It has been 20 years since Julia MacDonnell wrote her first novel, A Year of Favor. But readers will find her highly entertaining and heartfelt second novel, Mimi Malloy, at Last!, well worth the wait.
Ayelet Waldman (Red Hook Road, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits) has written about personal tragedy numerous times: failed marriages, the struggles of motherhood, divided families. Her latest novel, Love & Treasure, deals with a larger human tragedy: the true story of the Hungarian Gold Train during World War II. It is a slight departure from her previous work, and yet, it remains just as powerful and inspiring.
Who risks the most when a literary lion well into his ninth decade writes a novel? The legend, who is putting his legacy on the line, or the longtime reader, who shoulders the load of vicarious shame in the event the book is a mess?
With In Paradise, readers can rest assured the risk is worthwhile.
It’s good to know that a female protagonist doesn’t have to be “nice” in order to be compelling. In Cara Hoffman’s latest novel, Be Safe I Love You, returning Iraqi war vet Lauren Clay is anything but nice. Indeed, the reader might be tempted, at first, to call her hateful. But as you read on, it dawns on you that the Lauren who enlisted as a soldier because of the fat signing bonus that would keep the wolves away from the door of her impoverished family isn’t the Lauren who has returned. The word that kept going through this reviewer’s head was “revenant.”
To marry their daughters off, four social-climbing men in 1790s London hatch a plot: Buy a pianoforte (the au courant instrument of the late 18th century) and have them give a concert that will have noblemen lined up for their hands in marriage.
The ladies are as varied as their fathers are ambitious: emaciated Georgiana; Everina with her unfortunate false teeth; mysterious Alathea; and the Brass sisters, practical Harriet and lumpy Marianne.
Leah Hager Cohen’s new novel, No Book but the World, takes its title from a quote by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Ava and her younger brother, Fred, were raised by progressive parents who followed Rousseau’s “free” education and parenting model, letting their children discover the world on their own and without inhibitions or formal constrictions. Memories of their imaginative childhood in the woods flood forth as an adult Ava visits the town where her brother is now in jail.
The story of the once-successful novelist trapped in the throes of writer’s block, personal woes and emotional contemplation is a favorite of many novelists, from Stephen King to Michael Chabon, but lesser versions of the tale often veer into the realm of plodding semi-autobiographical navel-gazing and serve the writer more than the book itself. With her latest novel, Tatiana de Rosnay not only avoids the pitfalls of the struggling-novelist story, but also obliterates them with a lush, beautifully rendered saga layered with secrets, scandal and, yes, an exploration of what it means to be a writer who’s terrified of having nothing left to say.
Irish-born author Emma Donoghue returns to historical fiction with her first novel since the 2010 runaway bestseller Room. Frog Music was inspired by a real-life unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco, a good three decades after the Gold Rush. Cross-dressing Jenny, a voice of surprising common sense amid the wild culture of the time, was shot in cold blood at her friend Blanche’s house, and the murderer was never found.
Worst. Person. Ever., Douglas Coupland’s new novel, is engaging, funny and a rocking good read. As the title implies, the main character, Raymond Gunt, is not a nice person. The book is written in the first person, in what is known as the “unreliable narrator” style. Ray Gunt is a highly unreliable narrator.
There’s a stranger in Claudia Morgan-Brown’s house. The Birmingham, England, social worker has what should be an enviable life: Newly married to a wealthy naval officer, she lives in a palatial house and is step-parenting his adorable twin boys. And after a string of heartbreaking miscarriages with her ex, she’s finally expecting a baby girl of her own. But there’s a problem: the new live-in nanny, Zoe Harcomb.