Nutshell, Ian McEwan
Man Booker Prize-winning author Ian McEwan has been at the top of the British literary game for over three decades, with his new novel (his 15th) hailed by critics as a return to the strange, uncomfortable roots that once earned him the nickname ‘Ian Macabre’. Written from the perspective of a lucid but inert fetus who is unavoidably privy to the murderous schemes of the woman he wears ‘like a tight-fitting cap’ (aka, his mother) and her greedy lover, Nutshell is a modern reworking of Hamlet — oftentimes unsettling, precariously heavy-handed, but compelling nonetheless.
The Good Immigrant, Nikesh Shukla
An incredibly important book for the age, with the world experiencing the biggest refugee crisis since WWII and anti-migrant rhetoric rising across the West, The Good Immigrant is a crowdfunded collection of 21 essays by a variety of writers — poets, journalists, actors, musicians, and artists — from ethnic minorities. The writers seek to communicate their experiences as first or second generation immigrants in a society that constantly reminds them of their otherness, analysing the central psychology at work in host nations who collectively judge migrants, separating them into opposing pools of the ‘good’ (world class athletes, champion bakers) or the ‘bad’ (terrorists, job stealers), leaving BAME (black, Asian, or minority ethnic) citizens feeling a constant pressure to ‘justify [their] space, to show that [they] have earned [their] place at the table’.
Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
Irish author Eimear McBride had the last laugh when her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, arrived in 2013, winning prize after prize, including the inaugural Goldsmiths Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction — all despite a stack of rejections over nine years from risk-averse publishers spooked by her experimental style. Her new novel, Lesser Bohemians, is a somewhat conventional story that contains shades of her own life; a young Irish girl, Eily, moves to London in the 1990s to pursue an education in drama, as McBride did before her. Determined to lose her virginity in the big city, Eily embarks on a whirlwind romance with an older man, the bulk of the book dedicated to exploring the infinite variances, both physical and emotional, of sex.
Jerusalem, Alan Moore
Alan Moore is known the world over primarily for his graphic novels, many of which, such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, have been made into Hollywood blockbusters — much to Moore’s disapproval. Jerusalem is Moore’s second novel, and it’s absolutely gargantuan. At 600,000 words, it is longer than the Bible, and by all accounts needn’t have been. Take the word of one reviewer, who says that, ‘Jerusalem contains a great many inventive and instructive cosmologies. Let me offer my humbler own. Most cultures describe an aboriginal chaos, and into this plenitude intervenes a figure — call it God, Demiurge, Artificer, Urizen — who gives it form, distinction, coherence, elegance, and even meaning. An equally good synonym might be Editor’. Criticisms brushed aside, Jerusalem — a metaphysical, chaotic, 1000-year-long kaleidoscope of life in a working class patch of Northampton know as the Boroughs, containing hundreds of characters, both living and dead — is still pegged as an absolute must read by most, and a masterpiece by many.
Swing Time, Zadie Smith
A little ways off from release (it’s due to hit shelves on November 15th) but with anticipation already palpable, Swing Time is the first novel in four years by the widely celebrated Zadie Smith, and her fifth overall. The rights to Smith’s (then unfinished) first novel, White Teeth, were purchased while she was in her early twenties, and still studying at Cambridge, but it became an immediate international bestseller. Her trajectory has continued ever since, her books attracting lavish praise and prestigious award nominations, with Swing Time — which will take place in London, New York, and West Africa, beginning with ‘two brown girls’ who dream of being tap dancers — described by its publisher, Penguin, as ‘dazzlingly energetic and deeply human […] a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them’.