forever, overseeing the drama of his life played out and acting as a narrative voice. When young, Jimmy loses a lower limb to a starving attack dog, the first of many disasters and one that shapes him to become a chancer, a willful man unafraid to stand up to a notorious Dublin gangster but also a young man with heart and belief: a loyal son, a good friend, a courageous brother and a sweet and passionate lover.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverKruso / Lutz Seiler ; translated by Tess Lewis.
“It is 1989, and a young literature student named Ed, fleeing unspeakable tragedy, travels to the Baltic island of Hiddensee. On the island, Ed stumbles upon the Klausner, Hiddensee’s most popular restaurant, and ends up washing dishes there, despite his lack of papers. Ed feels drawn towards the charismatic Kruso, unofficial leader of the seasonal workers. He is on a mission, but to what end, and at what cost? Ed finds himself drawn ever deeper into the island’s rituals, and ever more in need of Kruso’s acceptance and affection. As the wave of history washes over the German Democratic Republic, the friends’ grip on reality loosens and life on the island will never be the same.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe women in the castle / Jessica Shattuck.
“Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSpoils : a novel / Brian Van Reet.
“It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with winning hearts and minds. But this vital tipping point is barely recognized for what it is, as a series of miscalculations and blunders fuels the already smoldering insurgency intent of making Iraq the next graveyard of empires. This novel explores the lives on both sides of the battle lines: Cassandra Wigheard, a nineteen-year-old gunner on an American Humvee who is captured during a deadly firefight and awakens in a prison cell; Abu Al-Hool, a lifelong Mujahedeen beset by a simmering crisis of conscience as he struggles against enemies from without and within, including the next wave of far more radicalized jihadists; and Specialist Sleed, a tank crewman who goes along with a “victimless” crime, the consequences of which are more awful than any he could have imagined.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction for June

The selection of new contemporary fiction this month includes many much acclaimed, award winning authors. After her brilliant success with the novel The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins returns with another thriller, titled Into the Water. Highly recommended is The Forensic Records Society by the brilliant Magnus Mills.

Syndetics book coverStay with me / Ayò̦bámi Adébáyò̦.
“Yejide is hoping for a miracle, for a child. It is all her husband wants, all her mother-in-law wants, and she has tried everything, arduous pilgrimages, medical consultations, appeals to God. But when her relatives insist upon a new wife, it is too much for Yejide to bear. It will lead to jealousy, betrayal and despair. Unravelling against the social and political turbulence of 1980s Nigeria, this is the devastating story of the fragility of married love, the undoing of family, the wretchedness of grief, and the all-consuming bonds of motherhood. It is a tale about our desperate attempts to save ourselves and those we love from heartbreak.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverNew boy : Othello retold / Tracy Chevalier.
“Arriving at his fourth school in six years, diplomat’s son Osei Kokote knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day, so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players, teachers and pupils alike, will never be the same again. The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s’ suburban Washington schoolyard.” (Adapted Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverSunday morning coming down / Nicci French.
“Psychotherapist Dr Frieda Klein once again finds herself in the midst of a criminal investigation when the rotting body of an ex-policeman is found beneath the floorboards of her house. The corpse is only months old but the main suspect, murderer Dean Reeve, died over seven years ago. As the killer picks off his next victims and her home is turned into a crime scene, Frieda’s old life seems like a hazy dream. With eyes of the world upon her and no answers from the police, Frieda realises that she will have to track this killer before he tracks down those she loves.” (Adpated from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverInto the water / Paula Hawkins.
“A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.” (Adapted from Syndetics Summary)

Syndetics book coverThe shadow land : a novel / Elizabeth Kostova.
“A young American woman, Alexandra Boyd, has traveled to Sofia, Bulgaria, hoping that life abroad will salve the wounds left by the loss of her beloved brother. Soon after arriving in this elegant East European city, however, she helps an elderly couple into a taxi and realizes too late that she has accidentally kept one of their bags. Inside she finds an ornately carved wooden box engraved with a name: Stoyan Lazarov. Raising the hinged lid, she discovers that she is holding an urn filled with human ashes. As Alexandra sets out to locate the family and return this precious item, she will first have to uncover the secrets of a talented musician who was shattered by political oppression and she will find out all too quickly that this knowledge is fraught with its own danger.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverWhite tears / Hari Kunzru.
“Two twenty-something New Yorkers. Seth is awkward and shy. Carter is the glamorous heir to one of America’s great fortunes. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Seth is desperate to reach for the future. Carter is slipping back into the past. When Seth accidentally records an unknown singer in a park, Carter sends it out over the Internet, claiming it’s a long lost 1920s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw. When an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are actually real, the two young white men, accompanied by Carter’s troubled sister Leonie, spiral down into the heart of the nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe blood miracles / Lisa McInerney.
“Like all twenty-year-olds, Ryan Cusack is trying to get his head around who he is. This is not a good time for his boss to exploit his dual heritage by opening a new black market route from Italy to Ireland. It is certainly not a good time for his adored girlfriend to decide he’s irreparably corrupted. And he really wishes he hadn’t accidentally caught the eye of an ornery grandmother who fancies herself his saviour. There may be a way clear of the chaos in the business proposals of music promoter Colm and in the attention of the charming, impulsive Natalie. But now that his boss’s ambitions have rattled the city, Ryan is about to find out what he’s made of, and it might be that chaos is in his blood.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe forensic records society / Magnus Mills.
“Two men with a passion for vinyl create a society for the appreciation of records. Their aim is simple: to elevate the art of listening by doing so in forensic detail. The society enjoys moderate success in the back room of their local pub, The Half Moon, with other enthusiasts drawn to the initial promise of the weekly gathering. However, as the club gains popularity, its founder’s uncompromising dogma results in a schism within the movement and soon a counter group forms. Then the arrival of a young woman called Alice further fractures the unity of the vulnerable society.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverIn extremis / Tim Parks.
“Thomas knows there is something he needs to say to his mother before she dies. But will he reach her in time? And will he have the courage to say what he couldn’t say before? His phone is buzzing, his mind is racing, and he can’t concentrate on the significance of what is happening. Should he try to solve his friend’s family crisis? Should he reconsider his separation from his wife? Why does he feel so utterly confused and paralyzed? (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverDeath of a she devil / Fay Weldon.
“Ruth Patchett, the original She Devil, is now eighty-four and keen to retire. But who can take up her mantle? Enter Tyler Patchett, our new kind of heroine and Ruth’s grandson. He’s an ultra-confident, twenty-three-year-old man: beautiful, resentful and unemployed. Tyler won’t be satisfied until he can transition into the ultimate symbol of power and status, a woman. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction for May

