As the little rhyme about the calendar goes, thirty days has September...
Thank goodness, then, that there are plenty of new novels to keep us amused this month. Here's five — from Canada, Iceland, Ireland, USA and New Zealand — that have caught my attention. They might just catch yours as well.
The books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author's surname.
Why Men Lie by Linden MacIntyre
Jonathan Cape, hardcover and Kindle, 384 (September 13)
Effie Gillis is a history professor teaching at a major university. She is also a survivor — of a troubled childhood, two failed marriages and numerous relationships which, for the most part, ended badly. In her maturity she finds herself a source of solace and an object of desire for men who, like her, have aged but who, unlike her, remain obsessed by all the insecurities and superficial needs of adolescence. Now, out of her past, arrives a man who is familiar and yet mysterious; mature, wise, and full of youthful energy. His presence is a reassurance, but he also carries with him an aura that is menacing. Slowly she becomes dependent on a relationship that's rich in truth and promise — but doomed by the lie that gave it life. Drawing on both minor and major characters from his two previous novels, The Long Stretch and The Bishop's Man, Why Men Lie is a story of longing, love and loss in middle age.
I haven't read any of MacIntyre's previous novels, but I have a sneaking suspicion this one may end up on the Giller Prize longlist, so no doubt I will be reading it very soon...
Sveinn is a reclusive, middle-aged bachelor who devotes his life to creating and selling beautiful custom-made sex dolls. Loa is a divorced mother of two, whose eldest daughter's increasing isolation is giving her real cause for concern. Their lives collide on the evening when Loa's car breaks down outside Sveinn's house. Against his better judgment, Sveinn offers to help and Loa ends up staying for dinner, falling asleep in her chair, and stealing away in the morning with a sex doll — with the notion that it might somehow help her daughter. When Sveinn goes to the city in search of his creation, he quickly finds himself drawn into Loa's complicated family life. Funny, and touching, and never far from tragedy, The Creator is an affectingly original story of an unlikely friendship and an unlikely cure for the problem of never quite feeling real.
I have to admit that it was the cover of this book which first caught my attention — it's like a cross between a Picasso painting and the cover of a Chuck Palahniuk novel — but when I realised it was by an Icelandic author my interest was piqued even more. I do like a good Icelandic novel...
________________________________________________________________________The Shelbourne Ultimatum by Ross O'Carroll-Kelly
Penguin Ireland, hardcover, 432 pages (September 27)
After his brush with death Ross O'Carroll-Kelly — schools rugby legend, award-winning author and lover of the ladeez — is back with a renewed lust for life — all thrillingly revealed in The Shelbourne Ultimatum. Ross wakes up from his coma to find a country that has changed beyond recognition. Shrewsbury Road has become a ghost estate. Marks and Spencer are selling microwavable coddle. And a Euro discount store is about to open in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. And he was only unconscious for ten days. But never mind all that. The main thing is that whoever tried to kill him missed all his vital organs. All his vital organs. And having had such a lucky escape Ross vows not to waste another minute of his life. There are thousands of women out there and just one Ross to go around. He needs to focus. Of course, life gets in the way. He has a daughter who hates him, a son who is growing up way too fast and a soon-to-be-ex wife who is resorting to increasingly desperate measures to stop the bank from repossessing the house. Oh, and the Gords — get this! — think he's lying to them. Lying? Ross?
The Shelbourne Ultimatum is the 12th novel in Paul Howard's Ross O'Carroll-Kelly series. I've only read one of them — but I laughed so much I went out and bought a load more to read whenever I might be in need of a good laugh! This one sounds as satirical as ever...
________________________________________________________________________The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
Sceptre, hardcover and Kindle, 240 pages (September 6)
An unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, The Yellow Birds is already being hailed as a modern classic. Everywhere John looks, he sees Murph. He flinches when cars drive past. His fingers clasp around the rifle he hasn't held for months. Wide-eyed strangers praise him as a hero, but he can feel himself disappearing. Back home after a year in Iraq, memories swarm around him: bodies burning in the crisp morning air. Sunlight falling through branches; bullets kicking up dust; ripples on a pond wavering like plucked strings. The promise he made, to a young man's mother, that her son would be brought home safely. With The Yellow Birds, poet and veteran Kevin Powers has composed an unforgettable account of friendship and loss. It vividly captures the desperation and brutality of war, and its terrible after-effects. But it is also a story of love, of great courage, and of extraordinary human survival. Written with profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on families at home, it is one of the most haunting, true and powerful novels of our time.
I do like a good war novel — Great War, Second World War, Vietnam War, Irish War of Independence et al — but I am yet to read one about veterans of the war in Iraq, and with the amount of praise being heaped on this one, it sounds like my cup of tea...
________________________________________________________________________Risk by C.K. Stead
MacLehose Press, hardcover and Kindle, 272 pages (September 27)
Recently divorced New Zealander Sam Nola returns to London, where he spent two years in his early twenties. It is early 2003, and on both sides of Atlantic the case for military intervention in Iraq is being made — or fabricated. But life for Sam has never been better: a grown-up, half-French daughter from a long ago affair has recently got in touch, and he has walked into a lucrative role in the booming banking sector. It is only when he learns of the deaths of two friends within a week that intrigue begins to intrude on his contentment, that life begins to feel a little more precarious.
C.K. Stead is a New Zealander and one of those novelists I've been meaning to read for donkey's years. In fact, I have a couple of his earlier books in my TBR where they have been sitting since circa 2005! This new one sounds interesting, not least because you wait for one book about the Iraq war to come along (see The Yellow Birds, above) and then, like buses, two arrive in a row!
Please note that the release dates quoted are for the UK and are subject to change.
Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?