If Shakespeare was right, and all the world’s a stage, then New York is undoubtedly at the epicenter of it. From Hell’s Kitchen to the Upper East Side, from Wharton to Fitzgerald, New York has been the preferred setting for the tumultuous unraveling of marriages, love affairs, drug addictions, society back-stabbing, heartbreaking loss and financial pitfalls. And believe it or not, it’s not all fiction.
This year alone has quite a few new releases unsurprisingly set in New York. You may ask yourself why is it such a recurrent magnet for fiction authors. The real question should be, how can it not be? A city that has seen it all, witnessed all and survived all, New York is not only a frequent backdrop for fiction but in most cases it’s also the perfect one. Regardless of star-graded book reviews or the overall ability of any book to enthrall judgemental readers, the portrayal of a particular Manhattan street, neighborhood, or landmark has the ability to transport us there. To imagine ourselves dodging the demented city traffic while our pulse races with the adrenaline necessary to keep up with the legendary city that never sleeps.
So here they are. A varied cornucopia of New York based fiction novels released in 2016. Whether you love them or hate them is rather inconsequential really; what truly matters here is not the players, but the stage.
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler: Tess arrives in New York trying to escape a provincial past. When she gets hired as a back-waiter for one of the most popular restaurants in the city, Tess will have to face some rather difficult choices.
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue: A young couple from Cameroon make their way to New York City in search for a better life. There, they will find that their adopted metropolis might not be the city of dreams after all.
Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney: The story that started with Brightness Falls in the late 80’s and continued with The Good Life in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks reaches its astonishing conclusion with Bright, Precious Days.
Russell and Corrine Calloway have faced innumerable challenges in their twenty plus years of marriage. Infidelity, financial and emotional crises, loss of friends and parenthood are the many factors that have breached their relationship, but Russell and Corrine have somehow managed to make it through. But now, when a financial meltdown threatens the economy and an ex-lover of Corrine’s returns with the intention of rekindling their relationship, the Calloways quickly discover that their marriage may have finally reached the end of the line.
People Who Knew Me by Kim Hooper: Kim Hooper’s debut People Who Knew Me is the story of Emily Morris, a woman who after finding out she’s pregnant, loses her lover in the aftermath of September 11. Heartbroken and in shock, Emily decides to disappear and make a new life for herself far away from her husband, her family and everyone who knew her in California. Years later, after receiving a shocking medical diagnosis, Emily (who now calls herself Connie Prynne) has to face her past once again for the sake of her teenage daughter.
Three Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell: This novel is quite the epitome of New York in the ’60s. Miles, Eden and Cliff, three young and hopeful individuals frequently fueled with drugs, booze and parties are trying desperately to make their dreams come true in a city that may not make it as easy for them as they initially thought.
In We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley Catherine West is a forty-something trust-fund baby who has the proverbial money to burn. Bored with her life and her multiple failed relationships with men (and one woman), she believes that love repeatedly eludes her. That is until she meets William Stockton at an art gallery, and is immediately enthralled by his good looks and unusual magnetism. The fact that William’s parents were once friends with Catherine’s adds even more to the attraction, and she becomes certain that her luck in love has changed. But she soon discovers that there’s too many things she doesn’t know about William and his rather obscure past.
If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene: This novel is a lyrical and narrative work of art, combining poetry and prose in such a way that the story seems to float off the pages. If I Forget You weaves the tale of Henry and Margot, two young lovers who meet in college and come from very different backgrounds. Their love is wretchedly torn apart by unforeseen circumstances, and more than twenty years later and entirely by chance, they meet again on a New York City street. The story begins to unravel what happened between them all those years ago, and how it will affect this offered chance of re-connection.
The Assistants by Camille Perri: The novel accurately details the economic difficulties experienced by a group of millennials when they leave college and get a crash course into the reality of the working world and making it in New York.
A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams: Theresa Marshall, a woman who belongs to the upper echelons of 1920s New York high society is the type of woman who has everything she always wanted; money, luxury, and comforts beyond anyone’s dreams. True, her marriage is less than perfect, but it hardly matters when she has a lover like Octavian Rofrano, a former aviator of the Great War and twenty years her senior. The idyllic love affair with Octavian falls victim to the intrusion of nineteen-year-old nouveau riche Sophie Fortescue, who is set to be Theresa’s future sister-in-law. Things go awry when Theresa asks Octavian to investigate Sophie’s family history, unwillingly throwing Octavian unto the possibility of a different path, which may not include Theresa.
Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma: The story of a group of friends who come together at a holiday party in New York surrounded by a devastating financial crisis. Their lives will be forever changed by the city that adopted them and an unforeseen event that challenges their friendship and their dreams.
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis: Rose, a successful journalist who is of late unlucky in love, finds herself fascinated by one of her elderly neighbors. Rose lives in a condo that was known many years ago as the Barbizon Hotel, a popular for-women-only residence that served as a landing spot for girls who came to New York searching for their individual dreams during the 1950s. As Rose delves deeper into the building’s past and that of her mysterious neighbor, she finds that not everything was harmonious in the corridors of the Barbizon, and that it may hide a secret crime that has been buried for decades.
A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock: Set in the long gone days of Prohibition-era New York, A Fine Imitation is the story of upper-class Manhattan society wife, Vera Bellington. A former Vassar art student, with an impeccable upbringing but submissively compliant to the rules her strict society matron mother imposes on her, Vera has become dissatisfied with her frivolous life. She married the right man, and is living a life chosen for her in an effort to cement her place in the upper echelons of Manhattan’s elite. But the arrival of the enigmatic French artist Emil Hallan, who has been commissioned to paint a mural for the pool of the upscale building she occupies with her husband, will make her question her choices and ask herself if she has compromised the person she could have become for a life trapped in a golden cage.