September is set to be a big month in the literary calendar, as many of the previously postponed but eagerly anticipated releases finally drop. From Elena Ferrante’s return to Naples to Nick Hornby’s new romantic comedy and Martin Amis’s astonishing autobiographic musings, the big names are out in full force this month. But there are also excellent offerings from across the Pond from the likes of award-winners such as Ayad Akhtar and Marilynne Robinson, plus plenty of fresh homegrown British talent. Here, we’ve rounded up the very best new books to discover this autumn.
This is Ferrante’s eagerly awaited follow up to her Neapolitan Quartet, which sold over 13 million copies worldwide and had its first instalment, My Brilliant Friend, adapted by HBO. The Lying Life of Adults returns once again to Naples, this time in the 90s, with 12-year-old Giovanna as the main narrator.
Aware of a rift between her intellectual middle class father and his less privileged sister, Giovanna slowly gets to know her volatile aunt and hears her side of the story. It’s this induction into the murky world of adult familial politics which sets Giovanna off on her own path of rebellion. The result is an exhilarating coming-of-age tale about the unpredictable passions of adolescence.
In North London, 42-year-old English teacher Lucy has separated from her coke-addict husband and has begun dating again. Meanwhile, 22-year-old Joseph is working at the local butchers on Saturdays. After the pair meets during her weekly shop, Joseph begins babysitting Lucy’s young sons, and the two of them grow closer.
Set both before and after the Brexit referendum, this novel poses the question: can you make it work with someone in whom you have nothing in common? Highlighting the divisions we face today in contemporary London, this heart-warming odd-couple romance comes with all the usual brilliant observations and humour that you’d associate with Hornby’s writing.
£14.99 (Bloomsbury Publishing)
It’s been 15 years since Clarke’s Man Booker Prize long-listed debut, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, was published, but her new spellbinding mystery is well worth the wait. It some ways, the less you know about this novel before you read it the better – the concept is mind-bendingly strange.
In an empty house the labyrinthine walls stretch to infinity. The sole occupant is Piranesi, who keeps a meticulous journal of his days there. But when messages begin to appear on the walls, Piranesi has a mystery to solve: who else is in the house? BAFTA-winner Chiwetel Ejiofor is lined up to voice the audio book – no wonder there’s so much hype around this release.
£20 (Vintage Publishing)
Described as his ‘most intimate and epic work to date’, this autobiographical novel from novelist and screenwriter Amis is set to provide an unseen portrait of his extraordinary life. Inspired by the death of his closed friend, the polemicist and intellectual Christopher Hitchens, Inside Story explores questions over how best to live, grieve and die.
Yet it’s also a tale of romantic entanglements, family and friendship, featuring a stellar literary cast – friend and poet Philip Larkin and the writers Saul Bellow and Iris Murdoch all make an appearance. The end effect is something akin to a love letter to life that’s been hailed as ‘the book of a lifetime’.
£14.99 (Chatto & Windus)
This collection of ten short stories from Californian author Emma Cline each feature a father figure in some capacity and explore the power dynamics at play in these relationships. Each narrative is beautifully crafted, with What You Can Do with a General having been shortlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award.
The subject matter is eclectic: An absentee father travels to collect his son from boarding school after an undisclosed act of violence. A celebrity family’s nanny hides out in the aftermath of a tabloid scandal. A young woman sells her underwear to strangers. Combined, they reveal the perversity and violence pulsing under the surface in each of these relationships, creating a compelling read.
£14.99 (Faber & Faber)
In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, teenagers James and Tully are forming an intense friendship. Bonding over their mutual love of music, films and their shared rebellious spirit, they decide to head to Manchester for an epic weekend filled with debauchery – the climax of their youth.
Thirty years after that magical weekend where they promised each other to live life differently, James’s phone rings. It’s Tully on the line, with devastating news. A heart-breaking coming-of-age novel, Mayflies is an extraordinary story about a life-long friendship, youth’s euphoria and the price of love, all examined through the filter of 1980s working class Britain.
£16.99 (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Graham and Annie have been married for thirty years – their friends call them the golden couple. Ebullient Graham balances out quiet, introspective Annie, who is confident in his devotion and love. But when Graham suddenly dies, a devastated Annie discovers that Graham was unfaithful to her, making her question whether she truly knew the man who loved her.
