What are the notable new novels of Fall 2022?
There’s a lot to look forward to this season, as there is at this time every year; Fall tends to be the time when books from ‘big hitter’ authors hit the shelves, timed to allow for critical and popular acclaim to build up ahead of the Christmas book-buying rush. In other words, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up with a blanket and a good book as the autumnal evenings draw in.
Who are these literary big hitters? Anyone I’d have heard of?
The literary event of the season must surely be the publication of Cormac McCarthy‘s first new books since the devastating, Pulitzer Prize-winning, post-apocalyptic The Road in 2006. McCarthy returns now with not one, but two linked novels, which together tell the story of Bobby and Alicia Western, a brother and sister pair tormented by family history—their physicist father helped invent the atom bomb.
In The Passenger, salvage diver Bobby stumbles upon a murder mystery while exploring a submerged plane wreck. In Stella Maris—a novel that unfolds entirely through a transcript of dialogue—maths prodigy Alicia is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Jenny Jackson, McCarthy’s editor, described it to The New York Times as “a book of ideas”. (“What do you do after you’ve written ‘The Road’?” Jackson added. “The answer is, two books that take on God and existence.”)
The novels will be released in close succession in the United States: The Passenger on Oct 25, 2022 and Stella Maris on Nov 20, 2022. A box set will follow the following month. (The books will be released simultaneously in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.)
You may also be pleased to hear that Maggie O’Farrell—whose Women’s Prize-winning novel about the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet—found enormous critical and commercial success, has just released a new, much-buzzed-about novel. The Marriage Portrait considers the marriage of Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, and the ill-fated Lucrezia, 15-year-old daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, ruler of Florence.
The Marriage Portrait offers a glimpse of the luxury and lechery of Renaissance Italy, where Lucrezia moves between gilded cages, adorned in glittering jewels—and all the while sensing her wifely value being weighed and measured. In terms of style, this new novel has been somewhat divisive; its lush, symphonic prose has been dubbed by some as “overwrought”, while others prefer “evocative”. I liked what Claire Allfree had to say about it in The Times: “So headily perfumed is her prose it works on the reader almost like a drug.” Sound good? Then I suspect this historical romance (of a kind) will work for you.
Earlier this month, Ian McEwan released his eighteenth novel, Lessons, a sweeping (even sprawling) account of a single man’s life as it intertwines with the major political events of the 20th and early 21st centuries. It opens in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, as Roland Baines’ wife leaves him and his infant son to fend for themselves. Flashing back and forth through time, we take in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Baines’ personal history—notably a damaging sexual relationship with a piano teacher in early adolescence and its emotional repercussions throughout the rest of his life. Over a period of decades, Baines grows, matures, and ultimately takes stock of the world and his role in it. An ambitious social novel.
Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible, Flight Behaviour) also returns with Demon Copperhead, which reimagines Charles Dickens‘s David Copperfield as set in the Appalachian Mountains, transposing that Victorian melodrama into a world of trailer parks, opioid crisis and a creaking foster care system. A true saga with a cast of thousands. Compulsively readable.
And—okay, fine, technically not a novel, but—I should also note that George Saunders (who won the Booker Prize in 2017 for his brilliantly funny and surreal first novel Lincoln in the Bardo) has a new book out in mid-October. In Liberation Day, Saunders returns to his first love—the short story—and transports us into a hell-themed amusement park and a near-future police state. (If you can’t wait, make sure you’ve read his storytelling masterclass A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, adapted from a course on Russian short stories that he has taught at Syracuse University for twenty years.)
What other novels published in Fall 2022 should be on our radar?
Personally, I’m particularly excited about Our Share of Night by the Argentinian author Mariana Enriquez, who was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2021 for her utterly unsettling collection of literary ghost stories The Dangers of Smoking in Bed. This new novel, also translated into English by Megan McDowell, is a gothic horror set partly during Argentina’s brutal military dictatorship, but which also embraces elements of occultism and the supernatural. Clocking in at more than 700 pages, this is an intimidating tome that simply pulsates with negative energy. That’s a recommendation, in case I’m not being clear.
Celeste Ng (the author of Little Fires Everywhere) will publish a new novel, Our Missing Hearts (Oct 4). As will Kamila Shamsie (Home Fires), whose latest book Best of Friends will be out at the end of this month. Fresh from her Booker Prize shortlisting (for Oh William!), Elizabeth Strout is shortly to publish one more novel starring her beloved Lucy Barton. In Lucy By the Sea, our heroine reluctantly agrees to wait out the pandemic with her ex-husband in coastal Maine. And Andrew Sean Greer offers a follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning comic novel Less: in Less is Lost, our hapless hero Arthur Less sets out on a road trip across the United States. It’s been endorsed by the great and the good, including David Sedaris—who called it “wildly, painfully funny.” A balm.
Namwali Serpell won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction in 2020 for her rowdy, polyphonous speculative novel The Old Drift. She returns now with The Furrows, an elegiac and uncanny story of grief, unreliable memories and mistaken identity. When Cee Williams watches her brother Wayne die in her arms, aged 12, something so powerful passes between them that she passes out; when she awakes, his body is gone. This lost brother haunts her for the rest of her life, appearing in the faces of strangers, and dying over and over again in her mind. The Financial Times said that it “confirms Serpell’s place as one of the most innovative and intelligent writers today.”
I’m also intrigued by a novella by another Clarke Award-winner, Tade Thompson, who is stepping away from science fiction with Jackdaw, a darkly comic story about a psychiatrist who becomes obsessed with the British painter Francis Bacon. Written in feverish, free associative prose, it’s attracted praise from writers including Will Maclean and Paul Tremblay.
What about more commercial fiction?
Master of horror Stephen King returns with Fairy Tale, in which a high school student inherits great riches—and the key to a parallel universe—overnight. Richard Osman continues his ultra-popular Thursday Murder Club mystery series with The Bullet That Missed, wherein the retiree sleuths tackle a decade-old cold case that, inevitably, soon glows red hot.
In November, the four-time Hugo Award-winning fantasy author N.K. Jemisin will publish The World We Make, concluding her Great Cities duology; Esquire called it “hopeful and enthralling.” And I mentioned this last time, but R.F. Kuang’s dark historical fantasy Babel is finally out, and has already raced to the number one spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
Fans of Candice Carty-Williams (author of the internationally bestselling Queenie) will no doubt be racing to the bookshop to pick up a copy of her latest book, People Person, in which a lifestyle influencer, whose glossy exterior hides a deep loneliness, reconnects with estranged family members. And previous Five Books interviewee Bryony Gordon will publish Let Down Your Hair, a YA adaptation of Rapunzel for the social media age.
It’s a busy season, as I say, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of it with these highlights. I hope you’ve spotted something to suit your tastes. As ever, we are keen to hear what novels you most looking forward to in Fall 2022—so let us know. Send us a tweet, or post on our Facebook page.
Part of our best books of 2022 series.
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