Reviews: The Top Fiction Books To Read (Fall 2022)

Act of Oblivion

By Robert Harris Harper

The Indemnity and Oblivion Act of 1660 singled out a small number of regicides for grisly punishment. Robert Harris’s novel imagines the manhunt through colonial New England for two participants in the decision to execute Charles I roughly a decade before.

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The Backstreets: A Novel From Xinjiang

By Perhat Tursun Columbia

“I don’t know anyone in this strange city, so it’s impossible for me to be friends or enemies with anyone.” The Kafkaesque story of a nameless Uyghur man in a Chinese metropolis renders the real-world crisis of an entire culture into a haunting parable of power and powerlessness, and the use of loneliness as a tool of oppression.

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The Betrothed

By Alessandro Manzoni Modern Library

The sweeping tale, now little remembered in America, of a pair of 17th-century Italian lovers, separated by the designs of a cruel aristocrat. Michael E. Moore offers the first English translation in more than 50 years of Alessandro Manzoni’s masterpiece, a work of foundational Italian literature on par with the Divine Comedy and the Decameron.

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Less Is Lost

By Andrew Sean Greer Little, Brown

The “innocent abroad” at the heart of Andrew Sean Greer’s “Less” (2017) endured adventures both comic and heartwarming. The novel garnered the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Now its good-natured writer-hero returns for another road trip in a rollicking sequel.

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Lessons

By Ian McEwan Knopf

In novels like “Sweet Tooth” and “Atonement,” Ian McEwan has taught readers to be on their guard, ready for a twist or revelation that might put all that’s come before in doubt. In “Lessons,” Mr. McEwan has created something to confound such expectations, in the portrait of a lost, likable protagonist whose “shapeless existence” is at the center of an unpredictable, very human journey through his own traumas, failures and hopes.

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The Marriage Portrait

By Maggie O’Farrell Knopf

At the tender age of 15, Lucrezia, the daughter of the Florentine ruler Cosimo de’ Medici, is wed in a marriage of diplomatic alliance to another powerful nobleman. She would survive less than a year—a timeframe brought into thrilling focus in an intense and vivid portrait from the author of “Hamnet.”

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My Phantoms

By Gwendoline Riley NYRB Classics

The gaps in understanding between two people can be an occasion for frustration—or a confrontation with the central enigma of consciousness. In the spare but powerful fiction of the English novelist Gwendoline Riley, the tangled streets of a city or the banalities of a conversation can stand in for the uncertain terrain of the mysterious and elusive self.

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Natural History: Stories

By Andrea Barrett Norton

In a unique set of linked stories, many of which take place in a small lakeside town in New York, the writer Andrea Barrett offers the interconnected histories of a set of characters deeply involved both with one another and the fragile, beautiful world around them. Here, the ecology of the heart and the wonders of nature flourish side by side.

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Nights of Plague

By Orhan Pamuk Knopf

The new novel from the Nobel Prize-winning author of “Snow” and “My Name Is Red” stages a turn-of-the-20th-century tale of intrigue on a Mediterranean island ruled by the Ottoman Empire. An outbreak of the Black Plague and the quarantines that follow set the stage for political strife: The assassination of a health official raises the stakes in a tale that combines mystery with a richly detailed portrait of a society in turmoil.

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Shrines of Gaiety

By Kate Atkinson Doubleday

In the nightclubs of 1920s London, frivolity and fun are the order of the day—and Nellie Coker reigns as monarch of the quasi-legal revels. In this novel from the celebrated author of “Life After Life,” the disappearance of a young girl brings both the police and a determined amateur sleuth into the demimonde that Nellie and her family rule.

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