There are many widely acclaimed and award winning authors in this month’s selection of New Contemporary Fiction. These include Robert Olen Butler, James Kelman, Elimear McBride and Ali Smith. Combined with other outstanding writers, this selection will provide many hours of reading enjoyment.
Perfume River : a novel / Robert Olen Butler.
“In 1967, Robert Quinlan enlists, hoping to secure a noncombatant role in Vietnam, while his younger brother, Jimmy, cuts family ties after his father violently rebukes his antiwar stance. While dining out in Tallahassee, Fla., 47 years later, Robert-now 70 and a university professor-meets a mentally ill homeless man, also named Bob, whom he takes for a Vietnam veteran. He is wrong, but the encounter reawakens memories of the Tet Offensive, when a split-second decision burdened Robert with secrets and guilt. The day after the encounter, Robert’s father, William, shatters his hip, and Jimmy, a resident of Canada since his flight to avoid the draft, is told of William’s uncertain prognosis. As the brothers and those around them face the possibility of a reunion, they look at their relationships anew; meanwhile, an increasingly delusional Bob crosses paths with the family again.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
My name is Leon / Kit De Waal
“Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. Their mum isn’t feeling herself, so they’ve gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers, since Jake is white and Leon is not.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Siracusa / Delia Ephron.Siracusa
“Two couples on vacation in Siracusa, a town on the coast of Sicily, where the secrets they have hidden from each other are exposed and relationships are unravelled. New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine,-Finn, his wife Taylor, and their daughter Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Conclave : a novel / Robert Harris.
“The Pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.” (Adapted from Syndetic summary)
Dirt road / James Kelman.
“Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, dreams of a life beyond his Scottish island home. His dad Tom has recently lost his wife and stumbles towards the future, terrified of losing control of what remains of his family life. Both are in search of something as they set out on an expedition into the American South. As they travel they encounter a new world and we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The lesser bohemians / Eimear McBride.The Lesser Bohemians
“An Irish girl, just moved to London for theater school in the mid-1990s, meets a charming stranger, a well regarded actor and much older than her. The tumultuous relationship that ensues risks undoing them both.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The tidal zone / Sarah Moss.
“Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonizing, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary).
Autumn : a novel / Ali Smith.
“This is the first installment in a quartet. Seasonal, comprised of four stand-alone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as are the seasons), explores what time is, how we experience it, and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Do not say we have nothing : a novel / Madeleine Thien.
“In Canada in 1991, ten-year-old Marie and her mother invite a guest into their home: a young woman who has fled China in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests. Her name is Ai-Ming. As her relationship with Marie deepens, Ai-Ming tells the story of her family in revolutionary China, from the crowded teahouses in the first days of Chairman Mao’s ascent to the Shanghai Conservatory in the 1960s and the events leading to the Beijing demonstrations of 1989. It is a history of revolutionary idealism, music, and silence, in which three musicians, the shy and brilliant composer Sparrow, the violin prodigy Zhuli, and the enigmatic pianist Kai struggle during China’s relentless Cultural Revolution to remain loyal to one another and to the music they have devoted their lives to.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Yesternight / Cat Winters.
“In 1925, child psychologist Alice Lind travels to the stormy coast of Oregon to test the learning abilities of the local children. Michael O’Daire picks her up at the station and offers her a place to stay while she’s in town. He hopes that Alice can help his seven-year-old daughter, Janie, who believes she lived a past life. As Alice learns more of Janie’s story and gathers evidence that the girl might really be experiencing something beyond scientific explanation, she is also drawn into the lives of the child’s parents, particularly the dangerously handsome Michael.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)