Show Hide image

Autumn fiction highlights

The pick of the new fiction you should be reading this season.

Umbrella by Will Self
Bloomsbury, 16 August
Umbrella, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, spans the 20th century and explores the nightmarish qualities of its technological revolutions. The psychiatrist Zack Busner encounters Audrey Dearth, who has been confined to a mental asylum after falling victim to the encephalitis lethargica epidemic at the end of the First World War.

Philida by André Brink
Harvill Secker, 2 August
Also longlisted is Philida by the South African novelist André Brink. A historical novel set in 1832 in the Cape, it delves into the relationship between the slave Philida and her white master’s son, François, who has reneged on his promise to free her.

NW by Zadie Smith
Hamish Hamilton, 6 September
Zadie Smith returns to north-west London, her birthplace and the inspiration for White Teeth. In her first novel in seven years, Smith focuses on the lives of four former friends from the Caldwell housing estate, exploring adulthood, class and the contemporary urban landscape.

The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling
Little, Brown, 27 September
The ceaseless march of the J K Rowling brand continues with her first novel for adults, a blackly comic work that is no doubt destined for bestselling status. Set in the idyllic English town of Pagford, The Casual Vacancy looks beyond the facade to find its inhabitants caught in perpetual conflict.

Risk by C K Stead
MacLehose Press, 27 September
In C K Stead’s latest novel, the New Zealander Sam Nola arrives in London in 2003, with the case for intervention in Iraq swiftly gathering momentum on both sides of the Atlantic.

Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt
And Other Stories, 1 October
Helen DeWitt follows her debut novel, The Last Samurai, with a sharp, satirical take on contemporary office life and the masculinity of corporate culture.

May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes
Granta, 11 October
A M Homes casts an eye on domestic life in the 21st century, piercing the troubled heart of contemporary America.

Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
Faber & Faber, 4 October
The second novel from the Turkish novelist and Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk. In Cennethisar, a former fishing village, Fatma awaits the visit of her grandchildren – a visit that will draw the family into the troubled politics of Turkey’s struggle for modernity.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín
Viking, 25 October
Colm Tóibín writes of a Mary still caught in grief years after her son’s crucifixion, in this reimagining of the religious icon’s story. Alone in Ephesus, Mary rejects the idea that her son was the Son of God and has little interest in the authors of the Gospels who regularly visit her.

Havisham by Ronald Frame
Faber & Faber, 1 November
The Scottish novelist Ronald Frame’s tribute to Dickens’s creation is a prequel to Great Expectations. Born into new money, Catherine Havisham is sent to live with the Chadwycks. She discovers sophistication in the elegant pursuits of the rich – but finds herself increasingly vulnerable.

En Liang Khong is an arts writer and cellist.

Follow on twitter @en_khong

This article first appeared in the 13 August 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The New Patriotism