There is a strong tradition of Irish writers—William Trevor, Edna O’Brien and Colm Tóibín come immediately to mind—who can turn the everyday details of an ordinary life into art. Add to these ranks Mary Costello, whose deceptively slender first novel, Academy Street, takes in the full measure of one woman’s quietly tragic life in fewer than 200 pages.
Set in upstate New York just after the Civil War, Jeffrey Lent’s latest book is a bit puzzling. To be blunt, it ends just when things are getting really interesting. It’s not that things haven’t been interesting from the beginning: By page three we’ve been witness to a double murder. The murderer’s name is Malcolm Hopeton, and he’s returned from the war only to find that half of his farm has been sold out from under him and his wife is canoodling with his hired man—the type who, in the old days, would have been called a cur. In his fury, Malcolm even injures his hired boy, Harlan Davis, who has witnessed the whole tawdry mess. As for Malcolm, he resigns himself to the gallows. But will he hang, after all?
Three of 2014's most acclaimed novels are now out in paperback and are sure to spark thoughtful discussion in reading groups this month.
If you were born in 1800, there was a 50 percent chance that you would die before your fifth birthday. Popular sports of the day were often bloody: bear- or badger-baiting, cockfighting and, of course, bare-knuckle boxing.
As The Strangler Vine opens, William Avery is a typical young soldier in 1830’s colonial India: deep in debt, disdainful of Indian “barbarity,” stalled in his career and desperate to make it back to Devonshire before the cholera picks him off.
Historical novels that use real people, eras and achievements as a springboard can sometimes become overworked lessons of the history on which they’re treading. Other times, they can be inspired, original works that remind us of both the importance of history and the timeless concerns of our own humanity. Thankfully, The Architect’s Apprentice is the latter.
A search for an elusive sea monster at the height of World War II sounds like the plot of a genre-mashup movie. But in At the Water’s Edge, the latest novel from Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen, what starts out as a lark on the part of rich, entitled friends turns into a quest that is at times frightening, liberating and even comical.
Power comes from being in the limelight. That’s the lesson Miranda Ford takes away from her second-runner-up win at the 18th annual Miss Daviess County Fair Pageant. As the winner and first-runner-up involuntarily step aside, Miranda becomes queen—a position she’s determined never to lose.
A beautifully written tale that is a blend of mystery, ghost story and very real human tragedy, The World Before Us is a story about what is missing—and also about what is always present.
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.