Books to watch out for in 2016
Long-awaited work by Irish and international writers is hitting shelves this year
Published 03/01/2016 | 02:30
After the publishing glut of Christmas, looking forward to the books of 2016 can seem like gluttony. I prefer to see it as a palate cleanser, as the flood of celebrity biographies abates and gives way to new fiction.
This year sees the publication of many long-awaited books, from the late Seamus Heaney's translation of the Aeneid to a memoir by John Le Carré, and new novels from Don DeLillo and Lionel Shriver amongst many others.
Shriver will forever be known for her novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, but her latest, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 (Borough Press; May) sees her move into the area of speculative fiction as she writes about the effects of an economic crash on the Mandible family.
Zero K (Picador; May) is Don DeLillo's first book in five years and it looks like it's been worth the wait. The book's premise examines the idea of the very wealthy preserving their bodies, or the bodies of their loved ones, until modern science has discovered a way to allow us to live forever, upon which time they will be resurrected. A darkly fascinating look at our desire for immortality.
Two grand dames of beautifully restrained fiction release new novels this year. Annie Proulx has Barkskins (Fourth Estate; June), a saga set in the American wilderness, while Anne Tyler brings us Vinegar Girl (Hogarth; June), a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew to mark the fourth centenary of Shakespeare's death.
Also in this series is Booker Prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson's modern-day take on The Merchant Of Venice, Shylock is My Name (Hogarth; February). A different kind of translation will be the late Seamus Heaney's Aeneid Book VI (Faber; May).
April brings a bittersweet tale called The One in a Million Boy (Review; April) by Monica Wood. It tells the story of a twice-divorced couple coming to terms with their young son's sudden death and his friendship with a centenarian woman.
Hot Milk (Hamish Hamilton; March) is a new novel from Deborah Levy, the criminally overlooked author of the Booker-shortlisted Swimming Home. Hot Milk explores the co-dependent relationship between a mother and daughter.
The understated Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout also takes the mother-daughter relationship as the basis for her new novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. This one is not to be missed. Julian Barnes returns with his first novel since his Booker Prize-winning 2011 novel The Sense of an Ending. The Noise of Time (Jonathan Cape; January) moves to a completely different subject matter - Soviet Russia.
Virginia Macgregor's new novel, The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells (Sphere; January), takes a compelling scenario as its subject matter, exploring the complexities of modern family life. It's set over one weekend and told from multiple perspectives and looks at what happens when the Norah Wells of the title returns to the family she walked out on six years previously.
Her eldest daughter, now in her teens, has devoted her life to finding her 'mum', and her youngest, who she left as a baby, now calls someone else 'mummy'. A book for our times.
For lovers of big reads in the vein of Jonathan Franzen, Summerlong (Blackfriars; June) by Dean Bakopoulos looks at a marriage falling apart in a small town in Iowa.
In Irish fiction, Dermot Bolger makes a speedy return after his last offering Tanglewood, with a new novel, The Lonely Sea and Sky (New Island; May). Based on a real-life incident in 1943, when the crew of an Irish vessel, the Kerlogue, risked their lives to rescue 168 shipwrecked German sailors, the story is told from the point of view of 14-year-old Jack Roche and so becomes a coming-of-age novel too.
Filmmaker Neil Jordan's novels are always delightfully gothic and his latest, The Drowned Detective (Bloomsbury; February), has all the unsettling traits of a Jordan story. This tells the story of Jonathan, a private detective who lives in an eastern European city and whose marriage is failing. As he contemplates his marriage, he sees a woman throw herself into the river and when he jumps after her, he finds himself drawn into her world.
Catherine Dunne's new novel The Years That Followed (Macmillan; May) is based on Greek Mythology but set in the 1960s between Dublin, Cyprus and Madrid. It tells the parallel stories of two women, both of whom have left their families and homes for love.
In short fiction, up-and-coming Irish author Rob Doyle publishes This is the Ritual (Bloomsbury; January), a collection of short stories.
Doyle caused a stir with his debut novel Here are the Young Men and this collection focuses again on modern Ireland.
The women at Tramp Press have revitalised the independent publishing scene in Ireland, with successes like Sara Baume's Spill Simmer Falter Wither and their discovery of Donal Ryan in a slushpile. This year, they publish Vertigo by Joanna Walsh (Tramp Press; March), a collection of stories looking at daily life from someone discovering an online affair to a seemingly innocuous family holiday.
It's a good year for Irish writers in thrillers too, as Liz Nugent returns with her second novel, following the enormous success of her debut, Unravelling Oliver. Lying in Wait (Penguin Ireland; July) has hints of Agatha Christie about its plot - a drug-addicted prostitute murdered in a judge's home - but Nugent's sparse prose makes this feel different.
Christopher Brookmyre's new novel is Black Widow (Little, Brown; January). It takes an unreliable female character - so popular since Gone Girl - and looks at issues like sexism on online forums, public shaming, revenge porn and trolling. It also stars Brookmyre's maverick investigative journalist Jack Parlabane.
In non-fiction, Vessels: A Memoir of What Wasn't (Corsair; June) is Daniel Raeburn's story of his baby's stillbirth based on his essay for The New Yorker. Catriona Palmer's An Affair With My Mother tells her own story of being adopted as a baby and her search for her mother, but it also reads like a social history of the Ireland that forced mothers to give their babies up for adoption.
2FM DJ Louise McSharry tells her life story through a series of essays in Fat Chance: My Life in Ups, Downs and Crisp Sandwiches (Penguin Ireland; June). Through these essays, she writes about surviving a difficult childhood, sex, weight and what it means to be a woman in a modern Ireland.
Marian Keyes is also publishing a collection of essays, Making it Up as I Go Along (Michael Joseph; February) and anyone who enjoyed her previous collection, Under the Duvet, will be pleased to see her return to this format.
It's hard to categorise the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, but he's made a name for himself writing his My Struggle series, a Proustian collection of tomes about his own life, written in great detail, often at the cost of his personal relationships. Some Rain Must Fall (Harvill Secker; April) is book five in the series.
Cowboy Song: The Authorised Biography of Phil Lynott (Constable; February) by Graeme Thompson is the fascinating story of the working-class Dublin boy, who became Ireland's first rock star. Published to mark the 30th anniversary of Lynott's death.
You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life (You Are Raoul Moat) (Scribe; February) by Andrew Hankinson is a remarkable book telling the story of the fugitive Geordie builder who went on a violent rampage five years ago, killing his ex-girlfriend's new lover, shooting her, and blinding a policeman before killing himself after a seven-day siege. What's different about this book is that the journalist Hankinson uses only Moat's words, and thus gives the reader the chilling, dreadful impression of being inside Moat's head. Nothing less than compelling.
Meanwhile, spy writer John le Carré gives an insight into his own life in his memoir The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life (Viking; September).
Academic Christopher Fauske has a new narrative account of poet Louis MacNeice's life in Louis MacNeice: Irish Writers in Their Times (The Irish Academic Press; February). It's a powerful look at MacNeice's life and writing and his relationship with Ireland, and looks afresh at his relationships with his father and the women in his life.
Also coming next month is One Bold Deed Of Open Treason by Angus Mitchell (Merrion Press; February), a look at Roger Casement's Berlin diaries, 1914-1916. The diary reads more like a spy novel than a journal. Finally, A Day in May (Merrion Press; May), is a collection of over 50 testimonies and memories of the Yes vote for Marriage Equality to mark its first anniversary.