This month’s best new paperback releases for reading groups
PIECES OF THE PUZZLE
In her charming memoir, The Pattern in the Carpet: A Personal History with Jigsaws, British novelist Margaret Drabble provides an inside look at her remarkable past while documenting the evolution of the jigsaw puzzle, a source of challenge and amusement that has figured prominently in her life since girlhood. Drabble writes revealingly about her parents and her less-than-idyllic childhood. Her Auntie Phyl is an early influence, an adored elder who introduces Drabble to literature, the city of London and the simple pleasures of a good puzzle. Drabble deftly parallels her own story with an overview of puzzles in history, literature and art. Drabble’s admission that she turned to puzzles for comfort after her husband, the celebrated historian Michael Holroyd, was diagnosed with cancer lends a poignant layer to the narrative. Blending her intimate story with a larger historical vision, Drabble has produced a fact-filled, multifaceted narrative.
SYMBOLS OF LOVE
Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk offers a provocative tale of love and obsession in The Museum of Innocence. Kemal Bey, a member of Istanbul’s upper crust, has created a museum devoted to the woman he can’t forget, his cousin Füsun. Penniless and reserved but remarkably beautiful, the demure Füsun had a brief affair with Kemal years ago, when he was engaged to someone else. Their passion is a thread that has run through Kemal’s life, inspiring him to collect tokens connected to his cousin—jewelry, hairpins, a saltshaker—all of which he places in his museum. Nurturing the memory of their union, Kemal demonstrates a reverence for the past, for a time and a place that can never be recovered—Istanbul during the 1970s, when he fell in love with Füsun—and his lovingly detailed catalogue of objects brings the city to life for readers. Filled with lavish detail, this expertly crafted novel explores familiar themes of love, memory and history in ways that are fresh and revealing.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Joshua Ferris, the acclaimed author of Then We Came to the End, returns with an intriguing novel about an affluent lawyer who struggles with a strange affliction. Tim Farnsworth has a lovely wife named Jane and a thriving career, but his picture-perfect life is thrown out of focus when—without warning—he’s gripped by the urge to walk, an instinct he’s forced to indulge until exhaustion sets in. Jane does her best to care for Tim during his prolonged perambulations, fetching him home in the dead of night. But each time the malady strikes, Jane and daughter Becka must fight to keep the family intact, a task that proves increasingly difficult. Despite their support, Tim is isolated by his worsening illness. Skillfully mixing moods, Ferris brews up his own brand of melancholy humor in this surreal study of a man in the grip of a modern malaise. Tim’s condition gives rise to an oddly compelling plot, which is rendered in prose that’s both lyrical and precise. A brave, exploratory novel, The Unnamed is a sharply observed study of the difficulties of creating—and sustaining—personal connections.