Amanda Eyre Ward had already finished writing The Same Sky, her moving novel about an 11-year-old Honduran girl attempting to reunite with her mother in the U.S., when the controversy about undocumented minors blew up along the border last summer.
Priya Parmar is a former freelance editor whose first novel, Exit the Actress, was based on the 17th-century actress (and royal mistress) Ellen "Nell" Gwyn. Her second novel, Vanessa and Her Sister, is based on the life of the artist Vanessa Bell. In this behind-the-book essay, Parmar explains how important—and how personal—choosing a historical fiction subject can be.
Priya Parmar’s second novel opens an intimate, witty and highly entertaining window into the early 20th-century circle of writers, philosophers and artists known as London’s Bloomsbury Group. They met several times a week at the homes of Vanessa and Clive Bell and Vanessa’s brother and sister, Adrian and Virginia Stephen (later Woolf). This erudite group also included the novelist E.M. Forster; biographer Lytton Strachey; artist Duncan Grant; art critic Roger Fry, curator of New York’s Metropolitan Museum; and economist John Maynard Keynes. The Stephen siblings—Vanessa, Virginia, Adrian and Thoby, the eldest brother— moved to the “bohemian hinterland” of Bloomsbury after their parents died, and Thoby’s Cambridge friends quickly adopted it as their favorite gathering place.
It’s rare to find two successful writers in one household, and even more rare when both authors have new books published at the same time. But for Tasha Alexander and Andrew Grant, it’s all part of the everyday reality (and delight) of being a married couple who share the same profession: writing novels.
Three books following unconventional lives make great picks for reading groups this month.
As a longtime Picoult fan, I was anxious to devour her latest novel, Leaving Time. And she doesn’t disappoint: Once again, Picoult has masterfully woven what appear to be incongruous events and people together into one captivating and emotional story. This time around, the author’s extensive research on elephants and their surprisingly human emotions are a highlight. But wait, there’s more: She has also included a down-on-her-luck psychic, a spunky teen and a haunting murder.
In the vein of authors like Deborah Harkness and Katherine Howe, magic and reality are perfectly blended in bookseller Chrysler Szarlan’s debut novel, The Hawley Book of the Dead—the first installment in a planned quartet. Revelation “Reve” Dyer is a woman graced with a touch of magic, but plagued by a malicious spirit that seeks to destroy her.
Victorian London comes alive in Anne Perry’s tension-filled new mystery, Blood on the Water, the 20th novel in her best-selling William Monk series.
Monk, commander of London’s River Police, is on patrol with his deputy, and the two watch a large pleasure craft as it wafts sounds of music and laughter across the water. Suddenly, they witness a terrible explosion and fire that sinks the boat within minutes, leaving few survivors.
In the world of Texas football, team allegiances are hard-lined, and devotion runs deep. The small college town of Walker—the setting of Emily Giffin’s seventh novel, The One & Only—is no exception. Beautiful, down-to-earth Shea Rigsby is the ultimate hometown girl: She’s happily spent all of her 33 years in Walker supporting her beloved Broncos. With a messy, less than perfect family to call her own, Shea was raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the effortlessly chic and opinionated daughter of Walker’s legendary football coach, Clive Carr.
In Blossom Street Brides, beloved author Debbie Macomber returns to the thriving community of women who frequent a knitting shop on Seattle’s Blossom Street. This time around, Lydia Goetz, the owner of A Good Yarn Shop, is worried the future of her business, while newlywed Bethanne Scranton is struggling to maintain her long-distance marriage, and Lauren Elliott has just broken up with the man she was certain she would marry.