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.
First 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)
Munich / 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)
Affections / 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)
Standard 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)
Elmet / 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)
Acts 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)
Man 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)
The 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)
Extinctions / 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)