The terrible waste of war—especially its unrelenting effect on those who somehow survive—lies at the center of Sebastian Faulks’ 13th novel. Where My Heart Used to Beat is a return to historical fiction, the genre Faulks is best known for thanks to bestsellers like Birdsong.
Three American women become ensconced in the cultural mélange of Hong Kong’s expat community in Janice Y.K. Lee’s absorbing, character-driven novel, following 2009’s The Piano Teacher. The author, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, opens her novel with a spot-on description of that sprawling city’s expat contingent—the Chinese, Irish, French, Koreans and Americans—“a veritable UN of fortune-seekers.” They have come for their jobs, or their husbands’ jobs; for six months, a year, maybe three years or more. And they have no idea what to expect from their temporary new home.
Howard Frank Mosher’s bailiwick for more than 40 years, and the setting for many of his 12 previous books, both fiction and nonfiction, is Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom—called God’s Kingdom by its earliest settlers. This nickname serves as the title for Mosher’s latest novel, which follows the Kinneson family, whose roots in Vermont go back to Charles Kinneson I, who arrived from the Scottish Isle of Skye in the late 18th century. It’s mostly the story of Jim Kinneson, who turned 14 in 1952, and began to write down the family stories gradually passed down to him.
Julianna Baggot’s latest novel refuses to be confined to only one genre. Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders is a captivating multigenerational family saga, a love story and a mystery—tinged with a bit of fantasy.
Robin Kirman’s first novel, Bradstreet Gate, is set amidst the hallowed halls of Harvard, peopled mostly by elite young scholars and their erudite professors and mentors. Her story revolves around three of these students, whose lives become entwined over the course of their undergraduate years—and remain so over the next decade.
The setting of Sara Taylor’s ambitious and unique debut novel is The Shore—three islands off the coast of Virginia, just south of Maryland, “trailing out into the Atlantic Ocean like someone’s dripped paint.”
Screenwriter and author Lisa Lutz is well known for her zany mystery series starring Izzy Spellman, private eye. Here she jumps into mainstream women’s fiction with How to Start a Fire, an engaging portrait of female friendship spanning two decades. In 1993, when all three are students at UC Santa Cruz, freshman roommates Kate and Anna find George passed out on the lawn outside the party they had all attended. The three young women quickly become friends during their undergraduate years and beyond, the bonds between them tightening and loosening over the years.
“Anna was a good wife, mostly.” So opens Jill Alexander Essbaum’s remarkable debut novel, the mesmerizing story of Anna Benz, an American expatriate who has lived in Zurich for nine years with her husband, Bruno—a Swiss banker—and their three children.
David Treuer’s fourth novel, Prudence, is set in northern Minnesota, near the Leech Lake Reservation where he grew up. It opens in August 1942, as Frankie Washburn is returning to the Pines, the resort owned by his parents, for a brief visit before joining the war as a bombardier. The reunion is fraught with negative memories from the past, especially the distance between Frankie and his father, Jonathan. Frankie’s sexual orientation, although never mentioned, is planted like a wall between them. Frankie’s mother is oblivious, her main concern in life being the upkeep of the Pines itself.
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.