For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic I’m meant to be talking about my “most anticipated fall reads.” But since that sounds far too much like a reading plan I’m taking the less travelled path of books I’m most looking forward to buying/borrowing.
This list of ten is drawn from a much longer list that I’ve been keeping all year of titles that have caught my interest. They’re a mixture of 2021 publications and older titles gathered from reviews on book blog sites and mentions in Twitter. Others were featured in newspapers, on line magazines and publishers’ newsletters .
I’m not making any commitments to actually read any of these during the autumn (the chances are pretty slim in fact) but it’s always good to replenish the book shelves periodically.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles.
I loved Towles’ last book A Gentleman in Moscow, so as soon as I heard he had a new novel coming out I put in a reservation request to our local library system. They must have ordered only one copy because it seems to be taking forever to get around to my turn. The novel sees an 18 year old Emmett return home from the juvenile work farm where he spent 18 months for involuntary manslaughter. His mother long gone, his father recently deceased, and the family farm foreclosed upon by the bank, Emmett’s intention is for him and his young brother to head to California to start a new life. But he is greeted by two friends who escaped from the work farm and are intent on pursuing a different plan for Emmett’s future.
The Promise by Damon Galgut
I was already planning to buy this when a member of my Nordic walking group began telling me how brilliant it is and that it’s her favourite book of 2021 so far.
Set in pre-apartheid South Africa the novel charts the crash and burn of a white South African family, living on a farm outside Pretoria. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for — not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.
The China Room by Sunjeev Sahota, Sunjeev
Another book I am eagerly awaiting to get released from the library, this novel tells the twin stories of a bride in 1920s Punjab and a young man who travels back to India from England in 1999.
Mehar, a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab, is trying to discover the identity of her new husband. She and her sisters-in-law, married to three brothers in a single ceremony, spend their days at work in the family’s china room, sequestered from contact with the men. When Mehar develops a theory as to which of them is hers, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk.
Spiralling around Mehar’s story is that of a young man who in 1999 travels from England to the now-deserted farm, its china room locked and barred. In enforced flight from the traumas of his adolescence – his experiences of addiction, racism, and estrangement from the culture of his birth – he spends a summer in painful contemplation and recovery, finally gathering the strength to return home.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Yaa Gyasi’s first novel Homegoing wasn’t a complete hit with me — it covered such a large period of history and generations, that we didn’t get to know any of the characters in depth. I’m hoping her second novel will have a tighter structure.
It’s the story of Gifty, who as a child would ask her parents to tell her the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama. Years later, Gifty turns to science to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach further back than she thought.
The Fortnight in September by R C Sherriff
The stars must have been in alignment for this novel. As I drove home from the gym a few weeks ago I caught part of a recording of this novel on BBC Radio 4. Nothing much was happening but the descriptions of a family preparing for their annual holiday at the seaside, captured my imagination. Then Kim @ Reading Matters reviewed it on her blog. It turns out that the novel, published initially in 1931 has just been re-issued by Persephone. It sounds a delightfully gentle tale giving a snapshot of a time and a way of life a few years before the World War.
Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
A debut novel that features a Vietnamese woman who has left behind her husband when she travels to New Orleans with her two young sons, intent on building a new life. Though she continues to send letters and tapes back to her husband, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father, over time she comes to realises the impossibility of that reunion. Told from multiple perspectives, the novel follows mother and son as they adapt to life in America in different ways.
Tender Is The Night by F Scott Fitzgerald
This was one of the books featured in a new series aired on BBC TV earlier this year called Write Around The World in which the presenter, actor Richard E Grant visits the cities and landscapes that inspired great writers and their books.
Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda were regular visitors to the French Riviera which forms the setting for this novel. But this isn’t a tale of bright young things and glamorous parties. It’s actually a bleak tale of a young actress and her complicated relationship with an alluring American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. Characters are pulled out and into mental care and one male character descends into alcoholism.
It was Fitzgerald’s final novel, written in a dark period in his life; he was struggling financially and his wife had been hospitalized suffering from schizophrenia so the novel reflects that bleakness.
Afterlives by Abdulrazak Gurnah
Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2021, Gurnah’s novel features a child stolen from his parents by German colonial troops and forced to serve in the army. After years of absence he returns to his village to find his parents gone, and his sister given away. Now all he wants is to get work, find peace and security and to be reunited with a beautiful girl he remembers from the village.
How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue
People living in fear of environmental impact of an America oil company. Maybe recommended by bookish beck Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, How Beautiful We Were tells the story of a people living in fear amidst environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Pipeline spills have rendered farmlands infertile. Children are dying from drinking toxic water. Promises of clean-up and financial reparations are made – and ignored. The country’s government, led by a brazen dictator, exists to serve its own interest only. Left with few choices, the people of Kosawa decide to fight back.
The Awakening by Kate Roberts
Kate Roberts was a leading figure in Welsh-language literature in the twentieth century but I’ve never read any of her books. The Awakening dates from 1956 but is set a few years earlier in the immediate post war period. Like all her work it is set in the slate quarrying areas north Wales where she was born and grew up. Its subject is Lora Ffennig whose husband leaves her for another woman. Lora suddenly finds that everything she has known and understood has changed. The novel charts her awakening about the realities of her previous life and the life she has to forge for herself and her children. and she has to
What are you looking forward to adding to your TBR shelves in the following months? I’m trying hard not to buy too many new books but you might still tempt me. Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules and the list of topics visit the Top Ten Tuesday page on her blog.