The 21 Best Novels of 2019

The 21 Best Novels of 2019

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The connections of family were put to the test in Elizabeth Strout’s greatest triumph, Olive Kitteridge, her 2009 Pulitzer Prize–winning collection of interconnected stories starring the flinty, flawed title character. Kitteridge is back in a sequel of sorts, Olive, Again—another novel-in-stories that is somehow both achingly sad and delightfully fun. The title character has a new man in her life and is still bewildered by love for her wayward son. Kitteridge remains a formidable and utterly human heroine to the final, heartbreaking page. —Taylor Antrim

Find Me by André Aciman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October)

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Even those who haven’t read André Aciman’s desire-soaked 2007 novel Call Me by Your Name have likely lived through it by way of Luca Guadagnino’s sumptuous film adaptation, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as fated lovers Elio and Oliver. Now comes a sequel, Find Me, in which years have passed, and the scorching summer backdrop has given way to autumn. Aciman’s newest work is a composition in multiple movements, the first taking place on a Rome-bound train, where Elio’s newly divorced father meets Miranda, a manic-pixie dream ragazza who guides her new acquaintance to his late-stage sexual awakening. Meanwhile, Elio and Oliver now live continents apart and have struck up romantic arrangements, each unsatisfying in its own way. “What mattered now,” Oliver realizes with quickening despair, “was unlived.” A study of human intimacies, this novel asks: Does true love ever die? —Lauren Mechling

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré (Viking, October)

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Le Carré, who is 87, has written another sophisticated, characteristically dyspeptic espionage novel (his 25th, if anyone’s counting). Agent Running in the Field follows 2017’s better-than-it-had-any-right-to-be best seller A Legacy of Spies, which brought his famous spymaster George Smiley back for one last hurrah. Legacy felt like a curtain call, but Agent Running in the Field has plenty of pep. It’s set in Brexit London and begins with a 47-year-old intelligence officer named Nat, who suspects he’s in for an early retirement after a middling career at MI6. He’s more interested in skipping off to badminton matches than running a station of spies. The badminton material is fantastic—le Carré captures the atmosphere at Nat’s threadbare sporting club with characteristic ease. And he effortlessly weaves a plot involving a young opponent of Nat’s who is possibly a double agent for Putin’s Russia. This is late-period le Carré, understated and modulated to the low-key finale, but also deeply pleasurable. —Taylor Antrim

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