Close
Enter your search into one or more of the boxes below:
You can refine your search by selecting from any of the options below:
Search
Your Shopping Basket
Total number of items: 0
Sub total: £0.00
Go to Checkout
Our Birmingham Shop
Books We're Talking About
Our Bristol Shop
Animators Survival Kit

Jonathan Ruppin, Foyles' Web Editor and a judge for this year's Costa Novel Award, identifies the new fiction to look out for in the second half of 2011.

 

2011 looks like going down as one of fiction's better years, after a disappointing 2010. My highlights from the half-year already gone (in strictly alphabetical order) would certainly include:

The second half of the year is similarly packed with new titles from some of fiction's biggest names and a healthy selection of unsung and debut writers, beginning with one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the year.

July

The undoubted headline act this month is Alan Hollinghurst. His first novel since winning the 2004 Man Booker Prize, The Stranger's Child, covers a century of family history and changing perceptions of homosexuality that sees Hollinghurst develop yet further as a writer. It's as safe a bet as you'll find for this year's Booker shortlist.

Waterline by Ross RaisinRoss Raisin's debut, God's Own Country, was a book that many publishers were keen to acquire and it went on to be shortlisted for eight awards without, somehow, actually winning any of them. Waterline builds on that book's promise, again looking at a life left behind by the modern world in the person of Mick, a Glaswegian shipbuilder. He ends up on the streets of London after suffering the loss of both his job and his wife, who dies from an illness brought on by toxins brought home on Mick's work clothes.

Steven Merrill Block's The Storm at the Door and Aatish Taseer's Noon also both build on the promise of debut novels. Both tackle the legacy of family history, Block's in the character of a young writer unpicking the truth behind his grandfather's incarceration in a mental hospital and Taseer's in the largely looming presence of an influential father in present-day Pakistan. Taseer comes with the rare endorsement of Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul, a man not generally given to kind remarks about fellow writers. You can read an extract from Noon here.

Cain is the late Jose Saramago's final novel, a satirical take on the story of fraternal conflict from Genesis that continues his career-long confrontation with the Bible's moral ambiguities. It's an altogether tricksier beast than Philip Pullman's surprisingly anaemic The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.

Other interesting fiction in translation out this month includes Banana Yoshimoto's The Lake, tackling the trauma of escaping a religious cult, and Fabio Geda's In The Sea There Are Crocodiles, based on the true story of a young boy from Afghanistan who travelled alone across Europe before finally being granted political asylum in Italy.

August

The realisation that not making the Man Booker longlist in August can result in otherwise promising literary fiction out in September being largely ignored by the media means that just about all the big names are out this month.

Top of the list is Sebastian Barry who concludes his stories of Annie Dunne and her family in On Canaan's Side: Lilly Bere recalls her flight from Dublin to a new life in America. Powerful and moving, with prose as elegant and elegaic as we have come to expect from Barry, it's my tip for the Man Booker Prize this year, going at least in part on the depth of enthusiasm other early readers have expressed.

AL Kennedy's first novel since winning the Costa Book of the Year with Day in 2007 is The Blue Book. An author who has always split opinion, she may well find the widespread commercial success she deserves with this absorbing tale of a fake medium who has thought better of her deception since fleeing from her former partner. Authenticity in some scenes apparently owes something to her friend, Derren Brown.

The Cat's Table by Michael OndaatjeLike Kennedy's novel, former Booker winner Michael Ondaatje's first since 2007's Divisadero is also set largely on an ocean liner. The Cat's Table sees an eleven-year old boy, running wild with new friends on the ship, stumble across a shackled prisoner and learn things that will propel him towards adulthood.

Julian Barnes, recent recipient of the career-recognising David Cohen Prize for Literature, has already published a collection of short stories this year, Pulse. His new novel, A Sense of an Ending, is then, understandably, a slim affair, but bears all the hallmarks of Barnes' vast intelligence and subtle linguistic sensibilities.

