I'm sure I've talked about this here before, but I love a first novel. I love the anticipation around first novels: the idea of an author who has been toiling away, trying to get their words into print and then finally, they arrive! For readers it is a chance to discover a brand new world of writing -- the sheer potential of it all is irresistible to me.
Not that it is just the idea of first novels that I'm attracted to: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marissha Pessl, The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, White Teeth by Zadie Smith—when I go back through the list of books that I've really enjoyed, the number of first novels among them is notable.
So this year, I'm going to periodically highlight some of the first novels that are coming out: here are a few to watch out for in the first quarter.
Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Sprecht (January): From the publisher: "When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiancé without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the crippling genetic disease that slowly killed their mother...A mesmerizing debut from an exciting young writer, Migratory Animals is a moving, thought-provoking novel, told from shifting viewpoints, about the meaning of home and what we owe each other—and ourselves"
Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman (Feburary). Set in Afghanistan and written by a US veteran of both the Iraq and Afghan Wars, the author draws on his own experiences to tell the story of brothers Ali and Aziz and the impact of war on the lives of children. The last few years have seen a flowering of literary talent from the ranks of US war veterans: this year Redeployment by Phil Klay was a National Book Award winner, and in 2012 The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (also a first novel) was praised for its sensitive depiction of the life of a returned US soldier of the Iraq War.
The Missing One by Lucy Atkins (February): UK based author Atkin's debut suspense story about a mother, a daughter and a secret past is getting lots of rave reviews from readers of advanced copies who post on Goodreads (the word "gripping is thrown around a lot). This kind of grassroots buzz is often good news for first time authors. "The loss of her mother has left Kali McKenzie with too many unanswered questions. But while clearing out Elena’s art studio, she finds a drawer packed with postcards, each bearing an identical one-line message a Canadian gallery owner called Susannah Gillespie: thinking of you. Who is this woman and what does she know about Elena’s hidden past?" The books BC setting may make it of additional interest to Canadian readers.
Love by the Book by Melissa Pimentel (February). If those bleak Feburary days get you down, this romp -- which is getting compared to Bridget Jones' Diary and the HBO show Girls -- may be just the pick up you need. "An American living in London, Lauren is intelligent, beautiful and loves to party. So why can't she convince a man she isn't after something more serious than scrambled eggs and goodbye in the morning? Determined to snare some regular male affection, she embarks on a project: each month she will follow the rules of a different dating guide - from refusing to pay the bill to chatting up every man in her path - and will switch seamlessly to the next book at the end of each month."
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (March): From the publisher: "A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, that follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams. Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. Then the dreams begin. Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It's everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted - but it only exists when she sleeps."
Need more? Check out the January books to watch for post, which just so happened to include a few first novels too.