New Contemporary fiction includes, in this month’s selection, the most recent novel from the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Moshin Hamid, titled Exit west: a novel, and reconfirms his brilliant writing skill. There are also new novels from Helen Dunmore, and Tim Pears.

Syndetics book coverLarchfield / Polly Clark.
“It’s early summer when a young poet, Dora Fielding, moves to Helensburgh on the west coast of Scotland and her hopes are first challenged. Newly married, pregnant, she’s excited by the prospect of a life that combines family and creativity. She thinks she knows what being a person, a wife, a mother, means. She is soon shown that she is wrong. As the battle begins for her very sense of self, Dora comes to find the realities of small town life suffocating, and, eventually, terrifying; until she finds a way to escape reality altogether. Another poet, she discovers, lived in Helensburgh once. Wystan H. Auden, brilliant and awkward at 24, with his first book of poetry published, should be embarking on success and society in London. Instead, in 1930, fleeing a broken engagement, he takes a teaching post at Larchfield School for boys where he is mocked for his Englishness and suspected, rightly, of homosexuality.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverBirdcage walk / Helen Dunmore.
“It is 1792 and Europe is seized by political turmoil and violence Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in radical circles where each step of the French Revolution is followed with eager idealism. But she has recently married John Diner Tredevant, a property developer who is heavily invested in Bristol’s housing boom, and he has everything to lose from social upheaval and the prospect of war. Diner believes that Lizzie’s independent, questioning spirit must be coerced and subdued. She belongs to him: law and custom confirm it, and she must live as he wants. In a tense drama of public and private violence, resistance and terror, Diner’s passion for Lizzie darkens until she finds herself dangerously alone.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverExit 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. As they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, they struggle to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are.”(Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverErotic stories for Punjabi widows / Balli Kaur Jaswal.
“When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals. Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty, these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe afterlife of stars / Joseph Kertes.
“When Russian tanks roll into the public squares of Budapest to crush the Hungarian Revolution, brothers Robert and Attila Beck flee with their family to the Paris townhouse of their great-aunt Hermina. The year is 1956 and as their country changes forever, these two boys transform as well, confronting danger and wonders previously unknown. As they travel through minefields both real and imagined, Robert and Attila grapple with sibling rivalry, family secrets and incalculable loss. Along the way they encounter mysterious fellow travelers, bewildering sights of a nation in transition and surprising hilarity, all in pursuit of the one place they thought they’d lost forever: home”(Adpated from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverA separation / Katie Kitamura.
” A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go and search for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. Adrift in the wild landscape, she traces the disintegration of their relationship, and discovers she understands less than she thought about the man she used to love” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverLeopard at the door / Jennifer McVeigh.
“Set in Kenya against the fading backdrop of the British Empire. After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion, a strange, intolerant woman,has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point, and looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites. As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe horseman / Tim Pears.
“Somerset, 1911. The forces of war are building across Europe, but this pocket of England, where the rhythms of lives are dictated by the seasons and the land, remains untouched. Leo, a talented rider and son of the underkeeper to the head groundskeeper, grows up alongside the master’s spirited daughter Charlotte.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary

Syndetics book coverThe woolgrower’s companion / Joy Rhoades.
“Australia 1945. Until now Kate Dowd has led a sheltered life on Amiens, her family’s sprawling sheep station in northern New South Wales. The horrors of war have for the most part left her untouched. But with her father succumbing to wounds he’s borne since the Great War, the management of the farm is increasingly falling on Kate’s shoulders. With only the sheep-rearing book The Woolgrower’s Companion to guide her, Kate rises to the challenge. However the arrival of two Italian POW labourers unsettles not only the other workers, but Kate too, especially when she finds herself drawn to the enigmatic Luca Canali. Then she receives devastating news. The farm is near bankrupt and the bank is set to repossess. Given just eight weeks to pay the debt, Kate is now in a race to save everything she holds dear.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTies / Domenico Starnone ; translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri.
“Ties is the story of a marriage. Like many marriages, this one has been subject to strain, to attrition, to the burden of routine. Yet it has survived intact. Or so things appear. The rupture in Vanda and Aldo’s marriage lies years in the past, but if one looks closely enough, the fissures and fault lines are evident. Their marriage is a cracked vase that may shatter at the slightest touch. Or perhaps it has already shattered, and nobody is willing to acknowledge the fact.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

New Contemporary Fiction

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.

Syndetics book coverCalling 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)

Syndetics book coverA 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)

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverHarmless 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)

Syndetics book coverThe 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)

Syndetics book coverExit 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)

Syndetics book coverIce / 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)

Syndetics book coverA 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)

Syndetics book coverLillian 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)

Syndetics book coverSolitaire / 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)