The stupendously wealthy 5th Duke of Portland had a very weird obsession: building underground. At his order, tunnels, a ballroom, a church and a vast network of chambers were constructed underneath his estate at Welbeck Abbey in England. It might also be said he lived an underground life, avoiding human contact whenever possible. He communicated with his servants by written message and traveled mostly at night, with a lantern attached to his belt.
As you’d imagine from the title, bats are a key element in Zachary Thomas Dodson’s intricately constructed and elaborately illustrated debut. But the book’s real spirit animal is the ouroboros: a snake eating its own tail. Built as a novel within a novel, with supporting material in the form of letters and journal pages and drawings (all reproduced here as if photocopied from an archive), Bats of the Republic follows a pair of adventurous young men, several generations apart, on similar missions.
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.
Sloane Crosley is a familiar name to many readers of nonfiction, both for her self-deprecating essay collections and her contributions to the New York Times. Now she lends her insight and sense of humor to the world of fiction in a debut novel, The Clasp.
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.
Howard Frank Mosher’s bailiwick for more than 40 years, and the setting for many of his 12 previous books, both fiction and nonfiction, is Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom—called God’s Kingdom by its earliest settlers. This nickname serves as the title for Mosher’s latest novel, which follows the Kinneson family, whose roots in Vermont go back to Charles Kinneson I, who arrived from the Scottish Isle of Skye in the late 18th century. It’s mostly the story of Jim Kinneson, who turned 14 in 1952, and began to write down the family stories gradually passed down to him.
For more than 400 years, Shakespeare’s works have been performed throughout the world— retold, reinterpreted and reinvented for each generation. Now, the Hogarth Shakespeare series is giving that opportunity to several of the most acclaimed contemporary novelists of our day. British writer Jeanette Winterson is the first to take on the challenge with The Gap of Time, a refashioning of The Winter’s Tale. Winterson’s own experience as an adopted child gives a special meaning to this story of an abandoned daughter.
In 2010, musician Patti Smith published Just Kids, a radiant memoir about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their lives as bohemian babes-in-the-woods in New York City. Set in the 1960s and ’70s, the story of their coming-of-age as artists—Smith’s first full-length work of prose—won the National Book Award. In her new memoir, M Train, Smith trades the circus atmosphere of the psychedelic era for the here and now, offering readers a remarkably intimate look at her life in New York City.
At 51, his days full of work and travel as an Emmy Award-winning correspondent for CNN, Tom Foreman relaxes in what free time he has. He ignores the added pounds and growing lethargy until the day his 18-year-old daughter asks, “Will you run a marathon with me?” Foreman is too loving a dad to say no, and way too far past his days as a competitive runner to rise easily to her challenge.