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Notable New Novels of Summer 2024

recommended by Cal Flyn

Another year, another summer stretching out before us... another reading dilemma? Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn offers a succinct round-up of the novels that should be on your radar in the summer of 2024: highly anticipated works of fiction from well-known literary figures and 'breakout' books that have quickly amassed significant critical attention – to guide you on your way.

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What are the novels everyone is talking about in summer 2024?

Well, it depends on who you ask. But let’s start with some recent prizewinners. The winner of the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was announced last month; Jayne Anne Phillips’ novel Night Watch is a mother-daughter story set in a West Virginia asylum in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It’s had some mixed reviews—thanks in part to the shifting timeline and multiple perspectives which some may find confusing—but the Washington Post called it “beautiful, mournful,” while Publishers Weekly declared that the “bruised and turbulent postbellum era comes alive in Phillips’s page-turning affair.” Ed Park’s counterfactual history of Korea, Same Bed, Different Dreams, and Yiyun Li‘s “quiet, subtle and often agonisingly wrenching” (Financial Times) short story collection Wednesday’s Child were finalists.

We also recently spoke to Monica Ali, chair of this year’s jury, about the six novels shortlisted for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction. Of the winning book, V. V. Ganeshananthan’s Sri Lankan civil war story  Brotherless Night, she said: “Once you’ve read this book, you’re never going to forget it. It’s absolutely searing, deeply moving… an utterly compelling piece of storytelling.” One of the shortlisted novels, Isabella Hammad’s Enter Ghostwhich centres on an actor joining a production of Hamlet in the West Bank—was also recently announced the winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award for second novels.

What about novels from well-known writers—what’s new in the summer of 2024?

Let me kick off with Rachel Cusk’s latest offering, Parade. Every new novel by Cusk is a major literary event, although her experiments with form—and her unpicking of what she has previously called the “underpinnings” of narrative—are often initially received with bafflementParade is an extended exploration of identity in which multiple individuals, all identified as ‘G’, muse on the creation of art.

Slowly, Cusk has been stripping away the layers of the novel—starting with plot, now character—to reveal its fundamental mechanisms. And so, though Parade is far from a light beach read to throw in your carry-on case as an afterthought, it’s certainly a notable new novel that pushes at the very bounds of what it means to write fiction. (It feels, reflects LitHub, “so much like the next stage in a complex journey the author has been undertaking for decades now.”)

Parade is not the most obvious starting point if you are new to Cusk’s work; if you’ve never read her writing before, try the Outline trilogy first to get a feel for her (scalpel-sharp, intelligent, sometimes contemptuous) style.

Sounds intimidating. Anything a little cheerier? 

Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s hit first novel, Fleishman Is In Troublewas a sprawling, satirical account of the divorce of two Manhattan urbanites. It’s smart, great fun, and was adapted (by Brodesser-Akner) into an Emmy-nominated television series starring Claire Danes and Jesse Eisenberg.

All this is to say that her second novel, Long Island Compromise, has been hotly anticipated on both sides of the Atlantic. It unpicks the long lasting consequences of the 1980s kidnapping of a wealthy businessman, as well as—more broadly—the story of his Jewish-American family and their pursuit of financial and social success. “The family epic is my favorite kind of novel, and, as a magazine writer I have learned there is nothing more revelatory of a person than where that person is from,” Brodesser-Akner told Vanity Fair. “That idea, plus my fascination with Long Island culture—which to me has always been equal parts romantic, criminal and tragic—gave birth to the family at the center of the book, the Fletchers—the kind of family that is wealthy enough for their money to have bought them security, but also to leave them in danger.”

Long Island Compromise is a doorstopper of a novel with a huge cast of characters, and seems destined, again, for the bestseller lists. Out July 10.

Great, I love a good, long novel I can get my teeth into. Any other big books you would recommend for my summer vacation read?

Well, it feels like all of London is talking about Andrew O’Hagan’s Caledonian Road. (All of England, apparently, according to the Washington Post.) It is, as the Guardian describes it, a “state of the nation burlesque” in the Dickensian mould, that is, a social novel with an ensemble cast: “a bold, bullish tale of hubris and corruption, a book simultaneously dazzled and disgusted by the city it depicts.”

