The carnival scene in Gilded Age New York City forms the colorful backdrop of Leslie Parry's remarkable first novel, Church of Marvels. Here, she opens up about the inspiration behind this high-wire act of historical fiction, reveals her dream sideshow act and shares her fail-proof cure for writer's block.
What do two twin sisters who star in a Coney Island sideshow, a woman whose mother-in-law may have had her committed to an insane asylum, and a sanitation worker who finds an orphaned baby girl while completing his rounds one night have in common? The question sounds like the set up to a rather ghoulish joke, and yet untangling this mystery forms the basis of Leslie Parry’s dazzling debut, Church of Marvels.
The men of the American Wild West called it the “shining times,” when the law held no sway over any place beyond the Mississippi. This was the last true American independence, and though it died out a long time ago, the new novel from T.C. Boyle takes this tradition of renegades and turns it into something violent.
With the publication of The Lay of the Land in 2006, it appeared Richard Ford had written the final chapter in the story of Frank Bascombe, one that began with The Sportswriter and continued with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day. Happily, Ford has given readers one last chance to enjoy his knowing, wry protagonist.
Following her session at the 2014 Southern Festival of Books, BookPage spoke with author Lauren Oliver about her first book for adults, haunted houses, haunted families and much more.
Like all good scary stories, Rooms begins with a death. When Richard Walker passes away, his estranged family must return to the erstwhile family home to sift through a household—and lifetime—of memories and belongings. But Richard’s ex-wife Caroline and troubled children, Trenton and Minna, are not alone as they work to rid the house of the traces of the man who once lived there: Their actions and emotions are acutely observed by two former residents of the home, Alice and Sandra, each so different from the other, yet both bound to the house by dreadful tragedies.
Three novels exploring the complexity and resilience of the human spirit make great picks for reading groups this month.
Fans of historical fiction will be drawn to The Miniaturist, a fantastical tale from British debut novelist Jessie Burton that takes place in 17th-century Amsterdam. The story begins as 18-year-old Nella Oortman arrives at the home of her wealthy merchant husband, Johannes Brandt. Surprisingly, though, he is nowhere to be found. In his stead is his strictly religious sister, Marin; housemaid Cornelia; and his manservant, a former slave named Otto. Nella, a country girl, is forced to forge her way alone as head of the household.
British author Jessie Burton's first published book, The Miniaturist, has been building buzz in publishing circles since 2013, when it was one of the most sought-after books at the London Book Fair. Now this historical novel, set in a 17th-century Amsterdam that Burton evokes with great skill, is poised to win over readers.
Though the “overnight success” story tends to make headlines, debut novels are more often the result of years of hard work and dedication. This month, we’re highlighting four debuts that deserve some time in the spotlight.