Of the estimated six million Jews extinguished during the Holocaust, perhaps one-fourth were children. To make this figure somewhat conceivable, imagine if every one of them had, like Anne Frank, left behind a diary—or if that many novelists reconstructed in fiction the horrors these innocents had to face. Something like this imperative motivates National Book Award finalist Jim Shepard’s seventh novel, The Book of Aron,, a loosely historical account of the children of the Warsaw ghetto.
Readers met the Langdon family in Some Luck, the first novel in Jane Smiley’s trilogy about an American family and an Iowa farm. A straightforward, almost old-fashioned novel, it opened in 1920 and covered the following 33 years—one year per chapter—in the lives of Walter and Rosanna Langdon and their six children with tenderness and surprisingly subtle humor. Now, in the more ominously titled Early Warning, Smiley casts an even wider net, as the Langdon children, now grown to adulthood and with children of their own, navigate the immense social changes of the 1960s and ’70s.
The latest work from Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison is puzzling until you realize that it’s actually a fairy tale. How else to describe a story about a woman who is so bereft without the man in her life that the lack of him causes her to regress back to childhood—literally. Bride, the book’s beautiful, very young cosmetics tycoon, slowly loses all the physical signifiers of womanhood. Even the holes in her pierced ears close up.
Steven Millhauser is our patron saint of elsewhere. He is the bard of an Arcadia we long for (but also dread), a sorcerer who can materialize phantoms in our backyards, where they’ve been standing all along, just there, behind the bushes.
Each new book by Booker Prize-winner Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day) is, on the surface at least, vastly different from those that have come before. The Buried Giant—his first novel in almost 10 years—is no exception. This fable-like narrative, set in England just after the mythic reign of Arthur, chronicles the adventures of an elderly couple as they journey across a wild and rugged landscape. Old and forgetful, but still endearingly in love, Axl and Beatrice have been cast to the margins of their settlement, not even allowed candles for fear that they may do themselves harm. So, they decide to set out for their son’s village, which they believe they can reach with a few days’ travel. But the landscape abounds with human hostility and ignorance, as well as the shadowy possibility of ogres and other mythical beasts.
In 20 novels published over a remarkable 50-year period, Anne Tyler has staked her claim as our premier chronicler of the ordinary, imperfect American family. Set in Baltimore, like most of her work, A Spool of Blue Thread concerns just such a family.
This radiant collection of short stories features a set of flawed yet sympathetic women in a whole mess of compromising positions.
Two-time Man Booker Prize winner (Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang) Peter Carey’s 13th novel is a darkly satiric tale of cyber activism, modern Australian history and the exhilaration and perils of advocacy journalism.
I have to admit I was a bit nonplussed when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in 2013. Not because she didn’t deserve it. On the contrary, no writer is more worthy of this crowning literary honor. No, my dismay stemmed from the fact that the secret had gotten out: For years, we Munro fans had fooled ourselves into thinking we were part of some exclusive society with special appreciation for an unsung master. Crazy, of course, since Munro had been reaching tens of thousands of readers for decades with her stories in The New Yorker. But such is the unvarnished assuredness of Munro’s prose, the knowing intimacy of her plots—it is easy to believe she is writing for you alone.
The horror, the horror—oh, how we love the horror. Creepy children, bloodlust and white specters dominate the best novels for sending chills down your spine this Halloween.