BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, April 2014
Frances Mayes’ lyrical memoir of growing up Southern was a long time coming. Worried about upsetting her family, she stopped and started Under Magnolia many times over: “Anytime I felt the impulse to start my Southern opus again, I instead headed for a movie or a new Thai restaurant,” she writes. “I’d go jogging or read a novel until the impulse faded.”
To marry their daughters off, four social-climbing men in 1790s London hatch a plot: Buy a pianoforte (the au courant instrument of the late 18th century) and have them give a concert that will have noblemen lined up for their hands in marriage.
The ladies are as varied as their fathers are ambitious: emaciated Georgiana; Everina with her unfortunate false teeth; mysterious Alathea; and the Brass sisters, practical Harriet and lumpy Marianne.
The women came from all over the nation—even the world—with little or no idea why they were moving to a remote New Mexico town with only a post office box for an address. They were the wives of scientists working at a secret research laboratory to build the first atomic bomb.
The damp practically floats off the pages in Astoria, the sweeping tale of John Jacob Astor’s attempt to settle the remote Pacific Northwest coast in 1810. Astor’s vast wealth enabled him to send two expeditions: one over land and one by ship. His plan was to set up a fur trade, the first on this particularly harsh stretch of the West Coast. Whoever could settle the area would lay claim to a vast area rich with sea otter and beaver fur, salmon and other seafood.
I was skeptical when I found out the author of The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating stars on “The Real Housewives of New York.” And when the epigram was a Lady Gaga quote, I thought I was in for a long slog. What a pleasant surprise, then, when the book turned out to be one of the richest, most deeply satisfying stories I’ve read in a long time.
Author Matthew Quick probably is tired of hearing the word “quirky,” but it really is the singularly best way to describe his storytelling. After his first novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Quick delivers a new story featuring Bartholomew Neil, a uniquely likeable protagonist who at nearly 40 has lived with his mother his entire life.
One of the unlikeliest marriages in American history—between a staunch conservative and a diehard liberal—is still going strong after 20 years.
When you are a rational human being, with free will and agency, is there any such thing as a point of no return? That’s the question Yvonne Carmichael finds herself asking after she’s charged with murder in this dark, intense, wholly engrossing British import, Apple Tree Yard. A well-known London scientist, Yvonne has spent her life on the straight-and-narrow: successful career, two...
When David MacLean woke up on a train platform in India, he had no idea who he was or why he was there. “It was darkness, darkness, darkness, then snap. Me. Now awake,” he writes. MacLean was hospitalized with severe hallucinations and near total amnesia. Officials assumed he was a foreigner who had taken too many drugs. The truth was that he was suffering from a reaction to an...
Bridget Jones aficionados will be thrilled that, after 14 years, there is a new installment about the adventures of this irrepressible British woman with a zest for life and wine.They may be less enthused to find out that Bridget is no longer with her love Mark Darcy (played to perfection—and with a wink to Pride and Prejudice—by Colin Firth in the movie). I won’t ruin things...