A notable tourist attraction in Thailand is the bridge “over the River Kwai”—part of the Death Railway built during World War II by the Japanese using the labor of Allied POWs under atrocious conditions. The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Australian Richard Flanagan, follows the Australian contributors to this grandiose project, as well as its Japanese administrators, many of whom were destined to become prisoners themselves.
Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters) traces the lasting damage of violence to devastating effect in her second novel, Evergreen, a fairy tale-like chronicle of how one moment’s pain can echo through generations.
The lives of twin siblings are often deeply intertwined—first physically, and later emotionally, mentally and spiritually—and Josh Weil’s The Great Glass Sea explores the tender, yet tenuous, relationship between Russian twin brothers Yarik and Dima. Though they have been inseparable since childhood, life with the Oranzheria, a sea of glass stretching over a section of the country to make the largest greenhouse in the world, is slowly pushing them apart.
Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House is an appealing mixture: part archival mystery, part ghost story, part historical novel, starring a house with as much personality as Manderley or Hill House. Told in reverse chronology, it unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt, uncovering clues and putting pieces of the fictional puzzle in place.
If the dystopian coming-of-age novel has been the inspiration for many a Hollywood blockbuster in recent years, the increasingly ubiquitous genre more closely resembles literary fiction in critically acclaimed author Chris Bohjalian’s Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands.
Someone is setting fire to the houses of Pomeroy, New Hampshire, in Sue Miller’s latest novel, but that’s beside the point. The important thing is that Francesca “Frankie” Rowley has returned from a long sojourn in Africa as an aid worker and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. Besides, the thing that lights her fire is Bud Jacobs, the local newspaper editor whose life is just as up in the air as hers is. The two launch a passionate affair even as everyone else’s summer home is being torched.
In Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, McSweeney’s founder (and 2012 National Book Award finalist for A Hologram for the King) Dave Eggers breaks out of the blocks at record-setting pace, depositing the reader, his protagonist and a captive astronaut in an abandoned building without even so much as a how-de-do.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is a novel that is both highly celebrated and much hated. Termed “diffuse” and “pretentious” by the likes of Virginia Woolf, the dense book is the subject of much debate within the literary community, with some dismissing it and others embracing it (but very few fully understanding it). Either way, it’s inarguable that Ulysses has made an indelible cultural mark since its publication in 1922. And the release of Maya Lang’s debut novel, The Sixteenth of June, provides more evidence of its lasting influence.
Following the success of his critically acclaimed debut, The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman returns with an ambitious new novel, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. Along with a plucky protagonist named Tooly Zylberberg, Rachman whisks readers away on a whirlwind jaunt around the globe, through the waning days of the 20th century and into the dawn of the 21st.
As the United States exits two protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s easy to forget that nearly 100,000 defense-related Americans remain in Japan, a country with which the U.S. ceased hostilities nearly 70 years ago. The American bases occupy about one-fifth of Okinawa, an island unfortunate to have served as a rampart for the Japanese mainland during the war and as an aircraft carrier for the Americans after it. Above the East China Sea by Sarah Bird attempts to bridge the gap between these two phases in Okinawan history.