While the end of summer marks the conclusion of the beach-reading season, publishers are saving some of the year’s biggest books for the cooler months. From the return of Robert Langdon and another novel from Nicholas Sparks to the newest novels from literary powerhouses like Audrey Niffenegger, Margaret Atwood and John Irving, this fall is shaping up to be the season of the next big book.
Dan Brown is back
When Dan Brown’s publishers announced the title and on-sale date of the long-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code this spring, fans went absolutely wild. You couldn’t check an online bookseller without being cheerfully encouraged to “Pre-Order Your Copy Today!” And for good reason. To be released on September 15 with a first printing of five million copies, The Lost Symbol is the follow-up to Brown’s record-breaking international bestseller. The new book will once again feature symbologist hero Robert Langdon, this time in a thriller that revolves around the Freemasons, an organization that Brown has called the “oldest fraternity in history.” The book jacket features the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., lit up against the background of a large red wax seal. Embedded in the wax is an unidentifiable symbol. There have long been theories tying the Freemasons to our nation’s capital—including speculation that the streets of Washington, D.C. were planned to physically mirror important Masonic symbols. Does the jacket offer clues to the plot? “Nothing ever is as it first appears in a Dan Brown novel,” says Jason Kaufman, Brown’s longtime editor at Doubleday. “This book’s narrative takes place in a 12-hour period, and from the first page, Dan’s readers will feel the thrill of discovery as they follow Robert Langdon through a masterful and unexpected new landscape. The Lost Symbol is full of surprises.” Since the books will no doubt be under lockand- key until the on-sale date, all we can do is wait and wonder. And pre-order, of course.
Familial love and loss
Considered the reigning champ of the contemporary family drama/love story genre, Nicholas Sparks seems to churn out a new bestseller every year. After last year’s The Lucky One, Sparks is back this month with The Last Song. In this, Sparks’ 15th novel, we meet troubled teen Veronica “Ronnie” Miller as her world is falling apart. Still heartbroken and angry about her parents’ divorce three years earlier, Ronnie is furious when her mother decides she should leave their home in New York City and join her now-reclusive father for the summer in Wilmington, North Carolina. Readers who dive into Sparks’ soon-to-be bestseller should count on equal doses of raw emotion, young love, family angst and— ultimately—sweet resolution. A movie version is due in early 2010, and sources say Sparks wrote the novel (and co-wrote the screenplay) with teen queen star Miley Cyrus in mind.
More from The Time Traveler
Six years (and a reported $5 million advance) after her debut smash The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger is back with the September 29 release of Her Fearful Symmetry. The story begins as Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer in London. She has long been estranged from her twin sister, Edie, but nevertheless leaves her London flat to Edie’s twin daughters—Julia and Valentina—who never knew their Aunt Elspeth. Twenty-year-old Julia and Valentina have lived in America their whole lives, and they are intrigued by their aunt’s generosity and a chance at an exciting new life in London. But their inheritance has specific conditions: the twins must live in Elspeth’s apartment together, and they must stay for at least one year; even stranger, Edie and her husband Jack are forbidden to set foot in the flat. The twins will have another roommate in their new London home—the ghost of Aunt Elspeth. While early reviews have not been entirely favorable, readers will have to make up their own minds about this much-hyped spooky story.
Another big-name author to return to bookstores in September is the brilliant and inventive Margaret Atwood. Her first full-length novel since 2003’s Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is being hailed as another “dystopic masterpiece.” Of returning to the desolate landscape she mined in Oryx, Atwood explains: “In the three years that passed before I began writing The Year of the Flood, the perceived gap between that supposedly unreal future and the harsh one we might very well live through was narrowing fast. What is happening to our world? What can we do to reverse the damage? How long have we got?” Looks like we’re in for another fascinating—and important—literary treat from the incomparable Atwood.
From father to son
Many John Irving fans were unsure what to make of the author’s last offering, 2005’s Until I Find You. Supposedly his most personal work to date, the novel received mixed reviews and didn’t come close to hitting the sales marks of Irving’s beloved bestsellers. But early readers are buzzing about his October 27 release, Last Night in Twisted River, a dark father/son story and Irving’s 12th novel. In 1954, in a small New Hampshire town, a nervous 12-year-old boy mistakes the local sheriff ’s girlfriend for a wild animal. Tragedy follows, and the boy and his father start a life on the run, traveling from Coos County, New Hampshire to Boston, Vermont, Toronto and back again. At nearly 600 pages, Last Night is being compared to Irving classics like The World According to Garp and A Prayer for Owen Meany. But as with all pre-publication hype, the proof will be in the literary pudding.