Like Barnes, Anita Desai has attended the Booker dinner without going home with the Prize (although her daughter managed to win in 2006 with an oddly uninspired choice, The Inheritance of Loss). The Artist of Disappearance consists of novellas exploring time and transformation, apparently, although I've seen no material yet.

Amidst all the big names comes perhaps the debut of the year. Belinda McKeon is already an award-winning playwright, but those who read Solace might be inclined to hope that she concentrates on fiction. A young man who has left rural Ireland to study gets caught up in the giddy possibilities of modern day Dublin. The dizzy heights of endless parties and new love are punctured by sudden tragedy and McKeon's evocation of this swing in fortunes is mesmerisingly good for any writer, let alone a first-time novelist.

Alastair Bruce's first novel, Wall of Days, has already made the African region shortlist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and he is being widely compared - a little prematurely but not completely erroneously - to J M Coetzee. But his story of an exiled leader banished to a solitary life on an island, that is until the leader of his people's enemy washes up mute on the beach, reminds me more of Paul Auster.

Lucky Bunny by Jill DawsonFrancesca Kay's exquisite debut, An Equal Stillness, won the now defunct Orange New Writers' Prize and her second, Translation of the Bones, confirms her as a major literary talent. Jill Dawson finally gained much deserved attention when The Great Lover was selected by The TV Book Club, so perhaps Lucky Bunny will retain some of those new readers. It's a Beryl Bainbridge-like story of a woman whose survival through the Depression, the Blitz and the brutal East End regime of the Krays is perhaps down to something more sinister than pluck.

Joe Dunthorne's debut, Submarine, split readers somewhat before being made into Richard Ayoade's directorial debut on screen. In my opinion, Wild Abandon is rather better, with his mischievous sense of humour better fitting an oddball story that begins on a communal farm. Marius Brill's second novel, How to Forget is a breathlessly entertaining story of when magic meets scientific research, constructed around the uncovered papers of a controversial neurologist..

Hari Kunzru's Gods without Men revolves around the disappearance of an autistic four-year-old at a festival in California's Mojave Desert. Kunzru is a talented and intelligent writer, but a little like Will Self, never seems entirely at home with the novel format.

Christopher Hope's Shooting Angels has the intriguing premise of a man hiding from his past in an unknown Australian backwater who is finally tempted to return to find out what happened to the woman he loved. I've not read this yet, but Hope is a reliably beguiling storyteller.

And for sheer storytelling magic there is Hanan Al-Shaykh's splendid retelling of Sharahzad's tales, One Thousand and One Nights. The Lebanese writer's previous fiction has challenged the traditional view of women in Arabic society, so perhaps it's fitting that she should assume the voice of the most mesmerising female storyteller of all.

September

When Stef Penney won the Costa Book of the Year in 2006 for her debut, The Tenderness of Wolves, the press seemed staggered that an agoraphobic could possibly have written about the snowy wastes of Canada. But, as new her book, The Invisible Ones, illustrates again, she possesses - as seems an obvious prerequisite for novelist - a fertile imagination. Again, there's a thrillerish aspect to it, with a father on the hunt for his estranged daughter, who ran off when her son was born with a genetically inherited disorder. Not one to disturb the Booker judges, unless they're feeling particularly perverse, but a class above nevertheless.

All That I Am by Anna FunderAnna Funder's Stasiland, an account of the callousness and absurdity of the Communist regime in East Germany, won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2004. Many reviewers noted her gift for storytelling, so it's perhaps little surprise that she should now turn to fiction. All That I Am recalls the dangerous balance between resistance and self-preservation trodden by some citizens of Berlin as the Third Reich took control of Germany. I've not read this yet, but bloggers in receipt of proofs seem very keen.

Barry Unsworth's The Quality of Mercy is a sequel to his 1992 joint Booker winner, Sacred Hunger, following the fortunes of Irish fiddler Sullivan and Erasmus Kemp, the son of a disgraced Liverpool slave-ship owner. The action moves swiftly on to the coalfields of East Durham.

