Thursday 22 March 2018

From ruin to romance... the books for all reasons

Tales from the slump jostle with zippy love stories to grab our attention as autumn approaches, says Alison Walsh

romance from Anna
NEW ARRIVAL: There's romance from Anna McPartlin

Autumn always has that feeling of new beginnings for the literary world, and even if much good fiction is now published in August or earlier to catch the Booker, there's lots to savour in this busy publishing season.

Of course, Belinda Mc- Keon's Solace (Picador) and Sebastian Barry's On Canaan's Side (Faber) are already in the bestseller lists, while Christine Dwyer Hickey follows her superb Last Train from Liguria with The Cold Eye of Heaven (Atlantic, September, €13.99), the epic life story of Farley, a Dubliner, who looks over 75 years of his life, and of the city in all its grimy glory, while O'Brien Press has produced 'the first major bilingual collection' of the poems of Maire Mhac an tSaoi in The Miraculous Parish (September, €24.99).

Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses brought him to the attention of an international -- and Irish -- audience. It's Fine By Me looks at whether it's possible to overcome a childhood of cruelty and poverty (Harvill, November, €17.15). Childhood is also the subject of Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table (Cape, September, €13.99), when a young boy travelling from Sri Lanka to England on board a ship discovers the fascinating world of adults and a secret that will haunt him for ever.

Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, delves into the life of 13-year-old Madison and the world of hell in Damned (Cape, September, €17.15), while Pulitzer winner Jeffrey Eugenides returns to the Eighties in The Marriage Plot (4th Estate, September, €17.15) as a PhD student of Austen becomes involved in her own love triangle.

Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle made him an international star. His ambitious IQ84, inspired by George Orwell's 1984, is set in Tokyo as two mysterious people find themselves caught in a parallel world (Harvill, October, €19.80).

Murakami has long been tipped as a future Nobel winner, but two of the giants of European fiction have also produced new work: Umberto Eco's The Prague Cemetery (Harvill, November, €19.99), in which the tumults of the 19th Century are the work of one evil genius, while Atomised's Michel Houellebecq's The Map and the Territory is as playful and daring as ever, a story of artistic and personal struggle and 'unspeakable crime' (Heinemann, September, €22.45). Stef Penney's follow up to The Tenderness of Wolves is The Invisible Ones (Quercus, September, €13.99), in which she delves into the mysterious and fascinating world of Romany gypsies, while Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is being hailed as the new Time Traveler's Wife, as a seemingly magical circus in the 19th Century becomes strangely malevolent (Harvill, September, €13.99).

There shouldn't really be any distinction between "literary" and "popular" fiction of course, but nevertheless... After a year away from the limelight, Cecelia Ahern returns with The Time Of My Life (HarperCollins, September, €17.15) in which Lucy Silchester receives a mysterious invitation one day, which will change her life.

Zippy storyteller Anna McPartlin chronicles the trials of female friendship in The Space Between Us (Poolbeg, September, €15.99) while Clare Allan's If Only You Knew is a warm escape from dreary Ireland to France and to the revelation of family secrets (Poolbeg, October, €15.99). It's good to see the doyenne of warm, sympathetic stories Cathy Kelly return with her first collection of short fiction, Christmas Magic (HarperCollins, November, €17.15).

Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Lost Language of Flowers (Macmillan, September, €13.99), was the subject of a bidding war last year, and brings an original twist to the love story, as wounded loner Victoria learns to express herself through the beauty of flowers. Continuing in the international bestseller category comes The Thread, the new novel from Victoria Hislop, a past-present love story set in Thessaloniki (Headline, October, €18.45). Another author with the ability to make history compelling is Kate Kerrigan and in City of Hope, she brings her Ellis Island heroine Ellie Hogan back to America during the Great Depression (Macmillan, November, €17.15).

Crime writing is the dominant genre at the moment, and one in which Irish writers excel. John Connolly, of course, is the master and The Burning Soul (Hodder, September, €13.99), is vintage Charlie Parker as he has to help a Maine resident persecuted for the murder of a 14-year-old girl.

