Our favourite recent literary novels and story collections.
- by Guy Vanderhaeghe
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The first novel in nearly a decade from the three-time Governor General's Award-winning author of The Last Crossing, August Into Winter is an epic story of crime and retribution, of war and its long shadow, and of the redemptive possibilities of love.
You carried the past into the future on your back, its knees and arms hugging you tighter with every step.
It is 1939, with the world on the brink of global war, when Constable Hotchkiss confronts the spoiled, narcissistic man-child Ernie Sickert about a rash of disturbing pranks in their small prairie town. Outraged and cornered, Ernie commits an act of unspeakable violence, setting in motion a course of events that will change forever the lives of all in his wake.
With Loretta Pipe--the scrappy twelve-year-old he idealizes as the love of his life--in tow, Ernie flees town. In close pursuit is Corporal Cooper, who enlists the aid of two brothers, veterans of World War One: Jack, a sensitive, spiritual man with a potential for brutal violence; and angry, impetuous Dill, still recovering from the premature death of his wife who, while on her deathbed, developed an inexplicable obsession with the then-teenaged Ernie Sickert.
When a powerful storm floods the prairie roads, wreaking havoc, Ernie and Loretta take shelter in a one-room schoolhouse where they are discovered by the newly arrived teacher, Vidalia Taggart. Vidalia has her own haunted past, one that has driven her to this stark and isolated place with only the journals of her lover Dov, recently killed in the Spanish Civil War, for company. Dill, arriving at the schoolhouse on Ernie's trail, falls hard and fast for Vidalia--but questions whether he can compete with the impossible ideal of a dead man.
Guy Vanderhaeghe, writing at the height of his celebrated powers, has crafted a tale of unrelenting suspense against a backdrop of great moral searching and depth. His is a canvas of lavish, indelible detail: of character, of landscape, of history--in all their searing beauty but all their ugliness, too. Vanderhaeghe does not shrink from the corruption, cruelty, and treachery that pervade the world. Yet even in his clear-eyed depiction of evil--a depiction that frequently and delightfully turns darkly comic--he will not deny the possibility of love, of light. With August Into Winter, Guy Vanderhaeghe has given us a masterfully told, masterfully timed story for our own troubled hearts.
- by Joy Williams
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In her first novel since The Quick and the Dead (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), the legendary writer takes us into an uncertain landscape after an environmental apocalypse, a world in which only the man-made has value, but some still wish to salvage the authentic.
"She practices . . . camouflage, except that instead of adapting to its environment, Williams's imagination, by remaining true to itself, reveals new colorations in the ecology around her." --A.O. Scott, The New York Times Book Review
Khristen is a teenager who, her mother believes, was marked by greatness as a baby when she died for a moment and then came back to life. After Khristen's failing boarding school for gifted teens closes its doors, and she finds that her mother has disappeared, she ranges across the dead landscape and washes up at a "resort" on the shores of a mysterious, putrid lake the elderly residents there call "Big Girl."
In a rotting honeycomb of rooms, these old ones plot actions to punish corporations and people they consider culpable in the destruction of the final scraps of nature's beauty. What will Khristen and Jeffrey, the precocious ten-year-old boy she meets there, learn from this "gabby seditious lot, in the worst of health but with kamikaze hearts, an army of the aged and ill, determined to refresh, through crackpot violence, a plundered earth"?
Rivetingly strange and beautiful, and delivered with Williams's searing, deadpan wit, Harrow is their intertwined tale of paradise lost and of their reasons--against all reasonableness--to try and recover something of it.
- by Colson Whitehead
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From two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.
"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked. . . ."
To his customers and neighbours on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.
Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger and bigger all the time. See, cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace at the furniture store, Ray doesn't see the need to ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweller downtown who also doesn't ask questions. Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plans to rob the Hotel Theresa--the "Waldorf of Harlem"--and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do, after all. Now Ray has to cater to a new clientele, one made up of shady cops on the take, vicious minions of the local crime lord and numerous other Harlem lowlifes.
Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he starts to see the truth about who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?
Harlem Shuffle is driven by an ingeniously intricate plot that plays out in a beautifully recreated Harlem of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem. But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.
- by Edith Wharton
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World-renowned cartoonist Seth returns with three new ghost stories for 2021. When Lady Jane Lynke unexpectedly inherits Bells, a beautiful country estate, she declares she'll never leave the peaceful grounds and sets about making the house her home. But she hasn't reckoned on the obstinate Mr Jones, the caretaker she's told dislikes her changes, yet never seems able to be found.
- by Yanis Varoufakis
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What would a fair and equal society actually look like? The world-renowned economist and bestselling author Yanis Varoufakis presents his radical and subversive answer in a work of speculative fiction that recalls William Morris and William Gibson
The year: 2035.
At a funeral for Iris, a revolutionary leftist feminist, Yango is approached by Costa, Iris's closest comrade, who urges him to carry out Iris's last wish: plough into her secret diaries to tell their story. "But", Costa insists "leave out anything that might help Big Tech replicate my technologies!"
That night Yango delves into Iris's diaries. In them he discovers a chronicle of how Costa's revolutionary technologies had unveiled an actually existing, fully democratized, postcapitalist society. Suddenly he understands Costa's obsession with the hackers trying to steal his secrets.
So begins Yanis Varoufakis's extraordinary novelistic thought-experiment, where the world-famous economist offers an invigorating and deeply moving vision of an alternative reality.
Another Now tells the story of Costa, a brilliant but deeply disillusioned, computer engineer, who creates a revolutionary technology that will allow the user a "glimpse of a life beyond their dreams" but will not enslave them. But an accident during one of its trial runs unveils a cosmic wormhole where Costa meets his DNA double, who is living in a 2025 very different than the one Costa is living in.
In this parallel 2025 a global hi-tech uprising, begun in the wake of the collapse of 2008, has birthed a post-capitalist world in which work, money, land, digital networks and politics have been truly democratized. Banks have been eliminated, as well as predatory, data-mining digital monopolies; the gig economy is no more; and the young are free to experiment with different careers and to study "non-lucrative topics, from Sumerian pottery to astrophysics."
Intoxicated, Costa travels to England to tell Iris, his old comrade, and her neighbor, Eva, a recovering banker turned neoliberal economics professor, of the parallel universe he has discovered. Costa eventually leads them back to his workshop in America where Iris and Eva meet their own doubles, and confront hard truths about themselves and the daunting political challenge that "the Other Now" presents.
But, as their obsession with the Other Now deepens, time begins to run out, as the wormhole begins to deteriorate and hackers begin to unleash new attacks on Costa's technology. The trio have to make a choice: which 2025 do they want to live in?
Varoufakis has been claiming for a while that we already live in postcapitalist times. That, since the 2008 crisis, capitalism has been morphing into technofeudalism. Another Now, a riveting work of speculative fiction, shows that there is a realistic, democratic alternative to the technofeudalpostcapitalist dystopia taking shape all around us. It also confronts us with the greatest question: how far are we willing to go to bring it about?
- by Max Porter
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Madrid. Unfinished. Man dying.
A great painter lies on his deathbed, synapses firing, writhing and reveling in pleasure and pain as a lifetime of chaotic and grotesque sense memories wash over and envelop him.
In this bold and brilliant short work of experimental fiction by the author of Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny, Max Porter inhabits Francis Bacon in his final moments, translating into seven extraordinary written pictures the explosive final workings of the artist's mind. Writing as painting rather than about painting, Porter lets the images he conjures speak for themselves as they take their revenge on the subject who wielded them in life.
The result is more than a biography: The Death of Francis Bacon is a physical, emotional, historical, sexual, and political bombardment--the measure of a man creative and compromised, erotic and masochistic, inexplicable and inspired.
