As someone who loves both curmudgeons and cats, I was delighted to see that grammar grump Lynne Truss (Eats, Shoots & Leaves) had gone feline with her first novel, Cat Out of Hell. Already on sale in Britain, it will be published in the U.S. in March, by Melville House. (Listed in the catalog selling points: "Cat on the cover!" This is certainly a draw for me.)
However. Truss' opinion of our feline friends is characteristically skeptical. She launches her horror spoof with the premise that cats have the potential for evil. In fact, some cats are so human-phobic that they don't trust cats who get along with humans . . . and are intent on destroying them. Can one widowed academic foil this plot? And what did his wife have to do with the mystery?
It seems that the summer 2015 season is off to a good start: We've just heard that Sara Gruen, who made her name with Water for Elephants, will release a new book on June 2—and it's a return to historical fiction.
Though few plot details are available, At the Water's Edge is set in 1942 and follows three Americans who travel to Scotland on a quest to find the Loch Ness monster. Sounds like quite the adventure! Will you read it?
Best-selling British author Amanda Prowse, who often draws comparisons to the beloved Jodi Picoult, is making her U.S. debut this fall. After her self-published debut, Poppy Day, took off in 2011, Prowse was picked up by Head of Zeus and has become a household name across the pond.
What Have I Done? is the second novel in Prowse's No Greater Love series, and it hits American shelves for the first time next week. The story follows Kathryn Booker, the wife of the beloved headmaster of Mountbriers Academy, a posh private school. To the average onlooker, Kathryn lives a life of domestic bliss: She lives in a charming cottage with a perfectly manicured garden; she has a doting husband and two precocious children. But Kathryn knows it's all a lie, and every day she endures abuse from her astonishingly cruel husband, until one day, she decides to break free.
Kathryn Booker watched the life slip from him, convinced she saw the black spirit snake out of his body and disappear immediately through the floor, spiraling down and down. She sat back in her chair and breathed deeply. She had expected euphoria or at the very least relief. What she couldn't have predicted was the numbness that now enveloped her. Picturing her children sleeping next door, she closed her eyes and wished for them a deep and peaceful rest, knowing it would be the last they would enjoy for some time. As ever, consideration of what was best for her son and daughter was only a thought away.
The room felt quite empty beside the blood-soaked body lying centrally on the bed. The atmosphere was peaceful, the temperature just right.
Kathryn registered the smallest flicker of disappointment; she had expected to feel more . . .
"Emergency, which service do you require?"
"Oh, hello, yes, I'm not too sure which service I require."
"You are not sure?"
"I think I probably need the police or ambulance, maybe both. Sorry. As I said, I'm not too sure . . ."
"Can I ask you what it is in connection with, madam?"
"Oh, right, yes, of course. I have just murdered my husband."
What are you reading?
Today the final National Book Award category longlist was announced. For the authors involved, that means it's time for nervous hand-wringing to commence. For readers, well, it's time to dig into those lists and start reading, dissecting the judges' motives and/or rooting for your favorite . . . which is exactly what we're doing at BookPage! Read on for the behind-the-scenes action.
I’m pulling for young, experimental poet Maureen N. McLane—third er, collection’s the charm, right? The New York University English professor blends lush natural imagery with pointed, contemporary syntax in This Blue. At once playful and profoundly sobering, these poems examine mankind’s history and our tendency to exploit and abuse the beauty of our earth. Now is the perfect time to dive in if you missed this fantastic collection during National Poetry Month.
—Hilli Levin, Editorial Assistant
Looking at the NBA’s nonfiction longlist reminds me of the old “Sesame Street” song: One of these things is not like the others. Roz Chast’s hilarious and moving graphic memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, stands out from a crowd of traditional narrative history and biography. Could Chast emerge as the winner? It seems highly unlikely, but I’m thrilled to see her deeply personal look at the perils of aging among this year’s contenders.
