2018 is turning into a dream year for readers like me. I am so excited about seeing the return to the bookshops of quite a few of my favourite authors – particularly those who only turn a book out once every five or more years. Here’s a list of the books that have me rubbing my hands with glee.
Circe by Madeline Miller
I have this already on my bedside table, and am glad to say it is mine, all mine, and not a library book! Miller’s Orange Prize winning novel, Song of Achilles, was so powerful it had me in tears, the characters and storyline haunting me for weeks afterwards. Sticking to the classical era, which is her speciality, the new book is about the daughter of Helios, the Greek god of the sun. Circe is a nymph with magical powers but Miller gives her the psyche of a woman and all the problems of finding a place in the world. But this is Greek mythology, so anything can happen, and I expect to be sitting up at night over this one.
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
I have been collecting Ondaatje novels since before The English Patient – another book that made me cry. (Why is misery such a hallmark of great fiction?) Ondaatje’s stories are often based on some little-known area of human experience (a forensic anthropologist in Sri Lanka; aerial mapping of a desert; the building of the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto; children sent by liner to England in the 1950s). Set in London just after the Second World War, the new book has a brother and sister left by their parents under the care of a mysterious man. I am looking forward to Ondaatje’s powerful storytelling and beautiful, haunting prose.
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
Honestly, a new Michael Ondaatje novel and one by Anne Tyler in the same year? The new Tyler is about Willa Drake, a woman who has big things happen to her in years ending in a seven. Like 2017. It’s a story of self-discovery, hope and second chances – typical Tyler fare. This book is out in July, and I expect it will have plenty of emotional heft, with an engaging main character who will let you right inside her head. I always enjoy the strand of quirkiness she so often gives her characters which makes them stand out from everyone else around them, while giving you enough in common with them to inspire empathy. How does she do that?
Happiness by Animatta Forna
I enjoyed The Hired Man by Forna so much it was one of my stand out reads for 2013. It had the terrible events of the Bosnian War colliding with a present day English family on holiday. So lots of normal everyday stuff while in the background no one can forget what happened decades before, which just makes the bad stuff seem so much worse. It’s pretty much a perfect novel. Happiness includes a desperate search for the missing son of an Ghanaian psychiatrist – an expert in trauma – who teams up with an American studying foxes, both visitors to London. Can’t wait.
Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park
Park is considered one of the top novelists to emerge from Northern Ireland and it isn’t hard to see why. His novels are quietly powerful and I think that is because his characters are very real and empathetic, and he puts them through emotionally- challenging situations. In Travelling in a Strange Land, the main character is Tom who is driving across England to pick up his uni student son, stranded by the weather. During the journey he mulls over his problems as a father and the estranged relationship he has with his other son. Park says he likes to try to delve as deeply as he can into a man’s heart and soul. He certainly achieved that in The Poets’ Wives and The Light in Amsterdam, both which I heartily recommend.
Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale
In his last novel, A Place Called Winter, Gale admits to turning his great-grandfather gay. This was another novel that had me in tears and which puts a main character through the proverbial ringer. Take Nothing With You is about a man in his fifties who during a crisis in his life, looks back on his unusual growing up and how his life was changed when he went to a cello recital. I always love the funny/sad juxtaposition in many of Gale’s novels, the strong element of wit which still allows for a powerful pull of emotion. This novel, by one of my all-time favourite novelists, comes out in August.
There will be other books I am sure to add to the list. There is a new Sebastian Faulks for one and Birdsong is another book to put Faulks up there with the best for many readers, including me. I may have to do another post with others for the list – imagine that!