Anticipate these exciting works of fiction in the year 2024.
There’s a sensational selection of novels to look forward to in 2024, enough to set even the most discerning reader’s heart aflutter. Does it feel like a more ambitious and warm-hearted fictional year than usual? Perhaps. Certainly there are a number of novels here that will be read for decades to come. As usual, I will leave first novels to the Observer’s debut fiction feature next month.
In January, we start off with Hisham Matar’s My Friends (Viking), a poignant tale of friendship and heartache. Khaled and Mustafa are injured by government agents during a demonstration at the Libyan embassy in London. They struggle to balance their comfortable lives in the UK with the horrors of a civil war in their home country. Sigrid Nunez’s The Vulnerables (Virago) is a standout novel set during the lockdown (Nunez has previous experience with pandemics – her novel Salvation City tackled a flu epidemic). Set in the spring of 2020, The Vulnerables follows an unlikely pair brought together by the constraints of Covid: an older writer and a young college dropout, bonded by their shared responsibility for a grumpy parrot named Eureka.
In April, Percival Everett releases another new novel, marking his 28th work of fiction in a 40-year career. Titled James (Mantle), it is a retelling of Huckleberry Finn from the perspective of Jim as he escapes slavery with young Huck. The book is lively and thought-provoking, staying true to the adventurous nature of the original story while also incorporating modern themes. Another notable novel with a journey at its core is You Are Here (Sceptre) by David Nicholls. The story follows Marnie and Michael, two individuals stuck in a midlife rut, as they embark on a 10-day hike through the Lakes and Dales. Nicholls excels at capturing the intricacies of love, and while this novel may be more mature and focused on practicalities compared to his previous works such as One Day and Sweet Sorrow, it still delivers an emotional impact. Additionally, April brings us a new release from the esteemed author Andrew O’Hagan. Caledonian Road (Faber) tells the story of Campbell Flynn, a Scottish man teaching art history in London. When he meets a charming student named Milo Mangasha, he is immediately struck by the potential for things to take a wild turn. This captivating book takes readers on a journey through the affluent, criminal, fashionable, and artistic side of London.
I was overjoyed when I received Sarah Perry’s newest book, Enlightenment, at my doorstep in May. It is a magnificent piece of literature, showcasing her talent for intertwining a love story with complex concepts and knowledge. Enlightenment effortlessly spans through time and space, from the heartwarming bond between Grace and Thomas, who both attend an Essex Baptist church, to the life of 19th-century astronomer Maria Veduva, whose spirit lingers in a local stately home. This novel is truly exceptional and will stay with you long after you finish it. Also in May, we have the remarkable Claire Messud’s This Strange Eventful History from Fleet. It follows the Cassar family’s journey from World War II Paris to countries like the US, Cuba, and Australia over the course of several decades. This moving and wise story is written in the most stunning prose. Lastly, we have All Fours by screenwriter and director Miranda July, published by Canongate. Hollywood novels are usually either cringeworthy or dull, but July proves herself as a skilled novelist with this book that explores art, fame, and reinvention.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse. In her upcoming book, Scaffolding (Chatto & Windus), set to be released in June, she shares the story of two couples who reside in the same location in north-east Paris during 1972 and 2019. The novel has a captivating atmosphere and descriptive language, with elegant and poised prose. After a five-year hiatus, Kevin Barry returns with his latest novel, The Heart in Winter (Canongate), also scheduled for a June release. This time, he takes readers to Montana in the 1890s for an Irish western filled with humor and tragedy. The book is populated with eccentric characters and stunning writing.
In August, the final book in Eva Baltasar’s unnamed trilogy, written in Catalan, will be released (the previous book, Boulder, was nominated for the 2023 International Booker Prize). Titled Mammoth and translated by Julia Sanches, the novel follows an unnamed young lesbian woman who desires to become a mother. Her journey takes her from Barcelona to the Catalan countryside, told through fragmented sentences and unconventional figurative language. Benjamin Myers, known for his extensive writing, maintains his high-quality with his latest book Rare Singles (Bloomsbury). Returning to his past as a music journalist, Myers tells a heartwarming story of northern soul and an unlikely friendship in Scarborough. The visit of the forgotten Bucky Bronco to the Yorkshire coast is portrayed with Myers’ signature humor and generosity. Next on the list is Evie Wyld’s The Echoes (Jonathan Cape), which promises to be thrilling. Wyld has always been in a league of her own, but this novel is even stranger, darker, and more brilliant than her previous works. The story follows Max, who is deceased (as seen in the opening chapter narrated by his ghost), and his girlfriend Hannah, as well as their circle of friends and family in both south London and Australia. All their stories converge towards a hallucinatory ending. This is a novel that will leave a lasting impression – both personal and exceptionally ambitious.
In September, my top choice for this year’s Booker prize is Creation Lake (Jonathan Cape) by Rachel Kushner. It’s a captivating work of science fiction with an intricate plot. The novel follows Sadie Smith, a covert operative, as she is tasked with infiltrating and disrupting a group of “anti-civvers” – environmental extremists – in a near-future France ruled by industrial agriculture and corrupt corporations. Imagine if Kill Bill was written by John le Carré: clever, humorous, and impossible to put down.