—Lynn Green, Editor
One farm. One family. One hundred years. Jane Smiley is taking on a seriously ambitious literary project with her Last Hundred Years trilogy, so it doesn’t surprise me a bit that the first novel, Some Luck, grabbed a spot on the NBA longlist this year. This installment takes us through the life of the Langdons from 1920 to 1953, and if the next two books are anywhere near as marvelously executed, then don’t be surprised if the critical praise and award nominations continue to flow her way.
—Hilli Levin, Editorial Assistant
It might feel shocking to see John Darnielle, a man most famous for being the lead singer of The Mountain Goats, on the NBA longlist for his first novel, Wolf in White Van. But when you consider the fact that his lyrics might as well be poetry or short stories, it's really not that surprising. Blame it on my love of the underdog, but I'm hoping for a win for this musician-turned-novelist.
I'm also rooting for Molly Antopol and her quietly beautiful collection of short stories, The UnAmericans, because, well, wow. She's under 35 and this is her debut work of fiction. I'm under 35 and I just googled "how to handwash stuff" so I find this immensely impressive.
—Lily McLemore, Assistant Editor
As the fiction editor at BookPage, I'm starting to have a visceral reaction to the descriptor "post-apocalyptic fiction." But Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven brings a breath of fresh air to the genre with her fourth novel, a beautiful and deeply felt story that uses its dystopian setting to explore our very human need for shared culture, art and stories. Here's hoping this original and insightful work moves on to the shortlist.
—Trisha Ping, Managing Editor
It’s no surprise to see Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, on this list, and you’ll likely see it on several more award lists before the end of the year. Her accessible and poignant story shares what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and ’70s in a country “caught / between Black and White” and how writing helped her find her voice.
Also, is there any living writer who better captures the hilarity, messiness (sexual, social and emotional) and adventure of being a teenage boy than Andrew Smith? Not likely. Although I thought Grasshopper Jungle was the better of his two books that came out this year, 100 Sideways Miles is another winner—and it’s about time Smith was publicly and widely recognized for his talent.
—Cat Acree, Associate Editor
Centered around Fiona Maye—a high-powered English judge appointed to the Family Proceedings Court of London’s High Court—McEwan's 13th novel is rife with conflicts of love, law and morality.
Fiona's marriage is being torn asunder by the "slow decline of ardour" and her husband's request for permission to take a mistress. But her work life soon becomes equally fraught when Fiona is assigned to the case of a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness suffering from leukemia who has declined the blood transfusion that may save his life.
Our reviewer has high praise for this slow burning novel, especially for "McEwan’s keen judgment of human character and his ability to translate it so deftly that through his characters we can see ourselves with new eyes."
Watch the mesmerizing trailer below:
What do you think, readers?
Canadian author Emily St. John Mandel's artfully haunting new novel Station Eleven is our September Top Pick in fiction!
After a major flu pandemic wipes out a huge portion of the world's population, a group of traveling performers strive to bring art back to those left behind in the rubble: “What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still so much beauty.”
Post-apocalyptic stories may seem a bit overdone for some, but Mandel's is an especially unique take.
Watch the trailer from Knopf below:
What do you think, readers? Interested in reading more about Station Eleven? Check out an interview with Mandel here.
So, you did it. You made it through all 700+ pages of Donna Tartt's epic, Pulitzer-winning third novel, hauling it on the plane, balancing its considerable weight on your knees at the beach, or trading sympathetic looks with those who were also struggling to turn the pages while clinging to a pole on the subway.
Now you're hungry for a book that's just like it. Let's go with the bad news first: There is no book that's exactly like The Goldfinch. But the good news is there are plenty of books that should resonate with Goldfinch readers in various ways. Read on for our list.
If Tartt's wrenching portrait of a young boy coping with the loss of a parent was your favorite thing about The Goldfinch, pick up Foer's emotional second novel. This story of a vulnerable young boy, Oskar, who is mourning the death of his father in the 9/11 attacks, is heartfelt and poignant.