Mohammed Hanif's A Case of Exploding Mangoes, with its hints of Heller and Rushdie, won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Novel; I'm yet to read his second, Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, but the description makes me suspect he continues to rely too much on farce to avoid an unevenness of tone.

A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in by Magnus MillsMagnus Mills' command of the surreal is rather better developed and A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked in is a delight. The ancient empire of Greater Fallowfields is a hotbed of absurdity with notions to tickle such as Astronomer Royal who can only use his telescope when he can find sixpence for the slot.

Neal Stephenson's speculative fiction deserves better than to be squirreled away from wary eyes in the SF section. Reamde sees the chaos of a computer virus spill over into the real world, but the climax to the story occurs online, in the world of a globally popular computer game.

As imaginative is a first novel from Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus, set in a travelling circus whose black-and-white striped tents appear without warning overnight. Two magicians have been trained since birth to face each other in deadly competition, but love thwarts the plans of unseen powers: an adult fairy tale, Audrey Niffenegger meets Terry Gilliam.

October

The fiction title that hogged the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic last year was Jonathan Franzen's Freedom; this year's equivalent is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, his first since winning a Pulitzer Prize for Middlesex nine years ago. He's clearly spent the intervening time reading reams of theology and literary theory, research which makes its way wholesale into large sections of the book, swamping a rather delicate little story about a student of Victorian literature who falls for a manic depressive biologist. The writing is wonderfully assured and some of the minor characters play delightful cameos, but by the time I reached an ending that is essentially a punchline, I'd lost interest in its central triumvirate.

1Q84 by Haruki MurakamiHaruki Murakami's 1Q84, a title derived from Japanese wordplay on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four that doesn't translate, is casing confusion owing to formats. The Japanese original came in three volumes, but the British version will come in two: at the time of writing (late June) the first is due on the 17th October and the second on 25th October, but the dates have already shifted a number of times owing to the delayed delivery of English-language translation. The narrative is complex and surreal, revolving around an assassin and an unpublished writer: Japanese reviewers have hailed it as Haruki's magnum opus.

Emma Donoghue's The Sealed Letter is not actually new but has not been published in the UK before. As different from Room as Room was from all her other fiction, it is based on a real-life Victorian scandal involving a friendship between a leading light in the pioneering British Women's Movement and a woman in an unhappy military marriage that breaks down amidst a welter of accusations.

Thirteen Moons lacked the impact of Charles Frazier's international hit Cold Mountain and with Nightwoods he ventures into thriller territory, set amidst the mountains of North Carolina. There's nothing available to read yet, but if the story stands up to the usual standards of his prose, he may win back lost readers.

Robert Harris has no such worries, seeming to satisfy his readers no matter what the setting. The Fear Index is set over a single day during which a scientist who believes he has found a way to beats the odds on hedge fund investment is taken hostage; masterfully superior thrills result.

Landfall by Helen GordonThe debut novel that stands out is Helen Gordon's Landfall. A fashion journalist, doubting her choice of career, returns to the streets of her suburban upbringing, only to be confronted by some shocking home truths. It's a nicely assured debut from a former editor of Granta.

The phenomenal sales of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy have set the bar rather high for posthumously published Scandinavians, but Jakob Ejersbo's Exile and the subsequent books in what the Danes appear to refer to rather unimaginatively as the Ejersbo Trilogy might fill a bit of a hiatus in the market for cult writers. The book follows the exploits of hedonistic ex-pat students at the International School in Tanzania.

The other novel in translation that catches the eye is Adolfo Garcia Ortega's Desolation Island. A Spanish writer who has won many prizes, Ortega has not been available in the UK before, but it is to be hoped that this will not be a one-off. The last surviving relic of Philip II of Spain's proposed robotic army is just the starting point for some remarkable sea-faring tales thjat take inspiration for sources as diverse as Homer and the film version of The Invisible Man.

November and December

With Christmas marketing in full swing, new fiction is thin on the ground in the last couple of months of the year, but there are a few gems out.

