After a fairly quiet summer, the shelves of the bookshops are filling up with promising new fare. With the help of the major publishing companies, we've pinpointed the most eagerly awaited novels of the coming year.
1. Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
English author Hilary Mantel dazzled the critics and the Booker Prize judges with her dramatic 2009 historical tale, Wolf Hall. The novel created a sympathetic portrait of the roundly denounced Thomas Cromwell, who was for a time the most powerful man in Henry VIII's court - besides the Great Beheader himself. In Bring up the Bodies, Mantel follows up Wolf Hall with the story of the downfall of one of its minor characters, Henry VIII's second wife Anne Boleyn (mother of Elizabeth I). Tudor territory has been well trodden by novelists, but Mantel promises to knock the heads off all other attempts. Released in May.
2. The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Yes, vampires are back in 2012. Well, it is jolly hard to kill them, after all. The creatures that populate American author Justic Cronin's spooky tales are the good old nasty kind, not the pretty, brooding suckers that have filled the bookshops in recent years. Cronin's apolcalyptic The Passage was named one of the 10 best novels of 2011 by Time magazine. The Twelve is the second book in his futuristic trilogy about a small band of survivors clinging to life in a world overrun by "virals" (vampire-like superhumans). Look out for it in August.
3. The Forrests by Emily Perkins
The favourite daughter of New Zealand fiction follows up her Montana Medal-winning Novel About My Wife with The Forrests, an epic story about the life of an American who moves to New Zealand as a child. Publisher Allen & Unwin is calling it: "A novel that sings with colour and memory; it speaks of family and time, dysfunction, ageing and loneliness, about heat, youth, and how life can change if you're lucky enough to be around for it." Published in May.
4. Canada by Richard Ford
It's been a long time between novels for the Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Ford, best known for The Sportswriter. After a six-year hiatus, Ford is expected to return with a bang with Canada, a novel about a 15-year-old boy who flees his childhood home in Montana after his parents become unlikely bank robbers. He falls into the hands of an enigmatic and malevolent American who is also escaping his past. Allen & Unwin promises "a haunting and visionary novel" that "questions the fine line between the normal and the extraordinary, and the moments in our lives that take us into new worlds". Out in June.
5. Bellagrand by Paullina Simons
Paullina Simons' bestseller, The Bronze Horseman, sat unfinished on my Shelf of Shame for a year or two before I eventually admitted defeat and evicted it via the charity box. But those of you who were seduced by it - and there were many - might be interested to know that Simons is bringing out a prequel, Bellagrand, in October. It's billed as a "heartbreaking love story". Simons plans to tour New Zealand when the book is released.
6. Love and Money by Greg McGee
New Zealander Greg McGee is best known for his playwriting and scriptwriting, namely for Foreskin's Lament, a play set in a rugby changing room. But last year he revealed himself to be moonlighting as a crime author, publishing under the pseudonym of Alix Bosco. Love and Money is McGee's first novel under his real name. Set in 1987 Auckland, it tells the story of a middle-aged loser called Mike. Publisher Penguin says it's a portrait of the era; "rich, funny, bitingly sharp, and disturbingly contemporary". Published in April.
7. Sky Lark by Jenny Pattrick
Jenny Pattrick's 2003 debut Denniston Rose has sold more than 100,000 copies here and in Australia, according to Random House, making it one of the most popular New Zealand novels ever. Pattrick has been prolific since then; this year she releases her seventh novel, Sky Lark. It's about a French girl, Lily L'Alouette, who is left orphaned and alone in 19th century New Zealand. Lily joins the circus and an unconventional love story unfolds. Random House calls it "page-turning, heartwarming and full of surprises". Out in June.
8. The Open World by Stephanie Johnson
Perhaps the Denniston effect has prompted a surge of homegrown historical novels. In the last year alone we've had Rangatira by Paula Morris, The Larnachs by Owen Marshall, Charlotte Randall's Hokitika Town, Witi Ihimaera's The Parihaka Woman, Hamish Clayton's debut Wulf... And now Stephanie Johnson is going historical with Open World, a novel set in nineteenth century New Zealand and England, in which a woman haunted by opiates and two small ghosts embarks on a pilgrimage to settle old scores. Coming in April.
9. Gold by Chris Cleave
I haven't read Londoner Chris Cleave's earlier books - The Other Hand and Incendiary - but I might have to do a bit of catching up before Gold is published in June. Publishers Hachette reckon its one of their top two novels of the year (along with The Twelve). It describes a friendship between two female athletes who must make a difficult choice on the eve of the Olympics (no doubt timed to cash in on five-ring fever in the UK). Cleave says: "It's a story about the limits of friendship and the extremes of human endurance, both physical and emotional."
10. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
This one sounds like a bit of fun. In 1922, 15-year-old wannabe actress Louise Brooks leaves her home in Wichita for the bright lights of Broadway, chaperoned by Cora Carlisle, a 36-year-old housewife eager to escape her marriage. Louise finds the fame she craves, as a silent movie star, while Cora finds there's more to life than being a suburban housewife. Out in May.
Have you got any of these books on your radar for 2012? Any other titles that you can't wait to get stuck in to this year?
- HERALD ONLINE