James Wood's takedown of The Goldfinch in The New Yorker accused the novel of hewing too close to the tropes of children's literature, with the quaint basement shop in the West Village and the Hagrid-like figure of Hobie being the worst offenders. These elements just added to the novel's charm for me, and recalled childhood favorites like Nesbit's Five Children and It—highly recommended for readers of any age who don't mind a little magic in their literature.
Was the art underworld drama what kept the pages turning? If so, don't miss Theft: A Love Story, the 2006 tale of a formerly famous artist who gets caught up in a scheme to produce fake expressionist paintings. As you'd expect from a two-time Booker winner, Carey is a top-notch writer, and his first-hand experience with the New York art scene provides a satire as authentic as a reader could hope for.
Readers who thrilled to the backstory of Fabritius and Amsterdam's Golden Age should pick up The Miniaturist, Burton's meticulously detailed first novel set in 1689 Amsterdam, where a newlywed country girl must negotiate the secrets of her new family—and of the city's high society. Though the mystery element is a bit flawed, Burton's writing chops—especially when it comes to her depiction of Amsterdam itself—are strongly evident.
The permanence of art vs. the impermanence of human life is one of the strongest themes in Tartt's book—and it's also the focus of the fourth novel from Canadian writer Mandel, Station Eleven. Years after a devastating flu decimates the population, a young woman is on the deserted roads with a traveling theatre troupe, performing Shakespeare plays and playing music. Her talisman is a one-of-a-kind graphic novel that she guards carefully.
If the "bromance" between Theo and his Eastern European best friend, Boris, was what got you hooked on The Goldfinch, we recommend the work of Andrew Smith, especially Grasshopper Jungle. Smith can hold his own with Tartt when it comes to teenaged-boy speak, and the BFFs in this book, Austin and Robby, are almost as debauched as Theo and Boris—and Austin is even Polish.
What do you think, readers? What would you suggest reading after The Goldfinch?
RELATED CONTENT: Read our previous "Read it Next" posts.
Peter Carey, one of the few authors to win the Booker Prize twice, returns next year with a new novel. Amnesia (Knopf) will be published on January 13.
The story follows an Australian journalist who is investigating a link between the U.S. and Australian prison systems that was revealed when a computer virus allowed the release of not only several thousand Australian asylum-seekers, but also opened the doors of some five thousand U.S. prisons. Did the attacker do it for the lulz, or is this a case of hacktivism?
Carey's British editor calls the book "a thrilling and witty journey to the place where the cyber underworld of radicals and hackers collides with international power politics" that "could not be more timely."
Will you read it?
Anita Diamant is known for her thought-provoking novels about women's lives, from Biblical times (as in her 1997 bestseller The Red Tent) to the present day (2005's The Last Days of Dogtown). She's returning this December with her first novel in five years, The Boston Girl (Scribner).
The novel tells the story of Addie Baum, born in 1900 to Jewish parents who have recently arrived in Boston. Though the Baums came to America to get a better life for their three daughters, the precocious Addie's world is almost unrecognizable to them. Told in the voice of the 85-year-old Addie, who is looking back on her life, The Boston Girl becomes the story of the 20th century and the ever-changing roles of women within it.
Will you read it?
RELATED CONTENT: Don't miss our previous coverage of Anita Diamant.
Laird Hunt's newest historical novel centers on a particularly under-the-radar aspect of the Civil War.
In Neverhome, Hunt focuses on an Indiana farmer's wife, Constance, who disguises herself as a man in order to enlist with the Union Army. Her fearless nature, stoicism and marksmanship quickly impress her peers, and she earns respect on the battlefield.
However, this game of keeping up appearances becomes too difficult after a trip to the nurse, and Ash is exposed to her superiors: Her mesmerizing, heart-rending journey from her jail cell back to her beloved Bartholomew is sure to absolutely captivate readers.
Watch the Ken Burns-inspired narrative trailer below:
What do you think, readers? Are you interested in checking out Neverhome?