Umberto Eco's The Prague Cemetery has already provoked controversy in Italy, where Eco's creation of a thoroughly anti-semitic protagonist has resulted in bitter condemnation from the Chief Rabbi of Rome, various Vatican-backed figures and other people not able to tell the difference between fact and fiction. With its high-powered conspiracy theories, the book is just the sort of thing fans of his classic, The Name of the Rose, have been waiting for.

If you haven't yet read Sarah Hall, then you're missing out on perhaps the most gifted British writer of her generation. The Beautiful Indifference is her first collection of short stories, a form I generally have little time for, but these are as exquisite as any of her four stunning novels, heady and thoroughly unsettling. A new novel has apparently also been delivered to her publisher, and already promises to be one of the highlights of 2012.

Tan Twan Eng's The Gift of Rain put obscure independent publisher Myrmidon Books on the map when it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007; many thought it should have at least reached the shortlist. I've not had the chance to read The Garden of Evening Mists yet, but its story of a Malayan survivor of a Japanese POW camp and her wish to build a memorial to her sister with the help of the enigmatic creator of the only Japanese garden on Malaya sounds intriguing.

Finally, It's Fine by Me by Per Petterson, the Norwegian who won the 2007 IMPAC Award for Out Stealing Horses, tells of Audun, whose disturbing upbringing prevents him from fitting in at school and eventually leads him to wonder if education is what he really needs.



Featured July releases

The Lake
(Hardback)
Banana Yoshimoto
 
Delivery:
 
£18.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£18.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Featured August releases

On Canaan's Side
(Hardback)
Sebastian Barry
 
Delivery:
 
£16.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£16.99
 

Stores - out of stock

The Cat's Table
Foyalty80Special Offer
(Hardback)
Michael Ondaatje
Delivery:
 
£16.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£16.99
 

Stores - out of stock

The Sense of an Ending
(Hardback)
Julian Barnes
Delivery:
 
£12.99
 
Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£12.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Solace
(Hardback)
Belinda McKeon
Delivery:
 
£12.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£12.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Wall of Days
(Paperback)
Alastair Bruce
Delivery:
 
£11.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£11.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Lucky Bunny
(Hardback)
Jill Dawson
 
Delivery:
 
£17.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£17.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Shooting Angels
(Hardback)
Christopher Hope
 
Delivery:
 
£17.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£17.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Featured September releases

Featured October releases

The Marriage Plot
(Hardback)
Jeffrey Eugenides
 
Delivery:
 
£20.00
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£20.00
 

Stores - out of stock

Nightwoods
(Hardback)
Charles Frazier
 
Delivery:
 
£17.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£17.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Exile
(Paperback)
Jakob Ejersbo; Mette Petersen
 
Delivery:
 
£12.99
 
Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£12.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Desolation Island
(Hardback)
Adolfo Garcia Ortega; Peter Bush
 
Delivery:
 
£18.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£18.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Featured November & December releases

The Beautiful Indifference
(Paperback)
Sarah Hall
 
Delivery:
 
£12.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£12.99
 

Stores - out of stock

The Garden of Evening Mists
Foyalty106Special Offer
(Hardback)
Tan Twan Eng
Delivery:
 
£18.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£18.99
 

Stores - out of stock

It's Fine by Me
(Hardback)
Per Petterson; Don Bartlett
 
Delivery:
 
£12.99
 

Currently out of stock

Click & Collect:

Order now to collect from 8pm today. In stock items only. Click for more info.

 
£12.99
 

Stores - out of stock

Latest Blog
Ben Macintyre Introduces His New Book, SAS: Rogue Heroes
26/09/2016

Ben Macintyre Introduces His New Book, SAS: Rogue Heroes, plus read the Prologue.

A Stinky #FoyesFive!
25/09/2016

Andi celebrates Birmingham Grand Central's First Birthday with her bestselling and rather stinky picture books!

Caz Hildebrand's Top Ten Herbs
20/09/2016

Herbarium author Caz Hildebrand reveals her top ten all-time favourite herbs

View all Blog Entries
Twitter
Show/Hide Tweets
© W&G Foyle Ltd