Elizabeth Gilbert, the New York Times best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love, is back this October with her first novel in 12 years. Beautifully researched, Gilbert brings life to the Age of Enlightenment in a full-immersion reading experience that promises to be another inspiring story of faith, love and discovery.
Spanning the 18th and 19th centuries, The Signature of All Things begins with Henry Whittaker, who has risen from the bottom to become the richest man in Philadelphia after sailing the world with Captain Cook. His daughter, Alma, becomes a talented botanist with a strictly scientific mind. While working on her studies, Alma meets Ambrose Pike. An artist of beautiful orchids, Ambrose has the potential to show Alma a world of art and beauty that she has long ignored.
To learn more about the inspiration of Gilbert's latest novel, watch Viking's book trailer below.
What do you think, readers? Will you be reading The Signature of All Things?
It's a bit unusual for a literary debut to be followed by a sophomore novel the very next year. But in a world where attention spans are short, publishers seem reluctant to trust that their audience will remember even a standout debut a couple of years hence.
Or at least, that's one of the things that could be implied by the appearance of these two second novels from authors who made acclaimed debuts in early 2012. Both are following up on their success this fall, with books that are quite different from their previous work.
First up is Patrick Flanery, whose first novel, Absolution, was our Fiction Top Pick in April 2012. Set in South Africa, the book was a beautifully crafted, complicated moral tale of memory, guilt and the impossibility of truth that our reviewer called "literary fiction of the finest kind."
Flanery's second novel, Fallen Land, which will be published by Riverhead Books on August 15, is equally suspenseful and layered, but has a completely different setting: America, after the economic collapse. The financial fallout costs Paul Krovik his life as he knows it. Forced to sell his house, Paul moves into an adjoining bunker—unbeknownst to the family who buy the foreclosed home. Their destinies converge in a remarkable and shocking way as Flanery plumbs the depths of the failed American Dream.
Then there's Jennifer duBois, whose sophisticated first novel, The Partial History of Lost Causes, was published in March 2012. By combining the stories of two very different main characters, each facing their own personal lost cause, duBois was able to explore complicated questions about hope and the human spirit. Why do we continue even in the face of impossible odds? (read an excerpt here)
In October, Random House will release duBois' second book, Cartwheel. Like Fallen Land, it's a big departure from her debut. Loosely based on the story of Amanda Knox, Cartwheel is a psychological thriller. Entitled, intelligent, charming and a bit careless, American exchange student Lily Hayes plans to spend her semester abroad soaking up the culture and nightlife of Buenos Aires and perfecting her Mexican-restaurant Spanish. She shares an apartment and a host family with Katy Kellers. From her perfect hair to her "platonic ideal" teeth, contained, driven and regimented Katy seems to be the opposite of Lily in every way. Five weeks after her arrival in Argentina, Katy is murdered, and Lily is the prime suspect. In chapters that alternate between before and after the murder, and are seen through the eyes of Lily, her parents and the prosecutor who takes on her case, readers discover the history of the roommates and must decide whether Lily is guilty.
Did you catch these authors' debuts? Which follow-up sounds most interesting?
Have you finished The Hunger Games trilogy? Read your Harry Potter books to pieces? Been through the His Dark Materials novels too many times to count? Well, this fall, there's a new post-apocalyptic series in town. It's ambitious, complex—and the brainchild of an author who was still at university when she finished the first book.
The Bone Season will be published by Bloomsbury on August 20, and the buzz is already building. It's the first in a projected seven-book series from Samantha Shannon, a 21-year-old who has just graduated from Oxford University, and it's already been optioned for film by Imaginarium Studios. Set in 2059 Britain, a world where psychic abilities are commonplace—and illegal—the book stars 19-year-old Paige Mahoney. Part Lisbeth Salander, part Oliver Twist, Paige is part of an underground gang of clairvoyants who try to undermine the authority of the security force currently in charge of the country, Scion.
But when Paige's rare dreamwalking talent is revealed, she is captured and thrown into a prison colony in Oxford, a city that most believe has been destroyed. Oxford is the realm of the Rephaim, powerful, magical beings whom even Scion fear. And that's just the beginning of the discoveries for our heroine, who develops a complicated relationship with the Rephaim who is charged with her care.
