10 summer releases to watch out for
New novels from Milan Kundera, Paul Murray and Nuala Ní Chonchúir are among the season's highlights
Emily Dickinson: Miss Emily by Nuala Ní Chonchúir, above, (August, Sandstone) looks at the life of the famously reclusive poet through the eyes of 18-year-old Ada Concannon, her Irish maid. Photograph: Emilia Krysztofiak
Things We Have in Common, Tasha Kavanagh (May, Canongate)
Yasmin Laksaris is the obese teenage narrator of the English author Tasha Kavanagh’s debut novel. In a tightly-written psychological thriller, Kavanagh creates a convincingly creepy world of teenage bullies, adult stalkers and marginalised characters. Nicknamed Doner on account of her weight and Turkish heritage, Yasmin lives a friendless existence as she tries to deal with her mother’s second marriage. Obsessed with the popular Alice Taylor at school, Yasmin is the only one who can help police when the girl goes missing. Echoes of Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal and Lottie Moggach’s Kiss Me First.
The Green Road, Anne Enright (May, Jonathan Cape)
Spanning three decades and three continents, Enright’s new novel revolves around an Irish Mammy, Rosaleen, the head of the Madigan family. Beginning in west Clare, the book follows Rosaleen’s four children – Dan, Hanna, Emmet and Constance – as they embark on their own lives, travelling as far away as Mali to lay down roots. In a plot device that is reminiscent of her Booker-winning novel The Gathering, Enright calls her characters back to the family homestead, for Christmas this time instead of a funeral.
Green Glowing Skull, Gavin Corbett (May, 4th Estate)
This is Gavin Corbett’s third novel, following the acclaimed This is the Way, which won the 2013 Kerry Group Novel of the Year. With a departure in style and voice, Corbett’s new novel takes its protagonist Rickard Velily to Manhattan and lands him in a series of madcap adventures. After relinquishing his job as a journalist, Rickard enlists the help of the cultish Cha Bum Kun Club, a masonic-style lodge for men who are down on their luck. From there, the plot hurtles along as Rickard tries to become a tenor and reintroduce Irish folklore, ballads and mythology to a city whose modern inhabitants have no time for the past.
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson (May, Doubleday)
Atkinson follows up her Costa award-winning novel Life After Life with this sequel, which tells the story of Teddy Todd, a wandering poet who ends up captaining a fighter pilot in the second World War. Fans of Life After Life will remember Teddy through the eyes of his older sister Ursula. In A God in Ruins, Fox Corner and the Todd family provide the engaging backdrop once more, but this new book branches out to tell the unhappy story of Teddy’s later life. There is plenty to enjoy in the sequel, with old lives revisited and new characters such as Teddy’s painfully ungrateful daughter Viola. Reading Life After Life first is recommended to get the full picture of the Todd family, though not a prerequisite.
Floods of Fire, Amitav Ghosh (May, John Murray)
The final instalment in the Bengali writer’s Ibis trilogy that began with the Booker shortlisted Sea of Poppies, Floods of Fire opens in 1839 following China’s embargo of the British controlled opium trade. With its plantations in India dependent on the Chinese market, the colonial government sends an expeditionary force from Bengal to Hong Kong to reinstate it. The diverse group of travellers aboard the vessel have no idea that they are sailing into the First Opium War.
Find Me, Laura van den Berg (June)
American writer Van den Berg has made a name for herself with two award-winning collections of stories, the first of which, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Award. Find Me, her debut novel, is a dystopian tale set in a future plagued by “an epidemic of forgetting”. Narrator Joy is one of 150 people who have shown a resistance to the disease. Housed in a Kansas hospital while scientists search for a cure, the characters are asked to excavate their pasts as a way of preserving their minds. One to watch, with Van den Berg recently voted the best young writer in America by the online arts magazine Salon.
The Festival of Insignificance, Milan Kundera (June, Faber)
Thirteen years after the publication of his last novel, the octogenarian Kundera returns with a story of four friends in Paris who talk self-importantly about “sex, history, art, politics, and the meaning of life” while pontificating on their own insignificance. The novella-length work by the Czech author, who has been living in exile in France since the seventies, was first published in Italy in 2013, and has since topped charts in Italy, Spain and France. The translation from the original French is by Linda Asher. Best known for his 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Kundera’s new book has been described by Faber as a “wryly comic yet deeply serious glance at the ultimate insignificance of life and politics”.
Mislaid, Nell Zink (July, 4th Estate)
Although her novel The Wallcreeper was published by the Dorothy Project, a feminist small press, in America last year to rave reviews, Nell Zink’s forthcoming novel Mislaid is billed as her official debut. With Jonathan Franzen as her mentor and her one-time agent, Zink comes highly recommended. Her new novel’s confounding storyline explores issues of race, gender and sexuality in sixties America. College ingénue Peggy has an ill-conceived affair with a professor, resulting in pregnancy, a marriage between a lesbian woman and a gay man, and the adopting of African-American identities as a form of escape. Intrigued? So are we.
The Mark and the Void, Paul Murray (July, Hamish Hamilton)
Five years since the publication of his Booker longlisted Skippy Dies, the Dublin author returns with an oblique look at the banking world and institutional folly. With a plot that promises plenty of adventures, twists and metafiction, banker Claude Martingale is approached by Paul, a down-on-his-luck author looking for an engaging subject for a new book. While the Investment Bank of Torabundo continues its dodgy deals and derivative trades, Claude finds his new semi-fictionalised life more appealing than reality. With art heists, ex-KGB agents and Pacific Islands all making an appearance, it’s easy to see why.
Miss Emily, Nuala Ní Chonchúir (August, Sandstone)
This is Ní Chonchúir’s third novel but the first to get an American release. Due out in America in July, Miss Emily will be published in Europe the following month. Told from the perspective of Emily Dickinson’s Irish maid, the novel looks at the life of the famously reclusive poet through the eyes of 18-year-old Ada Concannon. Hired by the eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts, Ada becomes friends with the gifted eldest daughter despite their difference in status and age. When Ada’s reputation is jeopardised, the poet must reach outside herself to help her friend. The film rights to the novel have already been acquired.