by Julie HaleNovember 2011
Best paperbacks for reading groups
In her gorgeous historical novel, The True Memoirs of Little K, Adrienne Sharp mixes fact and fiction to create an atmospheric period piece set in the glittering imperial court of Russia. Little K is the nickname of ballet legend Mathilde Kschessinska, who is penning her memoirs in Paris, having reached the age of 100, when the novel begins. Mathilde starts her ballet studies as a child, rising through the ranks of the Russian Imperial Ballet to become prima ballerina assoluta. As a teenager she sets her romantic sights on Nicholas Romanov, the future tsar, but their affair is doomed from the start, and when it ends, Mathilde finds comfort in the company of two grand dukes, forming a notorious ménage a trois. Such adventures are the norm for the glamorous five-foot-tall star, who uses her feminine wiles to secure a future for herself when troubled times hit Russia. Filled with romance, political intrigue and insights into the glamorous world of Russian ballet, Mathilde’s story is mesmerizing. Sharp, a former dancer, brings wonderful authenticity and detail to this lavish work.
Nora Ephron’s new collection of essays, I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections, brims with the razor-sharp wit and classic insights that have made her one of America’s most popular authors. Now 69, Ephron delivers essays on a variety of topics, musing on memory loss in the book’s title piece, tackling the difficulties of divorce in “The D Word” and looking back on her early years as a reporter at the New York Post in “Journalism: A Love Story.” As a successful writer of screenplays (When Harry Met Sally; Sleepless in Seattle), Ephron has crossed paths with scads of notables, Lillian Hellman among them, and she shares priceless memories of them here. Throughout this sparkling collection, she offers readers a rare sense of camaraderie—a just-one-of-the-gals tone that’s consistently appealing. As her scores of fans already know, Ephron makes for great company. Timely, funny and wise, her latest collection is a delight.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Téa Obreht’s accomplished debut novel examines the nature of memory, the power of stories, and the ways in which both can sustain us. When her grandfather dies, Dr. Natalia Stefanovi is left with unanswered questions about his final days. Natalia, who works at an orphanage in an Eastern European country that’s never identified, recalls the magical stories he used to tell her—tales of the village he was raised in during World War II that delighted her as a child. The past comes alive as Natalia remembers his accounts of the neighborhood butcher, the strange Muslim woman who became his wife and a tiger who escaped from a local zoo after the Germans bombed it. These and other stories offer clues to the mysteries surrounding her beloved grandfather, helping Natalia to make sense of the past as well as the present. Her journey toward resolution is a remarkable one. Beautifully conceived and elegantly written, Obreht’s rewarding novel is a must-read for fans of literary fiction.