- by Casey Plett
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Award-winning novelist Casey Plett (Little Fish) returns with a poignant suite of stories that center transgender women. Casey Plett's 2018 novel Little Fish won a Lambda Literary Award, the Firecracker Award for Fiction, and the Amazon First Novel Award. Her latest work, A Dream of a Woman, is her first book of short stories since her seminal 2014 collection A Safe Girl to Love. Centering transgender women seeking stable, adult lives, A Dream of a Woman finds quiet truths in prairie high-rises and New York warehouses, and in freezing Canadian winters and drizzly Oregon days. In "Hazel and Christopher," two childhood friends reconnect as adults after one of them has transitioned. In "Perfect Places," a woman grapples with undesirability as she navigates fetish play with a man. In "Couldn't Hear You Talk Anymore," the narrator reflects on her tumultuous life and what might have been as she recalls tender moments with another trans woman. An ethereal meditation on partnership, sex, addiction, romance, groundedness, and love, the stories in A Dream of a Woman buzz with quiet intensity and the intimate complexities of being human.
- by Sofi Oksanen
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From Sofi Oksanen, the internationally bestselling author of Purge, comes a captivating story about a woman unable to escape the memory of her lost child, the ruthless powers that still haunt her, and the lies that could well end up saving her. Helsinki, 2016. Olenka sits on a bench, watching a family play in a dog park. A stranger sits down beside her. Olenka startles; she would recognize this other woman anywhere. After all, Olenka was the one who ruined her life. And this woman may be about to do the same to Olenka. Yet, for a fragile moment, here they are, together -- looking at their own children being raised by other people. Moving seamlessly between modern-day Finland and Ukraine in the early days of its post-Soviet independence, Dog Park is a keenly observed, dark, and propulsive novel set at the intersection of East and West, centered on a web of exploitation and the commodification of the female body.
- by Rahela Nayebzadah
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In a powerful debut novel author Rahela Nayebzadah introduces three unforgettable characters, Beh, Shabnam and Alif. In a world swirling with secrets, racism and a touch of magic we watch through the eyes of these three children as Nayebzadah's family of Afghan immigrants try to find their way in an often uncaring society. But as a sexual assault on thirteen-year-old Beh unleashes the past and destroys the family the reader is left wondering who is the monster child? Is it Beh, who says she is called a disease? Is it Shabnam, who cries tears of blood? Is it Alif, who in the end declares "We are a family of monsters"? Or are the monsters all around us?
- by Jon Mcgregor
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'It leaves the reader moved and subtly changed, as if she had become part of the story' Hilary Mantel 'So moving and delicate and terrifying and haunting' Maggie O'Farrell The highly anticipated new novel from the Costa-award winning, three-times Booker-longlisted author of Reservoir 13. When an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, the consequences are far-reaching - for the men involved and for their families back home. Robert "Doc" Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, holds the clues to what happened, but he is no longer able to communicate them. While Anna, his wife, navigates the sharp contours of her new life as a carer, Robert is forced to learn a whole new way to be in the world. Award-winning novelist Jon McGregor returns with a stunning novel that mesmerizingly and tenderly unpicks the notion of heroism and explores the indomitable human impulse to tell our stories - even when words fail us. A meditation on the line between sacrifice and selfishness this is a story of the undervalued, unrecognised courage it can take just to get through the day.
- by Alison Macleod
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"What a triumph of skill and imagination is this powerful, moving, brilliant novel! I've never read anything quite like Tenderness, and I doubt I ever will again." --Elizabeth Gilbert, bestselling author of City of Girls and Eat, Pray, Love
For readers of A Gentleman in Moscow and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, an ambitious, spellbinding historical novel about sensuality, censorship, and the novel that set off the sexual revolution.
On the glittering shores of the Mediterranean in 1928, a dying author in exile races to complete his final novel. Lady Chatterley's Lover is a sexually bold love story, a searing indictment of class distinctions, and a study in sensuality. But the author, D.H. Lawrence, knows it will be censored. He publishes it privately, loses his copies to customs, and dies bereft.
