The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is well upon us, bringing with it a treasure trove of new books to enjoy.

Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach (Corsair) is a novel to fall into; a sweeping narrative set in 1930s and 1940s Brooklyn that takes in everything from workplace sexism to family breakdown, the criminal underworld, the treatment of the disabled and the Second World War. If that sounds rather a lot to cram in, don’t be put off; Egan effortlessly weaves these issues into a compelling story of a young woman seeking both to prove herself in a man’s world and unearth the truth about her father’s disappearance during the Great Depression. Manhattan Beach‘s story is implausible – particularly the parts that concern Anna’s father – but somehow it works, not least because of Egan’s meticulous research into the period.

The Growing Season, by Helen Sedgwick (Harvill Secker), also considers gender politics, this time imagining a world in which babies develop outside of the womb in customisable ‘pouches’ and traditional pregnancy is seen as an outdated aberration. But what starts as a revolutionary technology that liberates women by balancing parental responsibilities and enabling gay couples to have children as easily as heterosexual ones, soon becomes a more troubling prospect. As the long-term consequences of the pouches begin to become apparent – Eva, whose mother was an indefatigable campaigner against the pouches – finds herself leading the charge against the shadowy corporation that now controls reproduction. Part thriller, part dystopian fiction, The Growing Season takes a fascinating ‘what if’ question and really runs with it.

The cursed lot of women is front and centre of Jesmyn Ward’s lyrical, challenging novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Bloomsbury Circus, 2nd Nov) which follows Leonie: a drug-addicted black mother-of-two as she reunites with her white partner on his release from Mississippi’s infamous Parchman prison. Leonie’s father, himself a former Parchman inmate, worked tirelessly to move beyond the poverty and violence of his childhood; decades on and the tragedies of his past have come full circle. Partly narrated by JoJo: Leonie’s wise-beyond-his-years son, this is a novel about the left behinds, about the legacy of racism, and about the inequalities that persist in modern America. Sing, Unburied, Sing is not an easy read – but it’s one that will stay with you long afterwards.

Another book that you might struggle to switch off from is Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions (Bloomsbury), albeit for different reasons. Elsie is a recent widow, dispatched to her husband’s crumbling country pile with a distant cousin for company as she sees out her pregnancy, but this is Victorian England and the omens are not good. The servants are skittish, the weather is ominous, the house appears to be cursed as a result of dark deeds that went on there in the 17th century, and the ‘Companions – a set of painted figures introduced to the house centuries earlier – appear to have a life of their own. Some time in the future, Elsie wastes away in a lunatic asylum; what led her there and does she have any hope of escape? Just in time for Halloween, The Silent Companions is a genuinely terrifying gothic novel that keeps you guessing throughout – and one to read in the light of day.

Going even further back in time is Jane Harris’s Sugar Money (Faber & Faber), a based-on-a-true-story tale of two slaves in the 18th century Caribbean. Emile and Lucien have been sent by their French owner from Martinique to Grenada to requisition the slaves left behind when the rapacious English seized the island. It’s a mission they can’t fail, but also one that is seemingly impossible, and no sooner do they reach the shore than their problems begin. It’s a fascinating story, made more so by the teenage Lucien’s jovial narration, and Harris takes us on a rip-roaring adventure without overlooking the violence and brutality of the slave era.

Jenny Fran Davis’s debut, Everything Must Go (Corsair) is a world away from that, focusing as it does on the petty dramas of the Instagram era and taking a wry look at the lifestyle of the so-called ‘snowflake’ generation. In pursuit of a boy, Flora Goldwasser, a privileged Upper West Sider with a serious thing for vintage fashion swaps her Manhattan school for a hippie educational institution – and finds herself the ultimate fish out of water. Flora’s new classmates are environmentally conscious, sexually free thinking and very, very opposed to materialism. Told through letters, emails and diary entries, we follow her journey from pampered princess to kale-eating campaigner. While at times you can tell the author is only 22 – the plot is hardly convincing and many of the characters are paper thin caricatures – Everything Must Go is a quirky, self-aware book that makes a change from the usual high school fiction.

Celese Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (Little, Brown) is a juicy thriller about female rivalry that sits above the many published these days. Elena Richardson, suburban mother of four, local reporter and all-round pillar of the community, is pitted against free-thinking artist Mia Warren as a custody case involving a Chinese baby divides their neighbourhood. Meanwhile, their children grow up, fall in and out of love, and learn that the adult world is far more complicated than their parents had told them. The book has apparently been optioned by actress Reese Witherspoon, who recently produced the not-dissimilar Big Little Lies, and as I read it I imagined Elena with a touch of Tracy Flick about her. Gripping, a little trashy but in a good way, Little Fires Everywhere is a book to devour on a cold autumn weekend.

Offering a different take on the American family is Gabriel Tallent, who has been hailed as a literary wunderkind for his debut My Absolute Darling (4th Estate). Whether it warrants the breathless praise it has received is up for debate, but nonetheless this is a novel to remember. Teenager Turtle lives a brutal existence under the thumb of her beloved father Martin, a survivalist with a warped view of the world. Into her life comes a concerned teacher and two adolescent boys; an intrusion that Turtle welcomes but that Martin will go to great lengths to prevent. Great chunks of the book are given over to Tallent’s evocative description of the California outdoors, so that you don’t so much read this as experience it. My Absolute Darling is a difficult read, but one that’s worth the investment.