Our new Books Editor Edel Coffey chooses nine books to get stuck into this September…
Nobody writes quite like Zadie Smith, which is why each new publication from the British author is a major literary event. With THE FRAUD (Hamish Hamilton, €20.30), Smith makes her first foray into historical fiction. The story here is inspired by a reallife historical trial that took place in London in 1873 and came to be known as the Tichborne Trial. The case was based on a butcher from Wapping who claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne, the long-missing heir to the Tichborne estate. The Jamaican-born former slave Andrew Bogle is the star witness on whose testimony the trial will turn. Told through the eyes of Scottish housekeeper Eliza Touchet, who is as obsessed with the case as any modern-day true-crime podcast fan, Smith has written a book Dickens would be proud of, right down to the protagnist’s name, Touchet. It’s an absolute page-turner that asks a question so relevant to our times – what is truth?
Birdsong author Sebastian Faulks is back with his 16th novel, THE SEVENTH SON (Hutchinson Heinemann, €16.99), which cuts to the heart of one of the biggest legislative dilemmas and moral grey areas of our times – surrogacy and genetic manipulation. Set in the very near future of 2030, a young academic desperate to fund her research offers to act as surrogate for a couple. What she doesn’t know is that the tech entrepreneur who runs the IVF clinic wants to carry out some very secret and very unethical research. The book deftly explores the moral dilemmas that our increasing scientific knowledge raises and just how far people will go for power. Absolutely riveting.
Irish author Paul Lynch has been a literary sensation in France since the publication of his debut novel Red Sky In Morning, and he won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year with his third novel Grace. He has been longlisted in the Booker Prize 2023 for his fifth novel, PROPHET SONG (Oneworld, €15.99), which might well make him a sensation everywhere else as well. Lynch writes wonderful female characters – his eponymous child heroine in Grace was unforgettable – and readers are likely to fall just as hard for Eilish, the anxious wife and mother at the heart of Prophet Song. When Eilish’s husband, a trade unionist, disappears during a protest against the government, Eilish is forced to discover her own strength in order to save her family. Perfect for fans of Margaret Atwood.
Fans of Atwood will also enjoy Mona Awad’s new novel ROUGE (Scribner, €17.25). When Belle’s mother dies in strange circumstances, Belle meets a mysterious stranger at the funeral who entices Belle into the same cult-like spa her mother frequented. What follows is a dark satire on our obsession with youth, beauty and image and how much we are willing to trade for perfection.
Irish author Emily Hourican has been delighting readers with her Guinness Girls series and now she turns her attention to another glamorous and adored family – the Kennedys. AN INVITATION TO THE KENNEDYS (Hachette Books Ireland, €14.99) dramatises a weeklong trip to Kelvedon Hall, the home of Chips Cannon and Lady Honor Guinness. Kick Kennedy is hoping her love for William Cavendish will not be discovered and forbidden by her staunchly Catholic family, while Lady Brigid Guinness has no intentions of marrying anyone at all. Set against the backdrop of the beginnings of the second world war, the Guinness and Kennedy dynasties and the political unrest of the era, this is another absorbing and glamorous page-turner from Hourican
Anyone who watched and loved Slow Horses starring Kristin Scott-Thomas and Gary Oldman on Apple TV will enjoy its creator Mick Herron’s new standalone novel, THE SECRET HOURS (Baskerville, €17.99). With all the contemporary wit and humour that fans have come to love, as well as his deeply flawed and believable characters, Herron weaves another unputdownable tale as he follows two civil servants tasked with investigating misconduct in the British secret service. A perfect cat-and-mouse chase from this very modern master of the espionage thriller. It’s easy to see why Herron is often called the heir to John Le Carré.
Across the water, American author Lauren Groff, the threetime National Book Award finalist, has built a reputation for writing compelling literary fiction as political commentary. Groff’s latest novel, her fifth, is THE VASTER WILDS (Cornerstone, €21.50), the second in a loose trilogy about female power and the end of empire that began with her last novel, Matrix. The Vaster Wilds is set in the1600s and tells the story of a young servant girl who embarks on an adventure of inner and outer discovery that is both heartbreaking and unputdownable.
Heather Morris became one of the bestselling authors of the 21st century with her book The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Her latest novel, SISTERS UNDER THE RISING SUN (Manilla, €14.99), takes another true story of the second world war as its subject matter, this time Norah and Nesta, who are both prisoners in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Through the women’s stories, Morris explores the extraordinary suffering the human spirit can endure and the things that sustain it through the worst experiences.
And finally, for Claire Keegan completists, the author’s latest perfect short story, SO LATE IN THE DAY (Faber & Faber, €8.99), which first appeared in The New Yorker last year, is now available to buy in book format.
Edel Coffey is The Gloss Magazine’s Books Editor. Journalist, novelist and editor, radio presenter and reporter, Edel’s debut novel Breaking Point was An Post Irish Book Award crime fiction book of the year 2022.