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Notable Novels of Spring 2024

recommended by Cal Flyn

Looking for a new book to get stuck into? Five Books deputy editor Cal Flyn offers a round-up of the most notable novels of spring 2024, including fresh titles from Percival Everett and Alexis Wright, plus the 'lost' final novel by Gabriel García Márquez—published a decade after his death.

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What new novels should I be looking out for in Spring 2024?

There’s a lot of choice this season, with plenty of notable novels just out or very shortly to be released.

Fans of Sigrid Nunez (The Friend) will be pleased to learn that her new novel The Vulnerables is already available in the US and will be in British bookshops from Jan 25. It’s set in Covid-era New York, in which an unnamed female writer moves into a friend-of-a-friend’s apartment to look after their pet macaw, Eureka. This is, technically, her second ‘pandemic novel,’ after Salvation City (2010), which is set during a fictional flu outbreak; previously Nunez has commented how, when the 2020 lockdowns came into effect, she had a sense of eerie premonition: “When all of this started, I thought, ‘Wait, didn’t I write a book about it?”

Towards the end of this month, Kiley Reid will publish Come and Get It, a follow-up to her Booker-longlisted debut Such a Fun Age. Set at the University of Arkansas, it follows mixed-race student Millie as she helps an older female professor to spy on her dorm neighbours. Come and Get It has had more mixed reviews than the earlier book, but nevertheless it’s reported to be a twisty page turner packed with whip-cracking repartee.

What about novels that will be released in February 2024?

Readers in the US will finally be able to get their hands on Ordinary Human Failings, the sophomore novel by the Irish writer Megan Nolan. It’s a change of direction after her transfixing debut Acts of Desperationin which a troubled young woman sinks herself into a one-sided relationship—but not an unwelcome one. Ordinary Human Failings is a family drama set on a London housing estate in the 1990s, as the child of a Irish immigrant family falls under suspicion following the disappearance of a local toddler. An ambitious but jaded reporter offers to put the family up in a cheap hotel—for ‘protection’—but this apparent munificence comes with strings attached. Nolan has been one of my favourite writers for years; she dissects the inner experience with a scalpel blade and precisely labels what she finds. Ordinary Human Failings feels like a significant development in her personal style, shifting from the hushed confessional to something grander, something more universal.

“Nolan dissects the inner experience with a scalpel blade and precisely labels what she finds”

Past Five Books interviewee Francis Spufford (Red Plenty, Golden Hill) will also arrive Stateside with a new, propulsive novel that spans genre and literary fiction. Cahokia Jazz is billed as a “noirish detective novel” set in an alternate 1920s America, where the Jazz Age is swinging in the grand old Mississippian city of Cahokia. In our own reality, Cahokia was an ancient indigenous settlement abandoned in the 14th century; in Cahokia Jazz, thanks to a quirk of epidemiological history, the city not only survived but thrived and now acts as the setting of a complex murder mystery set in train by the discovery of a “spectacularly butchered” body on the roof of a skyscraper. It’s been out since October this side of the Atlantic, garnering rave reviews; it will be interesting to see what Americans think of their reminagined nation.

And I was also excited to see that Aboriginal Australian writer Alexis Wright—author of the Outback epic Carpentaria and the bleakly fantastical The Swan Book—has a new book, Praiseworthyout now in Australia and the UK, and shortly to be released in the US. Every book by Wright is a literary event, in my opinion. Praiseworthy is an environmental allegory set in a small Aboriginal town in the north of Australia, and—in true Wright style—bends time and space as it interweaves oral history, ancestral myth, and dystopian vision. The Sydney Morning Herald declared it “an abundant odyssey that contains a formidable vision of Australia’s future.”

Sounds great. What about notable novels that will be released later in the spring of 2024?

In March Jennifer Croft, the International Booker Prize-winning translator of Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, will publish a novel—possibly her first, depending on how you define her earlier book Homesick. In The Extinction of Irena Reyeight translators arrive at a house deep in the primeval forest ready to translate a book by a revered Polish author. Shortly after they arrive, the writer the have come to pay tribute to disappears. I hear it’s a strange and very funny book that offers fascinating insight into the world of the literary translator.

