Purity by Jonathan Franzen: Known for his skill at modern day drama and his contempt for Internet things, Franzen, with his most recent novel, widens his scope from the tree-lined homes of the Midwest and the Mainline to differently grim and paradisiacal homes in Oakland, East Germany, and Bolivia; changes his tableaux from the rural nuclear family to broken, lonely twosomes; and advances from cat murderer to human homicide. The outcome is something odd and unexpected — a political novel that is by one means or another less political than his family novels at their coziest, and shot through with new strains of bitterness. Expect think pieces.
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: Groff’s widely anticipated third novel takes after wedded couple Lotto and Matthilde for more than two decades, beginning with an opening scene (published on The Millions), of the young, just married twosome getting playful on the beach. The book was one of the galleys-to-get at BookExpo America this spring, and it’s as of now got excellent reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus. Meg Wolitzer writes of Groff: “Because she’s so vitally talented line for line and passage for passage, and because her ideas about the ways in which two people can live together and live inside each other, or fall away from each other, or betray each other, feel foundationally sound and true, Fates and Furies becomes a book to submit to, and be knocked out by, as I certainly was.”
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: A long awaited tale around “a near-future in which the lawful are locked up and the lawless roam free,” this is Atwood’s first standalone novel since The Blind Assassin, which won the Man Booker in 2000 (The Penelopiad was a piece of the Canongate Myth Series). Charmaine and Stan are attempting to make a decent living amidst social and monetary turmoil. They strike an arrangement to join a “social experiment” that requires them to swap suburban heaven for their freedom. Given Atwood’s notoriety for naughty social satire, I doubt it goes well. Publishers Weekly notes, “The novel is set in the same near-future universe as Atwood’s Positron series of four short stories, released exclusively as e-books. The most recent Positron installment, which was published under the same name as the upcoming novel, came out in 2013.”
The Blue Guitar by John Banville: Banville’s sixteenth novel takes its title from a Wallace Stevens poem about aesthetic imagination and perception: “Things as they are/ Are changed upon the blue guitar.” Banville’s protagonist, Oliver Otway Orme, is a gifted but blocked painter, adulterer, and something of a kleptomaniac who comes back to his hometown to ruminate on his misdeeds and vocation. With such an interesting, ethically suspect focal character as his instrument, Banville ought to have the capacity to play one of his typically beguiling tunes.
The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante: Ferrante writes what James Wood called “case histories, full of flaming rage, lapse, failure, and tenuous psychic success.” In the fourth and last of the hermitic global publishing sensation’s Neapolitan books, we come back to Naples and to the tumultuous friendship of Lila Cerullo and Elena Greco.