It stars the celebrity art historian Campbell Flynn, who has risen swiftly through the social ranks thanks to his great intellect and aristocratic wife (and who bears, one might note, some superficial resemblances to the author himself, the Glasgow-born writer and LRB editor-at-large who has long been a stalwart of the London literati). Flynn is overdue a fall, it seems, and on his way down we meet a great many of his near-neighbours on the Caledonian Road, an Islington street that spans every social class along its mile-and-a-half extent.

It is, adds the New Statesman, “a brick of a novel lobbed at the towering glass houses of London.” My own copy has just thudded onto my doormat, all 600 pages of it. I’ll report back. In the meantime, you can read an excerpt online.

Sounds great. What other summer 2024 novels have caught your eye?

I mentioned the filmmaker Miranda July’s exuberant, autofictional All Fours as a forthcoming title in my spring highlights. Well, it’s now out and is shaping up to be something of a literary phenomenon. It’s a midlife crisis novel (The New York Times reviewer hailed it “the first great perimenopause novel”) in which the protagonist, a married artist in her forties, upends her life, departs on a cross-country road trip, but instead holes up in a roadside motel barely 20 miles from home where she embarks on an affair with a much younger man.

Soon the relationship is over, but she keeps the motel room where she interviews friends and loved ones about relationships and ageing. “The narrator of All Fours is in the process of losing her ability to carry a child,” explains Vox. “She fears she is losing her ability to attract men. She looks those problems straight in the face. Then she explodes them open with effervescent joy.”

It’s saucy, strange, and “the talk of every group text — at least every group text composed of women over 40,” according to Alyson Krueger in the NYT. If you’re ready to radically reimagine what monogamy and midlife might look like, this is the book for you.

Interesting. And I think you also wanted to mention Jo Hamya’s The Hypocrite?

Thank you, yes. This one jumped out at me: it centres on the relationship between a noted novelist and his playwright daughter, as she presents a new drama written by her about the period they spent together in Sicily a decade earlier. “I had a clear image suddenly of a man in a theatre, watching a play of his life,” says Hamya of the sudden burst of inspiration that became this book, “and I knew that he would disagree with everything that was happening on stage, but he couldn’t leave. I thought about it for hours that night because it was a really interesting formal challenge. Could I write something where both parties were wrong and they were both utterly sympathetic, but the reader would still—especially if they spend time on the internet—feel conscious of wanting to take sides?”

It is, essentially, an extended study of ethical grey areas and the manner by which the sense of moral correctness shifts from generation to generation. The Hypocrite, says the i, “confirms [Hamya] as a fine chronicler of modern anxieties. I have rarely underlined so many passages in a book.” Sounds good to me. I think we could all do with a little less moral certainty in life.

Any other honorable mentions, while we’re talking about the notable new novels of summer 2024?

If you’re at all interested in sci-fi, you’ll certainly want to know about the collaboration between China Miéville and the Hollywood star (and graphic novelist!) Keanu Reeves. Their first novel together, The Book of Elsewhere, is based on Reeves’ popular BRZRKR series.

Hot on the heels of the hit Netflix adaptation of his high-concept romance One DayDavid Nicholls recently released You Are Here, a witty and tender love story about two jaded divorcees hiking across the north of England.

Kevin Barry (Night Boat to Tangier) will publish The Heart in Wintera historical novel set in 1890s Montana; two-time Booker finalist Chigozie Obioma will publish a mystical Biafran war novel, The Road to the Countryand the fantasy author and previous Five Books interviewee Lev Grossman will publish The Bright Sword, a highly anticipated follow-up to his The Magicians trilogy.


What new novels are you looking forward to reading in summer 2024? Let us know: get in touch via social media.

June 25, 2024

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Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn is a writer, journalist, and the deputy editor of Five Books. Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape, her nonfiction book about how nature rebounds in abandoned places, was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Baillie Gifford Prize, the Ondaatje Prize, and the British Academy Book Prize. She writes regular round-ups of the most notable new fiction, which can be found here. Her Five Books interviews with other authors are here.

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn is a writer, journalist, and the deputy editor of Five Books. Islands of Abandonment: Life in the Post-Human Landscape, her nonfiction book about how nature rebounds in abandoned places, was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Baillie Gifford Prize, the Ondaatje Prize, and the British Academy Book Prize. She writes regular round-ups of the most notable new fiction, which can be found here. Her Five Books interviews with other authors are here.