If someone were to recommend a funny novel about the London Blitz, you might think either that the person was joking or that such a book could only be tasteless and disrespectful. In some cases you’d be right, but in the case of Crooked Heart, British author Lissa Evans’ American debut, you’d be in for a pleasant surprise. Evans has written an amusing tale about morally compromised characters that, in the midst of its comedy, asks whether morally wrong actions are justified in a time of unspeakable horror.
Three novels explore the hardships, complexities and a few triumphs within families, from the 1920s homestead to present-day Europe, make for great group discussion this month.
Inspect Europe today, and you would struggle to believe that its greatest scuffles were once about anything other than bailouts and shared currency, or Eurovision and football. Yet 2015 marks the bicentennial of a battle that stands as a summation of that continent's centuries of bloody wars, particularly those of the 20th: Waterloo. Two new books take different approaches to remembering this conflict.
When 22-year-old Alice becomes pregnant out of wedlock in the early 1930s, both she and her family fear disgrace. Her mother sends her from London to the Gloucestershire countryside to await the baby’s birth at a place called Fiercombe Manor, after which she will give the baby to an orphanage. Her mother’s old friend, Mrs. Jelphs, is the housekeeper at the empty manor, and she promises to keep watch over Alice, who has concocted a cover story of a recently deceased husband.
A moment can change everything. Nat Weary learns that in a hurry. One minute, he was a World War II veteran on bended knee, proposing to his sweetheart during a concert in their hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. The next, Weary spots several men armed with pipes heading toward the performer, his childhood friend Nat “King” Cole.
Peter Schoeffer has no choice. Johann Fust raised him as his own son, and Peter owes him everything—even if that means he must do the work of the devil.
A chance discovery of an old biography at The Strand inspired journalist Alix Christie's debut novel, Gutenberg's Apprentice, which tells the story of the invention of moveable type and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible. In this essay, Christie explains how her lifelong love of letterpress printing left her uniquely suited to fictionalize this remarkable true story.
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, May 2014
Paris may be known as the City of Light, but in Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, it serves as the backdrop for some of the darkest events of human history—and for an exhilarating new novel from writer Francine Prose.
Francine Prose has written more than 20 books, including the National Book Award finalist Blue Angel, so the term “breakout book” doesn’t really apply. But her new historical novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, is poised to become her biggest hit yet. Told from various perspectives, the novel pieces together the life of Lou Villars—auto racer, cross-dresser and eventual Nazi sympathizer—against the turbulent backdrop of Jazz Age Paris. We asked Prose a few questions about the new book. Read on to find out about her own double identity and why she writes for readers like herself.
James Scott has been compared, justifiably, to Michael Ondaatje and Cormac McCarthy. But his debut novel, The Kept, as bleak as McCarthy and as lush as Ondaatje, seems at times an assemblage of beautiful sentences without purpose.