Booker Prize-longlisted author Alison MacLeod brilliantly recreates the novel's origins and boldly imagines its journey to freedom through the story of Jackie Kennedy, who was known to be an admirer. In MacLeod's telling, Jackie--in her last days before becoming first lady--learns that publishers are trying to bring D.H. Lawrence's long-censored novel to American and British readers in its full form. The US government has responded by targeting the postal service for distributing obscene material. Enjoying what anonymity she has left, determined to honour a novel she loves, Jackie attends the hearing incognito. But there she is quickly recognized, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover takes note of her interest and her outrage.
Through the story of Lawrence's writing of Lady Chatterley's Lover, the historic obscenity trial that sought to suppress it in the United Kingdom, and the men and women who fought for its worldwide publication, Alison MacLeod captures the epic sweep of the twentieth century from war and censorship to sensuality and freedom. Exquisite, evocative, and grounded in history, Tenderness is a testament to the transformative power of fiction.
- by Honoree Fan Jeffers
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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION
An Instant Washington Post, USA Today, and Indie Bestseller
"Epic.... I was just enraptured by the lineage and the story of this modern African-American family.... A combination of historical and modern story--I've never read anything quite like it. It just consumed me." --Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Book Club Pick
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize o An Indie Next Pick o A New York Times Book Everyone Will Be Talking About o A People 5 Best Books of the Summer o A Good Morning America 15 Summer Book Club Picks o An Essence Best Book of the Summer o A Time 11 Best Books of the Month o A Washington Post 10 Books of the Month o A CNN Best Book of the Month o A Ms. Most Anticipated Book of the Year o A Goodreads Most Anticipated Book of the Year o A Book Page Writer to Watch o A USA Today Book Not to Miss o A Chicago Tribune Summer Must-Read o An Observer Best Summer Book o A Millions Most Anticipated Book o A Ms. Book of the Month o A Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick o A BiblioLifestyle Most Anticipated Literary Book of the Summer o A Deep South Best Book of the Summer o Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award
The 2020 National Book Award-nominated poet makes her fiction debut with this magisterial epic--an intimate yet sweeping novel with all the luminescence and force of Homegoing; Sing, Unburied, Sing; and The Water Dancer--that chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era.
The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called "Double Consciousness," a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois's words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans--the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers--Ailey carries Du Bois's Problem on her shoulders.
Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother's family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that's made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women--her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries--that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.
To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family's past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors--Indigenous, Black, and white--in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story--and the song--of America itself.
- by Genni Gunn
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The stories in Permanent Tourists feature displaced characters loosely connected through a support group, all of them dealing with loss precipitated by an elusive father, husband or lover, by a wife's death, a lost child, sibling rivalries. Tourists in their own lives, these characters are often paralysed by emotional inertia and are fleeing to evade their responsibilities, their failed relationships, their own shortcomings. Within the unfamiliar, their problems resurface and they're forced to confront and re-examine them. Permanent Tourists presents physical, emotional and psychological tourists, all striving to delve more deeply into themselves, their friendships, their families, their love relationships, and ultimately, to spur themselves to action.
- by F.marion Crawford
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World-renowned cartoonist Seth returns with three new ghost stories for 2021. When the Lady Gwendolen, age six, drops her doll down a staircase, her ladyship solemnly digs her fractured companion a grave. Luckily Mr Puckler, renowned doll doctor, thinks he can help--but when his daughter Else goes missing, he's not sure whose voice he hears calling to him in the night.
- by Bernard Capes
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World-renowned cartoonist Seth returns with three new ghost stories for 2021. After attending a séance at an acquaintance's home, a man receives an unexpected job offer from another guest: resident doctor at the prison he directs. But when a prisoner begs to have his cell moved, terrified of what's behind the next door, the young doctor starts to question his luck.