by Julie HaleSeptember 2010
New selections for reading groups
This month’s best paperback releases for reading groups include new books from Lorrie Moore, Elizabeth Rosner and Hilary Mantel.
A triumphant return for the beloved author of Birds of America, A Gate at the Stairs is Lorrie Moore’s first novel in 15 years. Set in a small Midwestern college town, the narrative focuses on Tassie Keltjin, a 20-year-old innocent who comes of age quickly, in ways she never dreamed were possible. Tassie balances school with her new responsibilities as a nanny, a job that comes with a catch: Her boss, restaurant owner Sarah Brink, doesn’t yet have a baby—she’s trying to adopt one. With Tassie along for support, Sarah interviews potential birth mothers, women with their own stories to share, and these eye-opening encounters provide Tassie with new perspectives on life. Meanwhile, Tassie becomes involved with the mysterious Reynaldo, who may be hiding something. Growing up fast but enjoying the ride, Tassie makes for a delightful narrator. She’s a smart young woman with a sense of wonder that’s refreshing, and Moore’s many fans will find her story irresistible. This is a compelling novel that finds the author in top form.
A reading group guide is available online. You can also read our review of the hardcover edition of A Gate at the Stairs.
THE POWER OF ART
A poignant, multilayered novel, Elizabeth Rosner’s Blue Nude explores the far-reaching effects of the Holocaust. Danzig, the son of a prominent Nazi, struggles with memories of his sister, Margot, who committed suicide after the war. Once a reputable painter, Danzig, now 58, lives in San Francisco, where he teaches at an art school and flirts with his students. When Merav, the lovely granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, fills in as a model for his drawing class, Danzig feels a surprising connection. Leaving behind a sad past in Israel, Merav has come to America in search of a new life. Stirred by her beauty, Danzig asks Merav to model for him in his private studio, but she is hesitant and elusive. What transpires between the two kindred, sensitive souls makes for an unforgettable story about the transformative power of art and its unique ability to restore the human spirit. Featuring sharply drawn characters and a well-crafted storyline, this is a powerful, probing work of fiction.
A reading group guide is available on Elizabeth Rosner's website.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall is set in 16th-century England and presents history-making events—including King Henry VIII’s battle with the Catholic Church as he tries to divorce one woman and marry another—from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell comes from a humble family, but he rises to a position of importance at court thanks to his shrewdness, ambition and intelligence. As Henry VIII’s indispensable counselor, he has an inside view of royal goings-on and provides the perfect lens for Mantel’s delicious drama, in which the seductive Boleyn sisters, the disfavored Queen Katherine and the scheming Thomas More all play prominent roles. Through the use of rich detail and convincing dialogue, Mantel brings a seminal chapter in England’s past to vivid life. Her meticulously conceived novel has it all—politics, danger, romance and intrigue. A mesmerizing blend of fact and fiction, it’s a must-read for history lovers.
Download a PDF of the reading guide, and find more information on the publisher's website. You can also read our review of the hardcover edition of Wolf Hall.