May! It’s time to line up your summer reading plans. And if the quality and quantity of May releases is any indication — reading-wise, it’s gonna be a great summer.
I’ve come across so many titles that made me say “ooooooh” that are due to be released this month, that I’ve bumped my ones to watch list to include ten titles. Here’s part one: don’t get your entire reading calendar booked up before you get to part two!
The Paradise Engine (M) by Rebecca Campbell (May 1). Start the month off right with a debut Canadian novel that has been turning heads. It probably falls in the Fantasy genre, but in the same way that books by Haruki Murakami might fall into that category — there are clear fantastical elements but it might not feel strictly like a genre piece.
“While working to restore an historic theatre in a seedy part of the city, a graduate student named Anthea searches to find her best friend, lost to the rhetoric of an itinerant preacher and street mystic. Almost a century earlier, Liam, a tenth-rate tenor, visits the same theatre while eking out a career on the dying Vaudeville circuits of the day. In both eras, an apocalyptic strain of utopian mysticism threatens their existence: Anthea contends with a nascent New Age movement in the heart of the city while Liam encounters a radical theosophical commune in the deep country along the coast of British Columbia, who appear to be building … something.” Stylistic comparisons have been made to Murakami as noted above but also Canadian great Robertson Davies.
Ballistics (M) by D.W. Wilson (May 7). This isn’t the first time you’ll have encountered up-and-coming Canadian author D.W. Wilson on the reader blog. Back in autumn 2011, we included his first book (the short story collection Once You Break a Knuckle in a post on titles to keep an eye out for. The BC native has gotten a fair bit of press in Canada, but it’s in the UK — where he has been living while working on a PhD — where he has really taken off. As an article in the Globe and Mail in 2011 noted, Wilson had won not only a major British short story prize but also funding through the Man Booker Prize to attend creative writing programs at the University of East Anglia. With the success of his story collection, Wilson returns with a novel:
“Ballistics is a family drama with two narratives, both set in Western Canada, thirty years apart. In 2003, while the firestorm rages through Kelowna, Alan West is asked to rescue his estranged father, Jack, who abandoned him as a baby. Alan’s grandfather has suffered a heart attack and wants to see his son once more before he dies. So Alan sets off with Puck, a three-legged English mastiff, and a boxful of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other items that once belonged to his father. His quest takes him deeper and deeper into the fires, and he encounters people from his past he never knew: his mother, his father, and a dangerous American who knows far more than he ever lets on.“
Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World (M) by Janet E. Cameron. (May 7). I love a good high school set novel and this one from a Nova Scotia born author living in Ireland, seems right up my alley. The frequently used byline for this one is “”House Parties. Pick-Up Trucks. Cherry-Vanilla Ice-Cream. Prom Night. Unrequited Love.” I’m hooked already. Want a bit more? “Welcome to the spring of 1987 and the world of Stephen Shulevitz who, with three months of high school to go in the small town of Riverside, Nova Scotia, has just realised he’s fallen in love – with exactly the wrong person. Welcome to the end of the world.“
The Other Typist (M) by Suzanne Rindell (May 7). A fiction debut that could be this summer’s big hit and feels very of the moment despite its historical setting. I feel like this one is part Great Gatsby, part last year’s summer hit Gone Girl and — despite a 4 decade setting difference — part Mad Men in its depiction of women working in a man’s world.
“Rose Baker seals men’s fates. With a few strokes of the keys that sit before her, she can send a person away for life in prison. A typist in a New York City Police Department precinct, Rose is like a high priestess. Confessions are her job. It is 1923, and while she may hear every detail about shootings, knifings, and murders, as soon as she leaves the interrogation room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for filing and making coffee. This is a new era for women, and New York is a confusing place for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. All around her women bob their hair, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. Yet prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood. When glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high-stakes world. And soon her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.”
Americanah (M) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (May 14). I’m always going to be excited by a new book from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I count her Orange Prize winning book Half of a Yellow Sun amongst my favourite novels, and images and characters from her 2009 follow-up short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck are still as vivid in my mind today as they were when I read them a few years ago. Put this one on your book club reading list now. The story of Ifemelu and Obinze, teenage sweethearts who are separated when Ifemelu moves to America and Obinze is unable to follow.
“Years later, when they reunite in Nigeria, neither is the same person who left home. Obinze is the kind of successful “Big Man” he’d scorned in his youth, and Ifemelu has become an “Americanah”—a different version of her former self, one with a new accent and attitude. As they revisit their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they must face the largest challenges of their lives. Spanning three continents, entering the lives of a richly drawn cast of characters across numerous divides, Americanah is a riveting story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.“