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Fall preview 2012: international fiction

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.

FICTION

The author of Solar returns with Sweet Tooth (Knopf Canada, $29.95 cl., Aug.). Ian McEwan’s latest novel follows Serena Frome, an avid reader and MI5 agent who goes undercover on a mission that brings her into contact with an aspiring young writer. First Frome falls in love with his stories, then she falls for the author himself. • Howard Jacobson’s last book, The Finkler Question, won the 2010 Man Booker Prize. His follow-up, Zoo Time (Penguin, $27.50 cl., Oct.), is an angry, melancholic, and sometimes rude novel about the love of women, literature, and laughter.

Set on the border between Oakland and Berkley, Telegraph Avenue (HarperCollins, $31.99 cl., Sept.), by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, tackles themes of race and gentrification in the story of two friends who fear for the survival of their used record shop when an ex-NFL quarterback announces plans to construct a megastore nearby. • Junot Díaz, who won a Pulitzer for his 2007 novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, returns to the form that helped establish his reputation: short fiction. This Is How You Lose Her (Penguin, $28.50 cl., Sept.) includes humorous, wild, and devastating stories about love and heartbreak.

Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior (HarperCollins, $31.99 cl., Nov.) opens with a woman contemplating an affair with a younger man, until she experiences what she believes to be a miracle. The event triggers an awakening in the heroine, who goes on to confront her family, her church, and her small Tennessee town. • Deception is a key theme in A.L. Kennedy’s The Blue Book (House of Anansi Press, $22.95 pa., Sept.), which tells the story of a woman who embarks on a transatlantic crossing with her boyfriend. When she discovers that her former lover and partner-in-crime is also on board, her past is exposed as a series of illusions, codes, and false trails.

In Maeve Binchy’s latest novel, A Week in Winter (Orion/Hachette, $28.99 cl., Oct), a group of tourists spends a winter vacation at a rural Irish hotel. • Author of The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours, Kate Morton returns with The Secret Keeper (Atria/S&S, $29.99 cl., Oct.). The novel, which spans nearly a century, tells the tale of a respected London actress returning home for her mother’s 90th birthday, only to be overwhelmed by memories of a crime she witnessed as a teen.

Fans of Kurt Vonnegut will have to wait until October to pick up We Are All What We Pretend to Be: The First and Last Works (Vanguard/Publishers Group Canada, $23 cl.), which includes the late author’s (previously unpublished) first novella, Basic Training, and excerpts from his unfinished final novel, If God Were Alive Today, as well as reminiscences and commentary from his children. • Ewa Lipska addresses the Holocaust for a postwar generation in Sefer (Athabasca University Press, $14.95 pa., Oct.), translated from the Polish by Barbara Bogoczek and Tony Howard. This postmodern novel follows a Viennese psychotherapist during a two-week trip to his father’s birthplace in Kraków.

From National Lampoon contributor and Cracked.com editor David Wong (a.k.a. Jason Pargin) comes This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It (St. Martin’s Press/Raincoast, $29.99 cl., Oct.), a thrilling and ridiculous novel about two freeloaders who race against time to protect humanity from an impending apocalypse. The book is a sequel to John Dies at the End, soon to be a movie starring Paul Giamatti. • Andrew Shaffer, writing as Fanny Merkin, claims to have written Fifty Shames of Earl Grey (Da Capo Press/PGC, $16.50 pa., Aug.) in only 10 days. The Fifty Shades of Grey parody tells the story of an affair between a naive college student and a handsome, rich tycoon named Earl Grey.

In Rachel Joyce’s debut novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Bond Street Books, $29.95 cl., July), a man is jolted out of his complacent life (and his bitter marriage) by a letter from a dying friend, and becomes convinced he must walk 600 miles to reply to her in person. • Love and war are at the centre of Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of the Evening Mists (Weinstein Books/PGC, $18.50 pa., Aug.), about the lone survivor of a Japanese POW camp who returns to her childhood home in northern Malaya. There she meets the exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan, who takes her on as an apprentice.

HISTORICAL FICTION

In her first “sister story” since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory tells the tale of the Earl of Warwick, a powerful 15th-century magnate without a male heir who uses his daughters as pawns for his political schemes – until they grow up to become influential players in their own right. The Kingmaker’s Daughters (S&S, $29.99 cl.) ships in August. • The second book in the Sky’s Dark Labyrinth trilogy by Stuart Clark once again delves into a world in which science and religion go head to head. In The Sensorium of God (McArthur & Company, $24.95 pa., Aug.), astronomer Edmond Halley visits Isaac Newton to help find mathematical proof of Kepler’s Law of Planetary Motion – a meeting that catapults their lives into crisis and pushes Europe headlong into the Enlightenment.

Mark Helprin’s latest novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Thomas Allen & Son, $32.95 cl., Oct.), asks the question: can love and honour trump everything else? Beginning with a chance encounter on New York City’s Staten Island ferry in 1947, the book is a drama about the illicit romance between an ex-paratrooper and a young singer and heiress engaged to a powerful man.

CRIME, MYSTERY & THRILLER

J.R. Moehringer (co-author of Andre Agassi’s memoir Open) reimagines the life of a notorious bank robber in Sutton (Harper­Collins, $27.99 cl., Sept.). The novel begins with Willie Sutton’s prison pardon on Christmas Eve, 1969, and goes on to explore the doomed romance at the centre of his life of crime.

Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone, returns to the streets of Boston in his latest. Set during the gritty Prohibition era, Live by Night (HarperCollins, $35.99 cl., Oct.) tells the story of an outlaw whose father is a police captain.

The highly anticipated sequel to Justin Cronin’s The Passage arrives in October. The Twelve (Doubleday Canada, $32.95 cl.) describes the apocalyptic aftermath of a botched U.S. government experiment and follows one group’s efforts, a hundred years later, to pinpoint the weaknesses of the 12 original vampires.

At least two other notable sequels are forthcoming this fall. In the new Penn Cage mystery, the hero’s father stands accused of murder in the Deep South. Greg IlesThe Bone Tree (S&S, $32 cl.) ships in December. • The latest instalment of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, A Wanted Man (Delacorte/Random House, $29.95 cl., Sept.), picks up just six minutes after the last book, Worth Dying For, left off.

The first book in Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series makes its English-language debut in October. In The Bat (Random House Canada, $24.95 pa.), the hero is sent to Australia to capture a serial rapist and murderer.

Q&Q’s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. • All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. • Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.

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Steve Artelle

Chris Jennings

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Hall of Honourers

Brandon Wint

Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Eva Stachniak poses with a copy of her book, Empress of the Night

Tea and snacks inspired by Eva Stachniak's Empress of the Night

Rimma Burashko with author Eva Stachniak

Eva Stachniak talks to the audience about the best and worst of Catherine the Great's favourites

Eva Stachniak smiles as she signs a copy of Empress of the Night for a fan

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