By Émer O’Toole
The best books coming out this summer include novels from debut writers Chris McQueer and Rachel Khong, as well as more established authors like John Boyne.
Hings, Chris McQueer
New Scottish publisher 404 Ink’s first book, Nasty Women, an essay collection “written by and about 21st century women” was a success when it was published in March this year, attracting attention from Margaret Atwood and Louise O’Neill.
Glasgow author Chris McQueer’s debut short story collection, Hings, sees the publishers go in a different direction. McQueer’s first readers came from Twitter, where he has over five thousand followers. From the streets of working class Scotland, Hings puts surreal twists on everyday occurrences. The collection will be launched in Glasgow (July 27) and Edinburgh (July 28).
Publication date: July 27
No Dominion, Louise Welsh
Louise Welsh is a difficult author to label, but that hasn’t stopped booksellers and reviewers from trying. The most common tag is the ‘crime writer’ because her novels often include inexplicable deaths and other conventions of crime fiction. There’s also the ‘female writer’; the ‘Scottish author’, and increasingly, the ‘gay writer’ because The Cutting Room (2002), Tamburlaine Must Die (2004) and The Girl on the Stairs (2012) all contain LGBT characters.
Welsh’s debut novel, The Cutting Room gave her a cult following and led to her being named one of the Guardian’s best new novelists of 2002. Glasgow is so prominent in Welsh’s novels that it almost becomes a character in its own right, and her new novel, No Dominion, the much anticipated conclusion to Welsh’s plague times trilogy is no different. The book will be launched in Edinburgh’s Blackwell Bookshop on 13 July.
Publication date: July 11
The Seventh Function of Language, Laurent Binet
French writer Laurent Binet’s first novel, HHhH, explores Operation Anthropoid, the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in Prague during World War II.
Binet’s second book, The Seventh Function of Language (translated by Sam Taylor) is also a search for historical truth. It starts with a highbrow premise: what if literary theorist Roland Barthes’ death was a murder instead of an accident? It is based on a true story: on 25 February 1980, Barthes left his essay on Stendhal to attend one of the future president François Mitterrand’s regular cultural lunches. He was knocked down by a laundry van while crossing the Rue des Écoles on his way home and was dead a month later.
Binet turns this on its head and asks: what if the collision was no accident? What if the two events were somehow connected? The plot involves Umberto Eco, Jacques Derrida and the hunt for a lost manuscript. The novel blurs the line between fiction and reality and is relevant in an era of Le Pen, Trump and fake news.
Publication date: August 1
Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong
The past 10 years has seen an array of books about dementia hit the shelves: Stefan Merrill Block’s The Story of Forgetting, Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing, Lisa Genova’s Still Alice and Samantha Harvey’s The Wilderness. Rachel Khong’s nuanced first book, Goodbye, Vitamin has its own autobiographical element in her late grandmother’s illness.
The novel, written in diary form, follows Ruth who decides to move back home for a year when her mother asks her to “keep an eye on things. By things she means Dad, whose mind is not what it used to be.” Her father is a university history professor who is forced to take an early retirement after he develops Alzheimer’s.
Publication date: available now
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
Most people will be familiar with John Boyne through his children’s novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which shows the Holocaust through the uncomprehending eyes of a child. Boyne’s tenth book for adults, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, spans three countries, two continents and seventy years of a man’s life. It is the story of a man who is adopted and childhood and spends the rest of his life trying to understand who he really is. Set in his native Ireland, Boyne’s story follows Charles Avery who is born out of wedlock in 1945 to a teenage mother banished from her home town by a priest.
Boyne’s novel explores the relationship between the Catholic church, homosexuality and feminism. It depicts Cyril’s life against a backdrop of historical and cultural events (the end of World War II, the forming of the Beatles, AIDS, 9/11), and explores the changes in Ireland’s gay rights, from it being a criminal offence to the referendum that saw same-sex marriage made legal in 2015.
Publication date: August 22