Monday 22 July 2019

Holy God, here come the big guns

It's shaping up to be a good year for big-name literary fiction. Already there have been new books by John Banville, Peter Carey, Irvine Welsh, Anne Tyler, Toni Morrison, Hilary Mantel and Richard Ford, and there are other likely award-contenders to come.

Most intriguingly, Colm Tóibín's first novel since Brooklyn will again feature a female central character, but the heroine of The Testament of Mary is no ordinary woman -- with Tóibín choosing to focus on the mother of Jesus as she angrily grieves over her son's crucifixion.

To say that this is a departure for the Wexford novelist is an understatement, but it can hardly fail to be a major talking point when it's published in October.

For admirers of Will Self (I'm not among them), his stream-of-consciousness un-chaptered novel Umbrella is due next month, as is Howard Jacobson's Zoo Time and Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth -- the latter apparently containing many autobiographical elements in its tale of spying and seduction, with walk-on parts for Martin Amis and the late Christopher Hitchens, among other literati. The London chattering classes will undoubtedly love it.

JK Rowling's first adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, is due in September, while Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood, scheduled for October, concerns class, family, sex and corruption in Miami and is his first novel since I Am Charlotte Simmons failed to enrapture readers in 2004


Tana French's latest thriller, Broken Harbour, has been receiving rave reviews, not least in these pages from Myles McWeeney, who deemed her the "First Lady of Irish Crime".

Reviewers across the water concur: the Observer devoting a half page to Broken Harbour as its thriller of the month, while in the same paper Wendy Cope picks it as the book she'll be taking on holiday.

"I use my Kindle mainly for crime fiction", England's wittiest (indeed, best) poet says, "and my latest discovery is Tana French. I've read Faithful Place, which is terrific, and am currently enjoying The Likeness. I'll soon be downloading her new one."

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