The biggest literary release this fall season, the one most anticipated, is the new novel by Elena Ferrante. Originally scheduled for June publication, the book got rescheduled for September 1, due to concerns over the pandemic shut-down. It’s listed here, along with six other novels getting lots of attention. I’ve noted if they’ve been given stars by the forecasting publications Kirkus Reviews (Kirkus) and Publisher’s Weekly (PW).
According to The Guardian, Italian fans eager to read The Lying Life of Adults lined up to buy their copies at the stroke of midnight upon its release. A novel about adolescence and themes similar to Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, Kirkus gives it a star and writes, “A girl, a city, an inhospitable society: Ferrante’s formula works again!” PW withholds the coveted star but still seems pleased with the novel.
Transcendant Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi is described as “exquisitely written, emotionally searing.” It’s narrated by Grifty, who’s working on her doctorate in neuroscience at Stanford’s School of Medicine as she explores the scientific basis for life suffering. The novel gets starred reviews from both Kirkus and PW. Gyasi is the best-selling author of Homegoing.
Sigrid Nunez won the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Friend. Her new novel is What Are You Going Through about a woman who responds to an unusual request from a friend. Themes include the meaning of life and death and the value of companionship. “Much of the novel’s action is internal,” writes PW. Kirkus gives it a star.
Sue Miller returns with Monogamy,which focuses on a “a golden couple” with perfect lives until the husband dies unexpectedly and his infidelity is revealed. PW gives it a star and writes: “The novel is grounded by vibrant prose, vividly portrayed secondary characters, and the resiliency of everlasting love.” Kirkus likes it but no star.
Jack by Marilynne Robinson picks up again in the beloved world of Gilead, Iowa, this time focusing on the prodigal son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister and his romance with a high school teacher. From the description: “Their deeply felt, tormented, star-crossed interracial romance resonates with all the paradoxes of American life, then and now.” Stars given by both Kirkus and PW.
“Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth,” says the description of Follett’s new 900+ page novel. “Now, [his] masterful new prequel The Evening and the Morning takes us on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate, that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins.” Kirkus gives it a star but PW doesn’t much like it, saying, among other things, it’s “lackluster.”
Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar is described as autofiction: The narrator has the same name as the author and, also identical, was born on Staten Island to Pakistani immigrant parents, was raised in Wisconsin, and wrote a Pulitzer-winning play. From PW: “Akhtar’s work is a provocative and urgent examination of the political and economic conditions that shape personal identity, especially for immigrants and communities of color.” Starred reviews from both Kirkus and PW.