This month brings an eclectic mix of historical fiction, with three novels set during the Reagan Era (or the Thatcher Era, depending which side of the Atlantic you’re on); two centered on life-altering friendships amid the Great War and World War II, respectively; and one about the corruption of naïve newlyweds during their honeymoon in 1957. Golfers will delight in James Patterson and Pete de Longe’s latest McKinley Miracle, and Sally Rooney returns with a powerful follow-up to her remarkable debut, Conversations with Friends.
The Last, by Hanna Jameson
A murder mystery set against the backdrop of nuclear war plays out in a Swiss hotel in this original thriller. Historian Jon Keller is stuck far from home when he and the other attendees of an academic conference in Switzerland learn that humanity’s last gasps may have arrived. Two fraught months after global devastation hits, the survivors living at L’Hotel Sizieme near Zurich discover a girl’s dead body in the building’s water tank, and Jon feels compelled to solve the mystery or lose what’s left of his ties to the world that was.
Lost Roses, by Martha Hall Kelly
In Lilac Girls, readers met Caroline Ferriday, a real-life heroine of World War II. Roses reveals what Caroline’s mother was up to a generation earlier. The year is 1914, and socialite Eliza Ferriday is delighted to have the chance to visit St. Petersburg with her friend Sofya Streshnayva serving as tour guide. Did I mention Sofya is related to the Romanovs, and will soon be forced to flee to Paris? Back home in New York, Eliza does her best to assist other Russian families escaping the revolution, but when Sofya abruptly ceases contact, Eliza worries for her friend’s life in this compelling drama based on true events.
Miracle at St. Andrews, by James Patterson & Pete de Jonge
Following their previous golf fantasies Miracle on the 17th Green and Miracle at Augusta, Patterson and de Jonge bring their still-striving hero Travis McKinley to the “Home of Golf”: St. Andrews in Scotland. Scotland also happens to be McKinley’s ancestral home, and following a recent disappointment at the Senior Tour, McKinley and his family are in need of some TLC in the form of a pilgrimage. Anyone who’s ever hit a slump in their professional or personal lives will relate to this uplifting tale.
The Book of Dreams, by Nina George
When Henri Skinner is placed in a medically induced coma following a terrible accident, his estranged 13-year-old son, Sam, keeps vigil by his side in the hospital. Sam is an intellectually gifted synesthete who experiences reality differently than most people (for example, he might feel sounds as colors). Also at the hospital are Henri’s former lover, Edwina, who is shocked to learn she’s been named Henri’s next of kin, and another coma patient, a young ballerina named Madeline, who catches Sam’s attention. As Henri and Madeline hover between this world and the next, readers will enter their memories and learn about the decisions they wish they could revisit.
Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan
Set in an alternate history England in the Margaret Thatcher era, McEwan’s latest depicts a love triangle between a slacker narrator named Charlie, his upstairs neighbor and girlfriend Miranda, and Charlie’s new acquisition: Adam, an Alan Turing–created synthetic human. Charlie and Miranda design Adam’s characteristics beyond his factory pre-sets and the result is an Adam who is nearly indistinguishable from an actual person. The android quickly develops feelings for Miranda, writing her a staggering amount of haiku. This looks to be a thought-provoking tale about what it means to be human, set in a very different version of the 1980s.
Wunderland, by Jennifer Cody Epstein
Two teenage best friends, Ilse and Renate, grow up in Nazi Germany and find their once solid bond destroyed when one of them joins the Hitler Youth division for women and the other discovers her father’s ancestry puts her in the Gestapo’s crosshairs. Betrayals and secrets follow, and it’s not until Ilse’s daughter, Ava, raising her own family in New York’s East Village in the 1980s, digs into Ilse’s past decades that a full accounting of that fraught time can be made. Unflinchingly honest and perfect for book clubs, Wunderland doesn’t shy away from depicting a complex legacy and its deeply felt repercussions.
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
The Conversations with Friends author returns with another brilliant, award-winning novel centered on an intense push-pull relationship between two young people who love and harm each other in equal measure. In small-town Ireland, Connell is a popular soccer star in high school who unexpectedly (and secretly) grows close to isolated and socially awkward Marianne, whose wealthy family employs Connell’s mother as their housecleaner. As university students at Trinity College in Dublin, however, their power dynamic reverses; now it’s Marianne who effortlessly traverses the social scene and Connell who comes up short. Are they meant to be together, meant to push one another away, or meant to render each other perennially off-kilter as their standing in the world evolves?
Cape May, by Chip Cheek
In this intoxicating psychological drama, it’s 1957 and high school sweethearts Effie and Henry tie the knot and leave their Georgia hometown behind for a two-week honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey. Surprised to discover that the seaside town is nearly deserted, the newlyweds almost cut their trip short. Instead, on a whim, they approach the lone lit-up house in sight and join the party within. Stripped of their innocence by a trio of decadent, gin-soaked acquaintances from Effie’s past, Effie and Henry will never be the same after the dust clears.
Boy Swallows Universe, by Trent Dalton
Dalton bursts onto the literary scene with a debut that’s sure to garner awards in his native Australia and worldwide. Twelve-year-old Eli Bell is determined to become a journalist, but first he’ll have to survive adolescence. Growing up in 1985 in a less-than-savory suburb of Brisbane, he lives with his electively mute older brother, August, and their loving but troubled mother, a heroin dealer who winds up in prison after her boyfriend is murdered. Ex-convict Slim, a babysitter of sorts known to the neighborhood as a multiple escapee from jail, provides unexpected stability and wisdom, but it’ll take everything Eli’s got to avenge his mother and expose the machinations of Tytus Broz, a notorious drug kingpin. This looks to be a coming-of-age book with a lot of bite and even more heart.