September marks the start of the academic year, and it still feels like the perfect time to build a new reading list. This month is packed with exciting new titles, with a number of acclaimed authors making their highly anticipated return, including Sally Rooney, Sebastian Faulkes, Elizabeth Day and Colson Whitehead. Here, we’ve rounded up the most talked about new fiction books to read this September.
Faber & Faber (£16.99)
One of the most exciting and popular voices in contemporary literature returns this September with her latest exploration of the love lives of young people. Following up on her immensely successful novels Normal People and Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s latest novel takes readers back to Ireland, where a group of four friends struggle to navigate the complexities of love.
In western Ireland, Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. Meanwhile in Dublin, her best friend Eileen is recovering from a difficult break-up, and finds herself slipping back into old habits of flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Detailing the push and pull of desire, passion, hurt and friendship, the novel traces how the four young adults attempt to work their way through their anxieties to try and believe in a beautiful world.
Little, Brown Book Group (£14.99)
The award-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys returns with a rich and evocative tale of petty criminals and failed heists in 1960s Harlem. Against the backdrop of the Civil Rights era, Whitehead weaves a tale focused on Ray Carney, who seems to passers-by to be a respectable furniture salesman. However, Ray hides a secret — he comes from a long line of uptown crooks, and his seemingly respectable business may hide more than a few criminal indiscretions.
With money tight and a second child on the way, Ray finds himself becoming increasingly wrapped up in the city’s criminal underbelly. And when his cousin Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence, Ray finds himself caught up in the fallout of a heist that doesn’t go according to plan. An impressive combination of family saga and heist story, Whitehead’s latest work is ultimately a moving exploration of morality, race and the writer’s deep love of Harlem.
The host of hit podcast How to Fail and author of The Party, Elizabeth Day, returns this month with her second novel. A disturbing and atmospheric story of greed, motherhood and the power of jealousy, Day’s latest work promises to be an addictive read for anyone looking to get lost in a psychological thriller-style work.
The novel unpacks the story of Marisa, who seems to be on track to build her perfect life — she’s fallen for Jake, and after just a few months, he’s already asked her to move in with him and start trying for a baby, confirming her thoughts that this could be it. But then, they decide to take in a lodger, Kate, who has no respect for boundaries and becomes increasingly obsessed with Jake and the baby they’re trying to have. But as Marisa starts to dig into the root of Kate’s obsession and the reasons for Jake not seeing it as a problem, she risks unravelling her perfect life and losing everything she loves
This dramatic tale follows the rise of the indomitable Marie de France, a 17-year-old cast out from the French court whose tumultuous journey leads her to become the prioress of a penurious failing English convent. Descended from a long line of female warriors and crusaders, Marie is considered too coarse for courtly life, and is dispatched to oversee an impoverished abbey.
Stuck in the grey and muddy English town, Marie craves life in court, with her secret lover Cecily and the company of those who despised her. But gradually, she comes to realise that the fearlessness that led to her expulsion from court can also rally a new sisterhood like she’d never imagined. A kaleidoscopic tale of devotion, passion and power, it’s a riveting novel from start to finish.
Vintage Publishing (£17.99)
Knausgaard’s first novel since the 2008 translation of A Time for Everything is a subtly unsettling tale of how the lives of a group of friends shift after a mysterious new star appears in the sky, burning. The strange morning star is seen by literature professor Arne, her husband, the artist Tove, and their children from their summer house in southern Norway. It also catches the attention of their friend Egil, who is staying nearby, Kathrine, a priest who is on her way home from a seminar, journalist Jostein who has been partying the night away, and his wife, Turid, an assistant nurse on the night shift.
No one knows what the star means, but after it appears, small changes start to alter each of their experiences, as strange things start to take place as dark forces in the world begin to be set free.
Penguin Books (£14.99)
Richard Osman’s follow-up to his first popular installment of The Thursday Murder Club brings readers right back into the action with a crime that kicks off on the following Thursday. Pensioners Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron are enlisted once again to unpack a mysterious crime. This time, Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague with whom she shares a long history, appealing to her to help him correct a big mistake that involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a threat to his life.
As the murder count rises, it becomes clear that this time, the stakes are much higher, as the group face an enemy who clearly wouldn’t be disturbed at the thought of executing four pensioners. Together, the friends must find the killer and the diamonds, all before the killer finds them.
Richard Powers’ latest novel is already longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. An arresting tale focuses on Theo Byrne, a promising young astrobiologist searching for life on other planets dozens of light years away. His professional life is thriving, but his personal life is far from perfect.
A widower, Theo is left to navigate raising his son Robin alone. Although funny and loving, Robin also has a troubling side — one that’s been noticed by his school after he smashed his friend’s face with a metal thermos. Not only that, but Theo knows that his son is wrecked by the knowledge that the planet is on a path to sure destruction. The only solution is to take his son with him to a new planet, far, far away.
Penguin Books (£28.99)
Colm Tóibín’s latest historical novel is a sweeping tale of one man’s life that speaks to the greater themes and changes of the twentieth century. Having previously depicted the final years of Henry James, this time Tóibín turns his attention to novelist Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with celebration and contradiction.
In this sensitive and surprising imagining of Mann’s life, Tóibín traces his public life, from finding himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, supporting the German army, to predicting the horrors of Nazism in the Second, as well as his personal life. A father of six who hid his homosexuality, and would write inspiring works and go on to win the Novel Prize but never return to the homeland that inspired him, Mann’s tale is complex and deeply moving.
The Birdsong author returns with another poignant tale set against the backdrop of the First World War. Set in Vienna, the novel follows three timelines, each of which follows individuals struggling to come to terms with the destruction of the old familiar world, and the uncertainty — and Facism — that looms ahead.
In 1914, a young Anton Heideck comes to Vienna to make his name as a journalist, and finds himself falling for Delphine, only to find their love challenged when his country declares war on hers. In 1927, Lena escapes her impoverished life in a small town when she is whisked away to Vienna with a young lawyer, Rudolf Plischke. But after facing an unforgiving life in the city, she is forced to take work in a sanatorium, Schloss Seeblick. Finally, in 1933, Anton, now an established writer, is commissioned by a magazine to visit the mysterious Schloss Seeblick, where he finds another soul in search of redemption.
A political thriller from one of the country’s top political journalists, The Whistleblower is an electric tale of the entangling world of media and power in the 1990s. It’s 1997, and a desperate government is struggling to cling to power as the opposition nips at their heels. Journalist Gil Peck is confident watching from the sidelines, happy to understand the rules of the game but keep his own hands clean.
But when his estranged sister Clare dies in a hit-and-run, Gil can’t help but think that the hit was no accident — after all, Clare knew some of the most sensitive secrets in government. As election day looms, Gil sets out to follow the story and get the truth, finding himself tangled in a dark web of politics, finance and media that puts his own life at risk.