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.
Three thought-provoking novels from 2013 are now available in paperback, perfect for sparking discussion in your reading group.
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.
Excellent books from Charles Finch, Lachlan Smith and former secretary of defense Robert Gates make for great listening.
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.
Three short-story stalwarts showcase their acclaimed skills with their first collections in several years, while a newcomer who’s made his name in television and movies demonstrates that his talents aren’t limited to the screen.
California-born author Maggie Shipstead returns to fiction with a dazzling second novel, Astonish Me. The story of a ballerina that spans decades, it's as sharply observed as it is entertaining—and was our April 2014 Top Pick in Fiction. We asked Shipstead a few questions about the book.
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.