From Trinidad to Iron Age England to World War II Germany | Literary Fiction Previews, Jan. 2019

The New Year's literary fiction ranges from a new entry in Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint at Hogarth to autobiographical fiction from Linn Ullmann. fictio

Adam, Claire. Golden Child. SJP: Hogarth. Jan. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780525572992. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525573012. Downloadable. LITERARY

In a debut novel set in the author’s native Trinidad, 13-year-old Paul—diffident and troublesome, unlike his golden-child twin, Peter—wanders off into the bush and cannot be found by desperate father Clyde. The family has always been on the edge, with Clyde working long hours at the petroleum plant in the south and the boys traveling all the way to the capital for school—and now the world implodes. Next in the new imprint from Sarah Jessica Parker.

Bowman, David. Big Bang. Little, Brown. Jan. 2019. 832p. ISBN 9780316560238. $32; ebk. ISBN 9780316560221. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316414678. Downloadable. LITERARY

This posthumous novel from beloved cult author Bowman (Let the Dog Drive), who died in 2012 at age 54, revisits 1950s events ranging from Lucille Ball's interrogation by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee to Howard Hunt’s forays in South America with the CIA to Jimi Hendrix’s pre-psychedelic life as an army recruit. It all builds up to the turning-point big bang of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. With an introduction from Bowman friend Jonathan Lethem.

Butler, Season. Cygnet. Harper. Jan. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9780062870919. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062870933. LITERARY

Butler starts promisingly with a debut that in an earlier version placed second in the 2014 SI Leeds Prize for unpublished fiction by black and Asian women. Here, 17-year-old Kid has been dumped with her grandmother on Swan Island, a snatch of land off the New Hampshire coast amid elderly inhabitants forming a separatist community that has left behind the wild, youth-oriented ways of the mainland. Now that her grandmother has died, Kid is stuck.

Fernández Mallo, Agustín. The Nocilla Trilogy: Nocilla Dream, Nocilla Experience, Nocilla Lab. Farrar. Jan. 2019. 3 vols. NAp. tr. from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead. ISBN 9780374222789. pap. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780374718244. LITERARY

Referencing indie cinema, computer science, conceptual art, and the theory of the novel, the “Nocilla Trilogy” ranges from a Nevada poplar tree covered with shoes to a man building a monument to Jorge Luis Borges as it embodies contemporary experience at its most jigsaw-like and startling. The trilogy is so influential in contemporary Spanish literature that a group of young writers breaking free of literary constraints are called the Nocilla Generation. Presented as a boxed set; remember, this publisher broke out Roberto Bolaño here.

Kenney, John. Talk to Me. Putnam. Jan. 2019. 320p. ISBN 9780735214378. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735214385. Downloadable. LITERARY

Network TV anchor Ted Grayson has plummeted from grace after he’s caught on camera in an ugly light, leaving the nation stunned and his estranged family unsurprised; he’s not great with personal relationships. Then his daughter, who writes for a leading website, is urged by her boss to tackle her father in an interview, a career booster for her at her father’s expense. From the author of Truth in Advertising, which won the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Lipsyte, Sam. Hark. S. & S. Jan. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9781501146060. $27. LITERARY

From the author of Home Land, a New York Times Notable Book, comes the darkly funny story of modest Hark Morner, whose Mental Archery is the latest save-yourself technique to grip a divided nation looking for answers. It involves mindfulness, yoga, a bit of fake history, plus bows and arrows, and it’s attracted folks from a failing social media tycoon to an Ivy Leaguer gone rogue to a veteran of the drug wars. Oh, and a catfish, too.

Moss, Sarah. Ghost Wall. Farrar. Jan. 2019. 144p. ISBN 9780374161927. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780374719555. LITERARY

Award-winning British author Moss (Night Waking) offers a fourth novel that really intrigues me. For two weeks, Silvie and her family are following her father’s passion by participating in an Iron Age reenactment in northern England, foraging for food and using rudimentary tools. Just as Silvie is realizing that life could be broader (she could go to university, for instance), the group builds the perfect replica of a ghost wall to halt invaders, and the uglier aspects of ancient life start surfacing.

Postorino, Rosella. At the Wolf’s Table. Flatiron: Macmillan. Jan. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9781250179142. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250179159. CD. LITERARY

Based on actual events, Italian author Postorino’s first novel published here chronicles the experiences of 26-year-old Rosa Sauer during World War II. With nine other women, Rosa is conscripted by the SS to taste-test food being served to the Führer at his Eastern Front military headquarters, the Wolf Lair’s, lest he be poisoned. As the war wears on, the women divide into diehard Hitler loyalists and those, like Rosa, who begin to doubt the Nazi enterprise. And that leads to trouble.

Power, Chris. Mothers: Stories. Farrar. Jan. 2019. 304p. ISBN 9780374213664. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374719067. LITERARY

Since 2007, Power has been writing a column titled “A Brief Survey of the Short Story” for the Guardian. Now he pens his own debut collection, with characters who find themselves at the crossroads—or maybe the end of the road, like the woman uses her mother’s old travel guide to take an aimless journey or the man who realizes that he can’t always protect his daughter. Rave UK reviews.

Ullmann, Linn. Unquiet. Norton. Jan. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9780393609943. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780393609950. LITERARY

The daughter of an iconic filmmaker travels to his home on a Baltic-bathed Swedish island to write a book with him on the process of growing old, but though he promises to answer her questions forthrightly, she finds he’s changed with age in ways she hadn’t expected. Memoir-inflected fiction on childhood, memory, and the passage of time from the daughter of director Ingmar Bergman and actress/director Liv Ullmann.


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Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Book Review; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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