Novelist and essayist Darryl Pinckney draws on the legacy of Christopher Isherwood’s 1930s expat classic, The Berlin Stories, in his second novel, Black Deutschland. Pinckney’s young, African-American narrator, Jed Goodfinch, makes repeated visits to Berlin in the decade before the Berlin Wall falls in 1989. Unlike Isherwood’s characters, however, Jed can openly state that the city’s thriving gay community is a big part of its appeal.
At the beginning of the German invasion of Poland during World War II, a young girl matures and crafts a life out of the madness of war.
At 18 years old, Lady Helen Wrexhall is poised and polished, if a bit too spirited. She’s ready to overcome her late mother’s traitorous legacy and make her debut presentation in the court of King George III. That is, until sinister Lord Carlston appears and introduces Helen to the darker side of Regency London and the demons that lurk in the shadows.
The terrible waste of war—especially its unrelenting effect on those who somehow survive—lies at the center of Sebastian Faulks’ 13th novel. Where My Heart Used to Beat is a return to historical fiction, the genre Faulks is best known for thanks to bestsellers like Birdsong.
From Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Gone Girl, contemporary marriage has frequently been subject to scathing literary portrayals. Andria Williams, however, may well be the first to set marital tribulations against the backdrop of a (literal) nuclear meltdown. Given this, ahem, explosive premise, it’s interesting to note that Williams’ debut eschews the extremities favored by the likes of Edward Albee or Gillian Flynn. The Longest Night is a closely observed study with its feet planted firmly in domestic realism.
Caroline Herschel’s prospects as a plain, poor and pox-scarred woman in 19th-century Germany are not good. Living in a cramped home surrounded by siblings and an affectionless mother, her only saviors are her brilliant older brother William—who moved to England—and her loving but sickly father, who after attending the wedding of a neighbor’s daughter wails to Caroline, “Oh, my dear. You are neither handsome nor rich. What is to be done?”
Kristina McMorris evokes such a strong sense of place that to open her books feels less like reading and more like traveling.
In The Hours Count, Jillian Cantor revisits a pivotal moment in American history and asks: What if Ethel and Julius Rosenberg—the only Americans to ever be executed for spying during the Cold War—were actually innocent?
Writers have been known to embellish facts for dramatic purposes. A possible embellishment provides part of the drama of Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise, the final novel by Oscar Hijuelos. This posthumous work, set in the late 19th and early 20th century, is more restrained than previous Hijuelos books, including the Pulitzer Prize winner The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. And the protagonists are as un-Hijuelos as you can get: Mark Twain and Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh explorer who achieved fame for his search for David Livingstone.
The Works Progress Administration of the 1930s and ’40s was a savior for American artists. Those meager checks alleviated financial concerns enough that the artists could pay rent and spend their off-hours drinking, cavorting and exploring their artistic passions.