Three acclaimed novels focused on history and family dynamics are sure to spark discussion in your reading groups this month.
Readers of Amy Bloom’s riotous new novel, Lucky Us, might want to pack a few snacks and buckle their seatbelts for this highly entertaining ride, which kicks off when half-sisters Eva and Iris hightail it from small-town Ohio to pursue their dreams in Hollywood.
It’s been quite a run lately for Civil War-era African Americans. Not only was Solomon Northrup’s 1853 memoir, Twelve Years a Slave, adapted into a triple Academy Award winner (including Best Picture), but now author Jeffery Renard Allen has resurrected the career—if perhaps not quite the true life story—of Thomas Greene Wiggins, also known as Blind Tom, in his second novel, Song of the Shank. Wiggins was perhaps the most unlikely of stars ever thrust on the international stage; sightless, probably autistic, heavyset (though somewhat handsome in a rough-hewn way) and, for the first 16 years of his life, a slave.
World War II-era nurse Claire Randall stumbled through a stone circle into the 18th century—and straight into the hearts of readers, who have gobbled up Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series since its 1991 debut. Gabaldon returned this summer with Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, the eighth book in the series—and this month the first book, Outlander, has been turned into a TV series that will air on Starz. We asked Gabaldon a few questions about the series and the new book.
Three of the most highly anticipated novels from 2013 are now available in paperback, and they're sure to spark discussion in your reading group.
Warning to the reader: It is impossible for this review to proceed without a number of spoilers. In case anyone still holds the charming belief (as I do) that the mechanics of plot have a bearing on our enjoyment of a novel, the reviewer feels obliged to perform his task up front. I shall do it The Quick (pardon the pun) way: If you are a fan of literary Gothic—think Susanna Clarke or John Harwood—buy this book. You won’t regret it.
With The Quick, Lauren Owen has created a brilliant literary debut to rival the work of classic Gothic authors like Radcliffe and Brontë.
At the age of 2, Laura Bridgman lost four of her five senses to illness. Several years later, she was taken to the Perkins Institute in Boston where, under the tutelage and guidance of Samuel Ridley Howe she not only learned how to communicate, but became one of the 19th century’s most notable women. Yet few people know about her today. Kimberly Elkins’ stunning debut, What Is Visible, promises to change all that.
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, June 2014
The best historical fiction offers readers a new look at a well-known subject, or illuminates an episode or individual that has been lost to history. Playwright Kimberly Elkins achieves the latter in What Is Visible, a strikingly original debut novel about Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person to communicate through finger spelling.
Chinese-American author Lisa See has made her mark in the realm of historical fiction by melding her well-researched historical sagas with strong female characters linked either by birth, as in Shanghai Girls (2009) and Dreams of Joy (2011), or by lifelong friendship, as in her breakout book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (2005).