Speaking of International Booker Prize-winners, I was delighted to learn that there will be a new Lucas Rijneveld book: My Heavenly Favourite. Rijneveld won it in 2020 with the same translator, Michele Hutchison, for The Discomfort of Evening, a staggering and sometimes shocking story set in a small, religious Dutch farming community. My Heavenly Favourite has a similar setting, drawing from Rijneveld’s own rural upbringing, and is narrated by a large animal vet in the wake of his criminal obsession with a farmer’s young daughter: a cowshit-splashed LolitaThe Financial Times called it a “tender but terrifying, tumbling monologue…an uneasy voyage inside the mind and—however distasteful it is for us to go there—the heart of a paedophile.” Rijneveld’s writing is not for the faint-hearted, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

A ‘lost’ novel by the Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel García Márquez will be published in English in March, ten years after his death, and reportedly against the wishes of the author himself. Márquez suffered with dementia in his final years, and may have feared the critical response to Until Augustbut his sons have explained that they feel this final book to be “the result of our father’s last effort to continue creating against all odds” and deemed it too precious to remain hidden in an archive.

Any other novels coming out in spring 2024 that you’d like to mention? Personal favourites?

I have probably read Adelle Waldman’s sharp and perceptive Brooklyn comedy of manners The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. half a dozen times already, so I can’t wait for her long-awaited follow-up, Help Wanted, which will be out mid-March in the US and at the end of the month in the UK. It’s been billed as “a humane and darkly comic workplace caper” following the lives of those working an early morning shift at a big-box store in upstate New York. That description made me think of Joshua Ferris’s ad agency novel Then We Came to The Endwritten in the first person plural! very clever and funny—so I was delighted to see him among those endorsing the book, calling Help Wanted: “both a brilliant diagnosis and a moving account of retail workers hidden in plain sight all around us, whose full humanity has never been so richly displayed or touchingly rendered.”

Miranda July will publish her second novel, All Fours, in which a forty-something artist upends her life, departs on a cross-country road-trip, and ultimately holes up in a roadside motel twenty miles from home. It’s about female desire and midlife malaise, and is the product of a highly original mind. “That phrase midlife crisis is such a punch line,” July explained to Vogue. “ You never really say it with any empathy or faith in that person’s process, you know? But when I look around at people my age, whoever isn’t having some kind of crisis at this point in their life, I wonder if they’re asleep at the wheel.”

Plus Percival Everett (author of The Trees, a hilarious and horrifying buddy-cop novel shortlisted for the Booker in 2022) will return with Jamesa reworking of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn narrated by Jim, the escaped slave with whom Finn travels on a raft. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly noted that in this version, Jim is “a Black man who’s mastered the art of minstrelsy to get what he needs from gullible white people.” Jim’s “wrenching odyssey concludes with remarkable revelations, violent showdowns, and insightful meditations on literature and philosophy,” it adds: “Everett has outdone himself.” I’ve got my pre-order in already.

Any new books from the stars of genre fiction?

Of course. Science fiction fans will be pleased to hear there’s a brand new novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky, House of Open WoundsAnd the queen of contemporary rom-com Emily Henry is back with Funny Story, rumoured to be much racier than her previous outings—or ‘spicy,’ as they say in the romance biz.

The ultra-bestselling (and somewhat intriguing) suspense novelist A.J. Finn is to publish End of Story at the end of next month, which should appeal to fans of Knives Out. And the crime mastermind Tana French offers up The Hunter, a thriller set in rural Ireland.

 

What are you looking forward to this season? Let us know your selection of the most notable fiction of spring 2024 via social media.

January 20, 2024

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Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn is a writer, journalist and the deputy editor of Five Books. She writes for The Guardian and Granta, among others. 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 Wainwright Prize for writing on global conservation. She was named the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 2022.

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. Follow her on Twitter: @calflyn.

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn

Cal Flyn is a writer, journalist and the deputy editor of Five Books. She writes for The Guardian and Granta, among others. 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 Wainwright Prize for writing on global conservation. She was named the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year in 2022.

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. Follow her on Twitter: @calflyn.