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Our bumper crop of best books for autumn

There’s something for all tastes in the many amazing titles due out over the coming months

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Marty Morrissey

Marty Morrissey

Cecilia Ahern

Cecilia Ahern

Jonathan Franzen

Jonathan Franzen

Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney

Colm Toibin

Colm Toibin

Joan Collins

Joan Collins

Elizabeth Strout

Elizabeth Strout

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Marty Morrissey

‘And I rose/In rainy autumn/And walked abroad in a shower of all my days...” wrote Dylan Thomas of the season that’s upon us. While we all might like to walk abroad and enjoy autumn’s colours, it’s nice to think of having a book waiting for us by the fire as the evenings lose their light and another year dwindles and dies.

Here’s just a small sample of the golden harvest of new reading for the new season...

September fiction

Sally Rooney’s Beautiful World, Where Are You? (Faber) follows novelist Alice and publishing assistant Eileen as they manoeuvre their respective romantic relationships at home and abroad. Set against the recent years of Trump and the rising tide of nationalism, word is that this is Rooney’s finest novel yet.

The Ghostlights (Legend Press) by Gráinne Murphy is as much about family, identity and the constraints of small-town Irish life on sisters Liv and Marianne and their mother Ethel, as it is about the fact that an unnamed guest at their B&B is found drowned in the nearby lake.

At least he only died once, whereas dying twice appears to be the fate of Marcus Carmichael in Richard Osman’s second Thursday Murder Club mystery, The Man Who Died Twice (Penguin). Club member Elizabeth, retired spy, receives an urgent letter from Carmichael, a former colleague from her snooping days. But Elizabeth knows he’s been dead for years.

Sarah Gilmartin’s Dinner Party (Pushkin ONE) is a fine debut about the faulty coping mechanisms of a family bereaved – in particular how this bereavement has impacted on protagonist Kate, from her childhood days on the family Carlow farm to the present time.

Family is also the focus in Caitríona Lally’s second novel Wunderland (New Island). Gert decides to pay her black sheep brother Roy a visit. Roy is living in Hamburg now, extricated from the family and finding it difficult to connect with his German brethren. Gert has her own problems back home, mostly around coping with her husband’s ever-worsening state of depression.

Germany is the country of novelist Thomas Mann’s birth, although he never returned to it after fleeing when Hitler came to power in 1933. Colm Tóibín’s The Magician (Viking) is a fictional account of Mann’s life and exile.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Doerr’s new novel traverses time and space, unifying his characters through a text written by Diogenes in the first century AD. Cloud Cuckoo Land (Fourth Estate) begins there and sweeps through the millennia in a huge, imaginative arc that celebrates the outsiders, the writers and the keepers of books. An ultimately hopeful and life-affirming novel about the essence of love, literature and art.

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The Guinness Girls are back in Emily Hourican’s second novel about sisters Aileen, Maureen and Oonagh Guinness, all settling into their new roles as wives and mothers. A Hint of Scandal (Hachette) is out this month.

Cecelia Ahern’s Freckles (Harper Collins) finds outsider Allegra Bird considering something a stranger tells her: everyone is the average of the five people they have spent the most time with during their lives. Allegra struggles to count five such people and concludes this is why she feels so disconnected. But what can she do about it? Plenty, apparently.

Nicci French’s new thriller The Unheard (Simon & Schuster) involves Tess finding a deeply disturbing, dark drawing among her toddler’s otherwise brightly coloured drawings, but is Tess reading too much into this?

Non fiction

Chef Monica Galetti is known to most of us as one third of the Masterchef panel of judges, who has travelled a long way since starting out in New Zealand. In her new book, At Home (Aster), she reveals her favourite weeknight recipes for family
and friends.

If we’re not cooking, it seems we’re cleaning, although James Dyson’s autobiography Invention: A Life (Simon & Schuster) is not a book about vacuum cleaners. It’s more about failing and failing again – failing better as Beckett might say. It’s about following your dream by dusting yourself off – repeatedly – and starting all over.

New starts, most particularly those that might be required in middle age, are explored at length in Maureen Gaffney’s Your One Wild and Precious Life (Penguin), with solid and practical advice on how to navigate those tricky, hurdle-strewn years that lie between finishing the child-rearing and preparing oneself for dotage.

Old Ireland in Colour 2 (Merrion Press) by John Breslin and Sarah-Anne Buckley takes us down memory lane in pictures once again, while Fintan O’Toole’s We Don’t Know Ourselves (Head of Zeus) is also a history book of sorts. O’Toole recounts history in his own lifetime, from the late 1950s to the present, in a blending of social commentary with
personal memoir.

The bestselling author of the novel Still Alice, Lisa Genova has a new book out this month simply called Remember (Penguin), an exploration of the intricacies of how we remember, why we forget, and what we can do to protect our memories.

October fiction

Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads (Fourth Estate) tells the story of a generation through the lens of the fractured but very devout Hildebrandt family. Beginning in 1971, church pastor Russ Hildebrandt is contemplating leaving his marriage – and so too is his wife. Meanwhile, their three children are busy creating their own individual brands of chaos.

Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These (Faber) finds New Ross coalman Bill Furlong encounter the reality of Catholic church child abuse in 1985, years before the dam of silence is broken. This is a slim little volume with a whole world between its covers.

Lucy Barton returns, recently widowed and in contact again with her first husband in Elizabeth Strout’s Oh William! (Viking), an exploration of marriage and family that is, of course, second to none.

John Banville’s Quirke is cleverly teamed up with Banville’s newest sleuth, St John Strafford, the Protestant Garda detective we encountered in Snow, for another murder mystery titled April in Spain (Faber). When Quirke spots someone while holidaying in Spain – someone he knows to be dead, but who’s looking very much alive – he calls on Strafford for assistance.

Public duty and private morality lock horns in Silverview (Viking), John le Carré’s final novel, published posthumously. Julian Lawndsley has left his colourful career in the city behind him, choosing to run a bookshop in a quiet seaside town instead. Meeting Polish emigré Edward, who lives in the rambling mansion ‘Silverview’ on the outskirts of town, will test Julian’s character to the limit.

Ten short stories, all set in the Covid pandemic, are the stuff of Roddy Doyle’s new anthology Life Without Children (Jonathan Cape) where, for example, a nurse mourns the death of a patient she has grown to love and, in another story, a man banned from a family funeral is left to handle his regrets alone.

Three children, young sisters Cibi, Magda and Livia, promise their father they will stay together and take care of each other in Heather Morris’s third novel of her Auschwitz trilogy, Three Sisters (Zaffre). But those promises were made years before the Nazi militia invaded.

Non fiction

Who can resist a new David Sedaris book? A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries: Volume 2 (Little Brown) is another Sedaris-fest of wry wit and astute observations on the ludicrousness of life.

Joan Collins’ My Unapologetic Diaries (Weidenfeld & Nicholson) promises plenty of anecdotes about the rich, the famous and the infamous in locations such as Hollywood, London and St Tropez, while Richard Balls’ A Furious Devotion: The Authorised Story of Shane MacGowan (Omnibus) promises plenty of anecdotes about The Pogues singer, which should make for a fascinating read.

Nigel Slater tells the story of his life through a mixture of memories and recipes in A Cook’s Book (Fourth Estate) and John Brennan, the quieter brother of Francis Brennan, relates his own life story including his long struggle with dyslexia, in My Name is Jhon (Gill).

GAA fans are waiting patiently for Marty Morrissey’s promised memoir It’s Marty! (Penguin) and Foo Fighters fans who also like Nirvana are in for a treat with Dave Grohl’s memoir The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music (Simon & Schuster). Staying with musical bios, the incredible story of BB King is told by Daniel de Visé in his biography King of the Blues (Grove Press).

Billy Connolly’s Windswept and Interesting (Hodder & Stoughton) is, he’s at pains to point out, his own autobiography, written by him in his own words and not for him nor about him, as has been the case with other bios. It’s bound to be a bestseller. And funny too.

November fiction

Learwife by JK Thorp (Canongate) is a fascinating novel about King Lear’s queen, banished years beforehand to a nunnery, just as Hamlet banished Ophelia. But unlike Ophelia, Learwife has survived, outliving her husband and daughters. She has remained in the convent but is now looking for answers. If this enjoys half the acclaim of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet, it will be huge.

Another historical novel in a month packed with them is Rose Tremain’s Lily: A Tale of Revenge (Chatto & Windus). Foundling Lily enjoys the first six years of her life on a farm with her foster parents, but under Victorian law she must return to the orphanage after six years. Her return marks the beginning of Lily’s slow descent.

Back to the present for Michael Connelly’s latest crime thriller, The Dark Hours (Orion), where Detective Renée Ballard teams up with an old Michael Connelly favourite, Detective Harry Bosch, to investigate what looks like two murders instead of one.

The current pandemic is the setting for Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here (Hodder & Stoughton), where Diana O’Toole has planned to travel to the Galapagos with her doctor boyfriend Finn. The virus has struck New York and Finn’s leave is cancelled but he tells Diana to go without him. She does. And, in her isolation, everything begins to close in around her.

Non fiction

Quinn by Trevor Birney (Merrion Press) promises to reveal all about disgraced businessman Seán Quinn and is a book we’ll all be watching out for.

Love in a Time of War: My Years with Robert Fisk by Irish Times correspondent Lara Marlowe (Head of Zeus) promises the inside story on the multi-awarding-winning war
correspondent Fisk.

Jan Grue’s I Live a Life Like Yours (Pushkin) is an exquisitely written memoir of a life lived with disability, winner of the Norwegian Literary Critics Prize and a truly profound work of rare finesse.

The Waterford Whispers News Annual 2021 (Gill) will be no doubt another riot from the spoof news agency, well worth a peek.

A memoir by Ann Patchett will also be flying off the bookshelves. These Precious Days (Bloomsbury) is a collection of essays on everything from knitting to marriage to the meaning of failure, from one of America’s finest living writers.


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