by Juhi Singhal Karan
Balmy air and blue skies beckon. Surely the best accoutrement as you head out would be a bag full of books? Here, for your consideration, are five shiny new stories that have just been released or will be released this summer.
The Stories of Jane Gardam by Jane Gardam
For quick, invigorating dips that will make “the heart race” immerse yourself in The Stories of Jane Gardam, released on the 3rd of this month. Short stories, in Jane Gardam’s own words, “have the power to burn up the chaff, to harden the steel without comment or embellishment.” It is thus fitting that the collection has “a dangerous and formidable energy, richer and more concentrated than any novel,” as Christobel Kent puts it in The Guardian. And the Spectator‘s Cressida Connolly notes that the stories in the collection “shine a light . . . straight into the human heart,” which is not surprising considering that “Gardam is fascinated by the ways its people construct personal walls—which are also prone to crumbling at inopportune moments,” as Lisa Peet wrote here at Bloom.
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
It’s the 1940s. Two half sisters are on a cross-country road trip covering small-town Ohio, Hollywood, and Long Island. London, England features too. One of the sisters is an aspiring moving star while the other masquerades as a sidekick. Welcome to Amy Bloom’s new book, Lucky Us, out on July 29th. Bloom, a National Book Award finalist, wrote, sold and bought back the first book she ever wrote—a mystery—before it could be published. She didn’t think it was good enough. In her words, “[t]he point of every sentence, every detail, factual or imagined, and every line of dialogue is to illuminate character and advance the story.” “[A] hard-luck coming-of-age story with heart,” Lucky Us is, according to Colum McCann, “a tough story that manages to also have jazz and grace.”
The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson
Perhaps you’re in the mood for a rollicking piece of whodunit? How about a murder mystery set in an infamous prison in 1720s London that is, as The Guardian asserts, “astonishingly atmospheric, with time past evoked so strongly that one can almost smell it?” Antonia Hodgson’s debut novel, The Devil in the Marshalsea, features a 25 year-old protagonist whose comfortable world is upended when he falls into the Marshalsea. Hodgson, who is also the editor-in-chief at Little, Brown U.K., made sure that people were blind to the author’s professional qualifications when she submitted her manuscript. Publishers Weekly lauded Hodgson for “conjur[ing] up scenes of Dickensian squalor and marry[ing] them to a crackerjack plot.”
The Bees by Laline Paull
Margaret Atwood called The Bees “[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives.” Flora 717 is the ugly, resourceful heroine of the dystopian fantasy that was released on May 6th. She is also a honey-bee. Laline Paull tried her hand at screenwriting and playwrighting before debuting with The Bees at the age of 59. In her words, “Anyone who wants to write should take heart from the fact that it’s taken me a lifetime to get to the point where I felt that my skills, my life experience and my nerves could focus into going for it. . . . There are a lot of people who have great stories to tell. I think it’s as much about sitting down as it is about setting your alarm and getting up early and not being scared. At least you’ve done it then, and you can tick it off. Whether you get published or not, you’ve done it.”
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Are you looking for something meaty that will double as weight training? Consider settling down with Matthew Thomas’s We Are Not Ourselves, out August 19th. A sprawling 700-page saga, the story, in the words of its editor, is “an indelible portrait of the great unwinding of the American middle class.” Joshua Ferris calls We Are Not Ourselves a “masterwork” and Publisher’s Weekly touts it as “an unforgettable narrative.” It took Thomas ten years to write the novel. In his own words, “I faced a lot of self-doubt and threw out hundreds of pages.” Of his ten-year journey he said, “It was a long road, and there were far more years when it wasn’t working than when it was—when it was shaggy, messy, hopeless—but in the last four years or so things seemed to click and the writing came more easily. The book beat me up until I was sufficiently beaten, and then it sat me down and taught me how to write it.”