It takes a bold author to write about an event which is so historically hazy that even the novel’s narrator wonders, “How many people even remember it?”
Paul Murray’s hilarious and surreal third novel is once again set in his home country of Ireland. In the wake of the financial crisis, Dublin is full of half-completed construction projects and Occupy-style protest camps, but the financial sector of the city is set apart, mirroring the separation between the people whose lives financial policy affects and those who set it.
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.
Jonathan Franzen is a writer who swings for the fences, an ambition that attracts terabytes of online derision. Hold the derision. Franzen’s fifth novel, Purity, is quite simply his best, most textured, most plot-driven and, oddly enough, most optimistic novel to date.
An aspiring writer from an affluent Chicago suburb who never finishes anything he starts, Joshua Levin has never had to suffer much. His life is “a warm blanket,” in contrast to the lives of the immigrants he teaches as an ESL instructor, and his creative endeavors have been as futile and disheartening as the Cubs at nearby Wrigley Field. That is, until Joshua comes up with an idea for a script called Zombie Wars that could be his big break, and the sad but beautiful Bosnian woman in his class, Ana, starts to seduce him.
There is a strong tradition of Irish writers—William Trevor, Edna O’Brien and Colm Tóibín come immediately to mind—who can turn the everyday details of an ordinary life into art. Add to these ranks Mary Costello, whose deceptively slender first novel, Academy Street, takes in the full measure of one woman’s quietly tragic life in fewer than 200 pages.
In this gorgeously eclectic novel, Beatty tells the story of a black man cast out from his hometown of Dickens, California—a man considered to be a sellout for everything from listening to Neil Young and reading Franz Kafka to growing and selling watermelon for a living.
It’s a favorite trick among literary novelists: use a classic work of literature as a launching pad for an investigation into favored themes. Jean Rhys did it with Wide Sargasso Sea, a prequel of sorts to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. J.M. Coetzee has done it twice, first in Foe, in which he reimagined Robinson Crusoe from the perspective of a woman, and then, more daringly, in The Childhood of Jesus. Now essayist and playwright Caryl Phillips takes the work of a different Brontë—Emily—as the inspiration for his latest novel, The Lost Child.
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion famously wrote. In Rachel Cusk’s inventive novel, Outline, a parade of characters tell the sketchily drawn narrator their stories, and as these conversations or episodes unfold they weigh in on all manner of life’s issues, large and small—love and marriage, parenthood, aspirations and failures, even the...
This luminous novel is only Robinson’s fourth in a writing career that has spanned nearly as many decades—which makes each one of her works all the more precious.