By Catherine Coles
As the summer winds down, literary fiction releases ramp up just in time for literary award season. The following three literary fiction books are highly anticipated August releases. If you are ready to put down the “beach reads” and move onto some more complex, prose-driven titles in time for fall, these could be right up your alley.
The Last Wave by Canadian author Gillian Best is a family drama set in Dover, England. Spread out over the course of several decades, it follows the life of Martha and the people who knew her. Ever since the 1940s, when she was a young girl who accidentally fell off of a pier and into the ocean, Martha has been obsessed with the sea. In fact, she swam the English Channel several times during her life — it was her therapy. As a woman with a young family, when she felt burdened by the confines of domestic life, swimming was her escape. Later in life, when she dealt with family estrangements, her husband’s dementia and finally, her own cancer diagnosis, the sea remained her constant companion. A quiet story filled with complex characters, this novel will transport you straight to the beach. Keep in mind though, it won’t be a sunny sandy beach, but rather a chilly and grey English beach.
Arguably one of the most anticipated literary fiction releases of the year, See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt takes the reader to Massachusetts back in the summer of 1892, when the infamous Lizzie Borden allegedly killed her parents. The novel delves into the dysfunctional family dynamics that led to the brutal murders and subsequent trial of the century. Drifting back and forth through time and covering several perspectives (Lizzie, Lizzie’s sister Emma, the family’s Irish maid Bridget, a hitman named Benjamin), this novel slowly unpacks how the events may have played out. While it does indeed have a creepy quality to it (the Borden sisters are especially unsettling characters), it is more of a book for historical crime enthusiasts, as opposed to mystery/thriller/horror readers. It is quite dull at times, but the period details and language carry it along. If you are squeamish or if you require a cut and dried resolution in the books you read, avoid this one. However, if you are interested in historical recreations and appreciate a tone of subtle eeriness, then See What I Have Done could be a good choice for you.
Set in contemporary small-town, middle-class Massachusetts, The Burning Girl by Claire Messud follows the friendship of Julia and Claire, tween girls on the cusp of growing up. Told from Julia’s perspective, she recounts memories from earlier in their friendship as well as in the present day, as they begin to drift apart. Claire has a troubled home life, she has secrets and takes risks, and she has been thrust into adulthood earlier than Julia – but this is only the start of why their intense friendship could not withstand adolescence. The Burning Girl is an understated, realistic portrayal of the intricacies of young female friendship and the silent rifts that can’t exactly be pinpointed.
The Last Wave has a release date of Aug. 26, The Burning Girl will be out on Aug. 29 and See What I Have Done was released Aug. 1. You can reserve these books by placing a hold at your local library branch or online at www.countylibrary.ca. Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for providing me with Advance Reader Copies of these titles.
Catherine Coles is the Manager of Library Services for L&A County.