Monday 23 October 2017

Stock up for the long winter nights

In the next few months a bumper crop of new books hits the shelves. Alison Walsh looks at what will be on offer

Alison Walsh

September has traditionally marked the beginning of the busy season for publishers and booksellers, with the careful scheduling of literary fiction for the Booker shortlist, as well as "big" non-fiction for the run-up to Christmas.

But in recent years, there has been a shift, with many of the season's top literary novels, and even some non-fiction, being published much earlier in the year. Nonetheless, if you are ready for some more considered reading, there is still plenty to engage as the nights draw in.

Long Time, No See marks the welcome return of Dermot Healy in October (Faber, €17.05) after an 11-year absence. Set in a small town in Ireland's north west, we are promised "an epic in miniature, peopled by a cast of innocents and broken misfits". Another expert at capturing the lives of misfits is Patrick McCabe, whose The Stray Sod Country (Bloomsbury, September, €23.75) opens in 1958, as Laika, the Russian dog, is launched into space, and takes the reader on journey through the darker corners of the lives of the citizens of Cullymore. Manchan Magan's novel Oddballs gathers together an unlikely cast of wounded souls in beautiful Kerry (Brandon, October, €13.99).

In November, Eoin MacNamee's Orchid Blue (Faber, €17.15) continues his literary reimagining of real events in a powerful story, which has the 1961 murder of Newry girl Pearl Gambol at its heart. Other Irish writers who look to the past for inspiration include Martin Malone, whose In the Only Glow of the Day (New Island, September, €11.99, ) takes us to the Curragh in the mid-19th Century and the story of a young woman's fight to survive, and children's favourite Siobhan Parkinson, who has set her adult novel Painted Ladies (New Island, October, €11.99) in an artists' colony in Skagen in Denmark. It tells of the relationship between a young woman and one of the colony's star artists.

Following the international success of his novel Brooklyn last year, Colm Toibin returns with a collection of short stories, The Empty Family (Viking, €14.99) "of fleeing the past and returning home, of family threads lost and ultimately regained". It is sure to be a treat. Another master stylist is Nadine Gordimer, whose Life Times, Collected Stories, (Bloomsbury, November, €30), brings together stories from her six decades of writing. A newer but distinctive talent is Claire Keegan, whose 96-page extended story, Foster, in which a young foster child comes to understand the fragility of happiness (Faber, September, €8.99) is a short (ish) piece of perfection.

Israeli writer David Grossman's new novel, To the End of the Land, has been proclaimed by many as a literary masterpiece. Written after the death of his son in Lebanon, it tells the story of Ora, who tries to escape the possibility of her son's death during military service by running away (Cape, September, €25.05). Another gift to a son comes from Salman Rushdie, whose Luka and the Fire of Life (Cape, September, €25.05) was written for his son's 12th birthday, but this, like Haroun and the Sea of Stories, will no doubt appeal to all ages.

European fiction is having something of a moment, with Per Petterson's exceptional I Curse the River of Time and Gerbrand Bakker's IMPAC-winning The Twin being widely acclaimed this summer. In The Weekend (W&N, October, €17.15) Bernhard Schlink delves into the recent German past, as the pleasant weekend of a group of reunited friends becomes something quite different, when an old friend with a dark past reappears, while in The Box (Harvill Secker, November, €22.45), Gunter Grass reflects on his role in his children's lives and as an artist. And of course, the Americans are still key players with Jonathan Franzen's Freedom (Fourth Estate, September, €15.99), in which the perils of the liberal society are examined through the lives of the Berglund family in one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

Writing in the Guardian, Colm Toibin proclaimed Seamus Heaney's new collection, Human Chain (Faber, September, €13.99), as "his best single volume for many years, and one that contains some of the best poems he has written" on life and death, while fellow Ulsterman Paul Muldoon's Maggot is a more visceral experience (Faber, October, €19.80) and "finds unexpected ways of thinking and feeling about what it means to come to terms with the 21st Century". And for the completists, The Penguin Book of Irish Poetry (Penguin Classics, €50) gathers together in a substantial hardback the poetry of Ireland's finest, including Heaney, Eavan Boland, Oscar Wilde, Patrick Kavanagh, as well as translations from Irish verse.

In women's popular fiction, the absence of one or two superstars gives this season a different tone, although other writers might well shine in their absence, such as Monica McInerney, whose new novel At Home with the Templetons, is a warm and funny story about family life and loyalty (Mantle, September, €15.99) or Martina Reilly, with A Moment Like Forever (Little, Brown, October, €17.15) in which Andrea realises that she can't bury the past, or her friendship with Lexi, who disappeared two years before...

Cathy Kelly is, of course, a superstar in her own right, and brings her warmth and clear-sightedness to ordinary lives in The Homecoming (HarperCollins, October, €13.99), while Ireland's favourite Maeve Binchy tackes a morally thorny subject with spirit in her new novel, Minding Frankie (Orion, September, €19.99). Deirdre Purcell makes a welcome return after a short absence with Pearl (Headline, October, €26.40) in which writer Pearl uncovers the secrets of her past, growing up in the Twenties, and Geraldine O'Neill's Sarah Love sees a young woman finding her way in London and love in a warm, traditional story (Poolbeg, September, €15.99). And of course, no season would be complete without a new Sheila O'Flanagan: Stand by Me, just published (Headline, €10.99), looks at what happens when a woman rebuilds her life following the sudden disappearance of her husband.

