In novels like Year of Wonders, People of the Book and the Pulitzer Prize-winning March, Geraldine Brooks has demonstrated an ability to transform history into compelling, distinctive fiction. That talent is undiminished in The Secret Chord, a vivid re-creation of the life of King David.
If James Joyce can devote an entire novel to one day in the life of the people of Dublin, why can’t Homer Hickam devote a novel to the delivery of Albert the alligator to Florida? Especially when that journey treats readers to labor strikes, car chases, hijinks on the high seas, Hollywood movies and a fateful hurricane—not to mention cameo appearances by literary competitors John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway. Add to this a rooster perched imperturbably on Albert’s head, and you have the makings of an intentionally improbable, bizarre trip through Southern Americana that is a tall tale blend of fact and fiction.
Clare Clark’s novel of the dislocations that befall an aristocratic English family during and right after World War I is beautifully written and enjoyable, but the reader has to wonder if it would have been published had we not been living in the age of “Downton Abbey.” Of course it might have, as the popular TV show has plenty of collateral ancestors of its own: Think Brideshead Revisited and those nice books by Nancy Mitford. Still, the full name of one of the characters of We That Are Left includes the name Crawford. It’s not Crawley, but it’s close enough for jazz, as they say.
Few writers seem to understand the difficult balance between historical detail and suspense better than Edgar Award finalist Matthew Guinn. His second novel, The Scribe, is a master class in historical mystery.
Take a seat, front row center, and get ready for a show, as Elly Griffiths weaves her authorial magic on a new stage. Leaving her popular Ruth Galloway series aside for the moment, Griffiths enters the world of showmanship and sleight of hand, focusing on a very special troupe of magicians.
In the town of Steeple Chase, Pennsylvania, there’s not much for a poor farm girl other than a life of looming drudgery. And this is why, in The Hired Girl, the farmer’s daughter wises up and escapes the farm toil, striking out on her own to push back against the societal, cultural and patriarchal confines that threaten the rest of her days.
Tom Piazza’s new novel is a crisply told tale of race relations in Philadelphia a few years before the Civil War, one that brings into sharp relief the tensions that beset Northern society even as it was about to go to war to rid the nation of slavery.
Last Bus to Wisdom is told by an orphan. He’s Donal Cameron, a Montana boy who is 11 years old in 1951. The flinty grandmother who raised him after his parents were killed needs an operation. This means Donny needs to go live with Gram’s somewhat estranged sister in Wisconsin. To do this he has to go Greyhound or, as they said back in the day, ride the dog bus. Having ridden the dog bus fairly frequently over the years, this reviewer braced herself for a horror story.
Atmospheric, moody and evocative—these words describe Alice Hoffman’s latest achievement, The Marriage of Opposites. And that is no accident, because they also accurately describe the 19th-century artistic movement known as Impressionism, founded by Camille Pissarro, the third son Rachel Pomié bore to her second husband, Frédérick.
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.