Alan Glynn's Blood Land is a cracking conspiracy thriller worthy of Le Carre, set in the dark heart of the Congo, Ireland and New York (Faber, September, €13.99), and William Ryan, an Irish author of Russian detective stories, returns with The Bloody Meadow, set in Ukraine (Mantle, September, €13.99).

Absolute Zero Cool, the latest from Declan Burke (Liberties, August, €12.99) is described by John Banville as "a cross between Flann O'Brien and Raymond Chandler", and "Bateman" brings his hapless private eye Dan Starkey (October, Headline, €19.80) back in Nine Inches, a story which involves "the butcher, the barmaid and the brothers from hell".

George Pelecanos is one of the giants of American crime and The Cut is the first in a new series featuring Iraq veteran Spero Lucas (Orion, September, €13.99), while Ian Rankin proves that there is life after his unforgettable Rebus with The Impossible Dead (Orion, October, €18.45) and his new hero, internal affairs operative Malcolm Fox. And finally, perhaps "crime" isn't quite the right word for Stephen King's new novel, 11.22.63, but its premise is certainly a riveting one: "what happens when a young teacher from Maine in 2011 gets the chance to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting JFK in 1963" (Hodder, November, €19.80).

Of course -- whisper it -- Christmas is the time for the non-fiction big hitters. This year there are fewer celebrity biographies around, but if you must have your fix, This Is My Life tells the heartwarming story of home-grown star Mary Byrne (O'Brien, November, €16.99). A celebrity of a slightly different kind is Sister Stan, whose The Road Home is "an inspiring, thought-provoking memoir of one of the most influential social activists of our day" Transworld Ireland (September, €19.80). The voice of the nation Joe Duffy tells his life story in Just Joe (TI, October, €19.80), while Des Bishop's My Dad Was Nearly James Bond (Penguin Ireland, October, €19.80) tells the moving story of his father's life and death.

Of course, Tony Gregory would have shuddered to be called a celebrity, but his political life, uncovered by Robbie Gilligan (O'Brien, October, €19.99) will make fascinating reading. Another remarkable Irish citizen is Tomi Reichental, who tells the harrowing story of his and his family's incarceration in Belsen in I Was A Boy In Belsen (O'Brien, October, €14.99).

There's still mileage in the Celtic Tiger Fallout area, with Colm Keena's searching Bertie, Power and Money (G&M, October, €16.99) and from Penguin Ireland, Simon Carswell's definitive account of 'the Anglo disaster' in Anglo Republic (September, €16.99) and as a corollary, The End of the Party by Bruce Arnold and Jason O'Toole tells of the decline of the once-mighty Fianna Fail (G&M, October, €16.99). Bryce Evans' Sean Lemass, Democratic Dictator (Collins Press, September, €17.99), promises to reveal the real man behind the "architect of the nation" label.

If the above is all too much, Maureen Gaffney's Flourishing should give you fresh hope (Penguin Ireland, September, €15.99), as it looks at how we can triumph over adversity, and then there's the publication of the last in Tim Robinson's epic trilogy, Connemara, A Little Gaelic Kingdom (Penguin Ireland, September, €15.99), as well as Vanishing Ireland, Recollections of our Changing Times by James Fennell and Turtle Bunbury (Hachette Ireland, October, €33.00).

Another beautifully presented gift book is Island of Shadow, Brian Lalor's anthology of Irish poetry complete with fine Irish paintings (G&M, September, €19.99), and there's a definitive history of RTE from John Bowman, Window and Mirror (Collins Press, November, €25), which celebrates 50 years of the broadcaster. And if you hunger after sport, there's Nicolas Roche's Inside the Peloton: My Life as a Professional Cyclist, Just Follow the Floodlights: the Complete Guide to League of Ireland Football (Brian Kennedy, October, €19.95) and Donncha O'Callaghan's Joking Apart (TI, October, €15.99). In cookery, there's the lovely Catherine Fulvio in Catherine's Family Kitchen (G&M, September, €22.99) as well as Make Bake Love, by Lilly Higgins (October, €19.99) and Dunne & Crescenzi: The Menu, with tasty Italian recipes from the famous restaurant (Mercier, October, €19.99).

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