For those who fancy travelling further than these shores, writing duo Barbara and Stephanie Keating give relationships an exotic twist in In Borrowed Light, the final in their Kenyan trilogy (Harvill Secker, September, €17.15). Old favourite -- and not necessarily a woman's read -- is Armistead Maupin, whose Mary Ann in Autumn reunites us with his wonderful cast of characters in San Francisco. Brandon's bestseller Patrick Taylor brings us An Irish Country Christmas (Brandon, September, €19.99), and from one extreme to another, Ross O'Carroll-Kelly is back with Oh My God Delusion (Penguin Ireland, October, €14.99) in which the recession bites in the Kelly household.

In crime fiction there is lots to savour. John Banville, in his incarnation as Benjamin Black, brings us back to murky Dublin in the Fifties in Elegy for April, and to his wonderful creation, Quirke, who helps his daughter when her friend disappears (Mantle, October, €17.15). Also delving into the past is Jed Rubenfeld, whose The Interpretation of Murder launched him into bestsellerdom: The Death Instinct takes us to Wall Street in 1920 and to Vienna and the home of Sigmund Freud (Headline, €13.99).

Quercus promise that Three Seconds by Roslund and Hellstrom will do just as much for us as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (September, €19.80), but if Scandinavian gloom is too much for you, Dr Yes is the new darkly funny crime caper from Colin Bateman, taking in a rogue plastic surgeon and "the most gruesome serial killer since the last one". And something a little different from Poolbeg comes in the form of Murder at Shandy Hall (September, €15.99) a Victorian true crime story set in Cork by Michael Sheridan.

In non-fiction, autumn is traditionally the time for the big Christmas books, but the usual twin pillars of the season, celebrity memoirs and misery are notably absent. The much talked-about A Journey, by Tony Blair, will surely be the political book of the autumn (Hutchinson, September, €25.99), while closer to home, the analysis of our economic demise continues, with Penguin Ireland fielding Wasters, by Shane Ross and Nick Webb, in which they uncover the web of cronyism and waste which characterised the boom, (October, €19.80), and Bust, in which Dearbhail McDonald reveals the role the courts have played (September, €16.99). And if this doesn't make you angry enough, Gill & Macmillan have Snouts at the Trough, Irish Politicians and their Expenses by the Sunday Tribune's Ken Foxe (€16.99, September). Simon Kelly, son of developer Paddy, gives a "vivid and unsparing" account of the dealmaking that went on behind the scenes in Breakfast with Anglo (Penguin Ireland, October, €16.99) and Michael Clifford and Shane Coleman looks at 12 key "wrong turnings" in our country's history in Scandal Nation (HBI, September €18.45).

If your blood is boiling and you want answers now, Fintan O'Toole's Enough is Enough, How to Build a New Republic, offers his analysis of what now needs to be done (Faber, November, €17.15) as does fomer chief economist at the Central Bank, Michael Casey, in Ireland's Malaise (Liffey Press, October, €17.75), who argues that our cultural and economic baggage are holding us back. Interestingly, there are historical echoes of this idea in Tom Garvin's News from a New Republic, Ireland in the 1950s (Gill & Macmillan, September, €24.99) about that era of stagnation and the escape that came in the Sixties.

But if all of this is too much for you, more soothing fare comes in the shape of sport, cookery and some history books to pore over at Christmas. There's a republican flavour this autumn, with The IRA: A Documentary History by Brian Hanley, "the first documentary history of 90 years of the IRA" (G&M, October, €24.99) while The Devil's Deal, by David O'Donoghue, is "the first in-depth study of the covert links between the IRA and Nazi Germany" (New Island, €24.99, October) and Terence MacSwiney, the Hunger Strike that Rocked an Empire, by Dave Hannigan, tells the story of his epic protest in Brixton Prison (O'Brien, October, €14.99). By contrast, A Coward if I Return, A Hero if I Fall tells the stories of Irish soldiers in World War One (Neil Richardson, O'Brien, September, €19.99).

In the slew of GAA titles, Christy O'Connor's The Club (Penguin Ireland, October, 16.99) tells the inside story of a small Co Clare club, and Darragh O Se's The Engine Room of his time as a Kerry legend (Mainstream, October, €19.80). There's also a Waterford theme, with Damien Tiernan's The Agony and the Ecstasy -- The Story of Waterford (HBI, October, €14.99 ) and hurler Dan Shanahan's If You Don't Know Me, Don't Judge Me (Transworld Ireland, October, €19.80). There are also autobiographies by boxer Bernard Dunne, My Story (Penguin Ireland, November, €19.80) and jockey Ruby Walsh (Orion, October, €25.05) and national treasure John Giles tells his story in A Football Man (Hachette, November, €24.99).

If sport makes you come out in a rash, there is a mixed bag of non-fiction, including a historical account of Irish actors in Tinseltown's golden age, in Hollywood Irish (Lilliput, October, €20), Diarmuid Gavin's autobiography (Conran, September, €14.99), Trevor White's account of his time at the helm of The Dubliner, the Dubliner Diaries (Lilliput, November, €9.99), Lorna Byrne's Stairways to Heaven (Coronet, September, €15.99), or the many cookery titles, which include newcomer Catherine Fulvio's Catherine's Kitchen (G&M, September, €19.99). Happy reading.

Sunday Independent

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