New York Times best-selling author Sue Miller creates a bittersweet story about marriage and betrayal, which navigates the emotional minefield of a life shared, and what we expect that to mean. Haunting and thoughtful, Monogamy is filled with Miller’s signature focus and empathy, making it a beautiful read.
Blending memoir and fiction, Homeland Elegies tell the story of an American-Muslim son and his immigrant father searching for belonging in the Trump-led United States. This is a tale of belonging and dispossession in a post 9/11 world, where the gods of finance rule, where immigrants live in fear and where society is on the verge of breaking point.
The result is a tragicomedy written in both love and anger about the American dream and its transformation into real-life nightmare. No wonder then that it was described by Salman Rushdie as “passionate, disturbing, unputdownable”. Akhtar won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Disgraced – expect this novel to be worth the hype.
£18.99 (Little, Brown)
Another Pulitzer Prize winner to add into the mix this month. Robinson won the Women’s Prize for Fiction for Home, her second novel in her Gilead trilogy, set in a small town in Iowa in 1956. In Jack, Robinson makes a welcome return to Gilead, this time telling the story of John Ames Broughton.
John is the prodigal son of an Iowan Presbyterian minister, who falls in love with Della Miles, an African-American high school teacher living in segregated St Louis shortly after World War II. From this story, we learn about the on-going legacy of the Civil War and the enduring impact of racial inequality and unshakeable religious belief in the US. Barack Obama is apparently a fan.
When the literary equivalent of a bear-fight takes place for the rights to a book, you know it’s going to be good. Penguin beat nine other publishers at auction for this debut from TV presenter and producer Osman, in a seven-figure two-book deal. Now, rights have been sold in 13 countries and a rumoured TV adaptation looks likely.
In a “luxury retirement village” off the A21 in Kent, four octogenarians share a love of murder mysteries. But when the brutal murder of an unsavoury local property developer happens right on their doorstep, the “Thursday Murder Club” find themselves in the middle of their very first case. Can they catch the killer before it’s too late?
£18.99 (Chatto & Windus)
Bath, 1865. The striking Miss Jane Adeane is known as ‘The Angel of the Baths’ thanks to her renowned nursing skills. Convinced her destiny is more exciting than society deems, she rejects the proposal of a respectable doctor and travels to London where she falls for Julietta, a beautiful socialite.
Meanwhile, in Borneo, the eccentric Sir Ralph Savage is finding his schemes thwarted by greed, the forest and his own fragility. Despite being on the other side of the world to Jane, their stories are intertwined, taking the reader on a sumptuous narrative across the globe. Expect an exploration of the human urge to seek sanctuary in a harsh world from an Orange Prize-winning novelist.
Described as “a cross between a dark, poetic fairytale and ‘Doctor Foster’ on steroids,” The Harpy tells of married, stay-at-home mother Lucy, who discovers her husband Jake has been having an affair after a man comes to the door claiming Jake is sleeping with his wife.
Deciding to keep the marriage in tact, Lucy comes up with a special arrangement – she will be able to hurt Jake three times, without giving him any warning this pain is coming or what form it will take. So ensues a psychological game of crime and punishment, told in Hunter’s captivating musical prose. Think “Hell hath no fury”, brought to life.
£14.99 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
One for fans of My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.“For as long as I can remember feeling things, I’ve felt sadness,” says the eponymous Janet, who works at a rundown local dog shelter and actively avoids human contact wherever possible. She’s not out to make anyone else sad; she just wants to be left alone.
But after her worried family stage an intervention, Janet is offered a new pill that promises a break from her “sadness” over the Christmas period. But will she take it? An unexpectedly funny black comedy about depression and our modern obsession with happiness, Sad Janet is a novel full of surprises.
£12.99 (Myriad Editions)
In this high-stakes thriller about organ trafficking, a young woman’s life is changed in the blink of an eye after a stabbing on a London bus leaves her widowed. Isolated and robbed of her future, she books an impulsive trip to Prague, where she and her late husband got engaged.
Wandering the city’s cobbled streets, she is approached with a proposition – pick something up, transport it back to the UK and save a life. Just once. But that once will change her life beyond recognition. Keevil is the director of Cardiff University’s Creative Writing MA, so expect a brilliant read as he shows he can practise what he preaches.