The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu – Ex US Mexican border patrol guard Francisco Cantu is set to deliver his take on what it’s like to block the desperate from their dream. It probably won’t be an easy read, particularly over the Atlantic, where feelings about Trump’s Mexican wall are a tinderbox of kerosene. Still, as they say, ‘it’s too expensive so it’ll never happen’. Question is, should it? Maybe this book will tell us, maybe not. But in any event, author Francisco Cantu plans on ‘distilling an emotion and directing it at this dividing line’.
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje – English Patient author and Canadian Sri Lankan Michael Ondaatje will be launching his latest novel, Warlight, in 2018. This book also echoes the ‘lives torn asunder’ theme, which WWII so readily provides, but Ondaatje seems to be returning to deeper points of reference with this book. He always talked about the way that childhood touched his writing; “people who lose their childhood”, he once said, “eventually have to retrieve it”. Such thoughts certainly underpinned previous work, such as The Cat’s Table, which was a coming of age story set on a ship, and Warlight may be a continuation of the theme, as two teenagers get caught up in wartime’s machinations and mysteries in the way an author born in 1943 may have experienced them: childishly first-hand.
The Drunken Sailor by Nick Hayes – Given the interest Hayes’ previous graphic novels aroused, this one will definitely be one to watch for, particularly if graphic is your thing. It’s about poet Arthur Rimbaud’s life, and thus practically guarantees a generous dose of drugs, sex and booze — the green coloured canvas of Rimbaud’s Absinthe-fuelled life. But no doubt Hayes will deliver something unexpected, since his earlier graphic novels were poetic on the surface but boiling with commentary beneath. Only the last book was somewhat disappointing by comparison. Perhaps this will be the best yet?
Painter to the King by Amy Sackville – Award winning author Amy Sackville’s third book, Painter to the King is published by Granta and out this spring. Her first novel, The Still Point, was a reflection on dream and reality, remembrance and letting go. Previously compared to Virginia Woolf for her lyricism, Amy Sackville is an author of depth and style. Painter to the King recalls Gioconda, a novel about artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci also published by Granta in 2011. But this book is about the life of courtly portrait painter Diego Velazquez, and promises a beguiling interweaving of history and art, reflecting “what is shown and what is seen”: art and life.
Break Up by Joanna Walsh – Online love, physical love, after love: how real are they? This is the question thrown up by Joanna Walsh’s new book, Break Up. Walsh’s previous work reminds me of Lost in Translation, the movie where Bill Murray bangs off the walls of his impersonal hotel bar into the arms of Scarlett Johansson. A sort of non-communication peppers all of Walsh’s work; people float through scenarios they barely understand and cannot make much sense of, relying on gut instinct to survive. In a world where we keep everyone at a distance, is love possible, Walsh asks. It’s a bit unnerving, but given our tendency to text instead of touch, it’s not surprising. Could be a little unsettling — but if nihilism is your thing you’ll might love it.
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist – Fans of science fiction dystopia who missed this book first time around (in 2010) will be glad it’s rearing its head again. In The Unit all middle-aged childless men and women are harvested as organ donors regardless of whether or not they remembered to fill out their organ donor card. Recalling the stuff of Brave New World and Big Brother, The Unit paints a stark picture of a society that has ceded to the logic of nature: if you don’t reproduce, you have no purpose. It is the collective versus the individual, with the state taking over as a sort of new age Darwinian regulator, propelling the concept of ‘survival of the fittest’ to new heights of horror. Smashing.
The Fountain in the Forest by Tony White – Publishers Faber and Faber are very excited about Tony White’s new novel for January 2018, The Fountain in the Forest, claiming it transforms the traditional crime narrative into something dizzyingly unique. However, reader opinions on White’s work are very polemical. You may love him or you may hate him, but at least White is writing what he likes, how he likes, and his publisher is willing to put out a radically different book regardless of its commercial appeal, which doesn’t happen every day.
The Word for Woman is Wilderness by Abi Andrews – Teenage girl ventures out into savage nature with something to prove. That is the premise of this debut novel, which appears to have echoes of Into the Wild, although whether it will deliver the same hard truths is another matter. Potluck with this one really but the cover is inviting and Serpent’s Tail books are usually a good bet. It is billed as a “one-woman challenge to the archetype of the rugged male explorer” but will it reach deep into the female psyche and pull out something unexpected? We shall see…
A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey – Prize-winning Australian author Peter Carey’s last book drew review comments from the Bookmunch team to the tune of for fuck’s sake, man – get on with it, which does not bode well. However, A Long Way Home is touted as a “thrilling high speed story”, so you never know. It could be that, since the novel is set against the backdrop of a road trip, that the only speed is in the gearbox, but Carey did win the Booker prize. Twice. So that should be something to go on. Plus this is apparently a book about Australia, and it promises a bit of historical controversy — which can’t be bad.
The Earlie King & the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton – Danny Denton reflects on the “mythic narrative” of Irish culture in an interview, and takes it to another level in his story of gangster violence, bad weather and promises broken and made. His vision of an Ireland in mid-collapse, economically and environmentally is an interesting one, although the novel was probably written before the Brexit referendum. One to watch out for…
Brought to you by Lucille Turner
Tomorrow: 10 more books we are looking forward to in 20188 brought to you by Daniel Carpenter.