When her writing is going really well, when she is “all in,” Paula McLain, author of the best-selling historical novel The Paris Wife, calls herself “a head in a jar.” All brain, no body.
Great psychological thrillers work on two levels: as action-based mysteries and as emotionally resonant personal stories. Jenny Milchman balances both in As Night Falls, as slightly anxious counselor Sandy Tremont faces murderers on her doorstep and secrets from her past with equal intensity.
Brendan Duffy’s fantastic debut novel is gloomy, small-town Gothic horror in the vein of "Twin Peaks," Alan Wake and The Shining.
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.