If you couldn't tell by this description, there's a LOT going on in The Bone Season. But though complicated, Shannon's world is meticulously detailed and has a strong internal logic that becomes clear to the patient reader. And while you wait for that to kick in, there's plenty of entertaining action—the pace of The Bone Season seldom slacks off, and the strong and resourceful Paige is a memorable heroine. Early days yet, but this is one buzz book that just might merit its hype. You can watch a trailer for the book here. Will you pick this one up?
Related content: Samantha Shannon was one of our 2013 Women to Watch.
It's been seven years since McDermott published After This, and fans have been eager for another novel from the insightful, lyrical American author, who won the 1998 National Book Award for Charming Billy.
Her new novel, Someone, will be published by FSG on September 10. Subtle and tender, it's the story of one Brooklyn woman's life, a life that runs the course of much of the 20th century. Her loves and heartbreaks, gains and losses, are all deftly chronicled by McDermott as she traces Marie's life with sympathy and insight.
Says the publisher: "This is a novel that speaks of life as it is daily lived; a crowning achievement by one of the finest American writers at work today."
Will you read it? What books are you most looking forward to this fall?
Mitch Albom—novelist and author of the most tear-jerking memoir of all time, Tuesdays with Morrie—is publishing a new book on November 12 with a new publisher, HarperCollins, just one year after his last novel, The Time Keeper. As usual, The First Phone Call from Heaven has an unusual premise (bet you can guess it from the title!). Here's how Albom describes the book on his site:
It's a magical story about what happens when one little town, way up north, starts getting calls from souls in heaven. Who believes, who doesn't? Who flocks to join them? Who points fingers and calls them fools? And ultimately, what happens to the world when the biggest mystery of life seems suddenly solved?
Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt
St. Martin's • $25.99 • ISBN 9781250020833
On sale August 20
When a book is likened to A Confederacy of Dunces—one of the most brilliant, hilarious books ever written, in my opinion—I inevitably experience an initial spark of excitement, which is promptly dampened by a fog of pessimism. It was with this ambivalence that I recently cracked open Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt.
Jerene is the polished matriarch of the Johnston family in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her husband, Duke, is a descendant of an infamous Confederate general; her brother, Gaston, is a successful crack novelist bitter at not being among the literary elite; her sister, Dillard, is practically a recluse. And then there are Jerene's four children. Jerilyn is the focus of the beginning of the novel. It's 2003, and she's a freshman at Chapel Hill, hell-bent on breaking out from her studious, reserved high school persona and joining—against her mother's wishes—the wildest sorority on campus with the very retro intention of finding a husband before graduating.
All of this is leading up to a scandal of some sort that I can't wait to get to. In the meantime, I've been disrupting the silence in a couple of coffeeshops with my snickering. The humor is wicked, sharp and subversive—which is just the way I like it.
Here's an excerpt offering insight into Jerilyn's aching desire to get accepted into Sigma Kappa Nu, which her roommate aptly describes as all about "drugs, booze, and boys!"
[Jerilyn] would turn the page on decorum-blighted Jerilyn Johnston. She knew that the PG-13 summer-movie sorority stereotype of the wild, hot girls, barely contained in clothes for all the suds and water that came their way, and the male-model-hot fraternity stud, beer in one hand, cell phone in the other, hooking up with the girls like a harem—she knew all that was a cartoon image of sorority life, but it was precisely the movie stereotype she was curious about; she now wanted to immerse herself in this too shallow pool. And if a frat brother was a cad, two-timing her with another sister, if there was face-slapping and tears and throwing herself into his frat brother roommate's arms . . . wasn't that all Life? Excitement, drama, action? For once, someone should say, That Jerilyn Johnston! Back at Carolina, she was a wild one! And everyone knows these frat boys eventually knuckle under, pass the bar, say yes to being in their dad's law firm, partner in eight years. God, it was all going according to plan!
What do you think, readers? Will you be reading Lookaway, Lookaway? What are you reading this week?
Knopf announced this morning that the heretofore "Untitled Bridget Jones Novel" is called Mad About the Boy.
For those of you who hoped the title reveal would give a hint of the book's contents, I'm afraid there's only disappointment in store: "When asked which boy Bridget was mad about, Fielding merely raised one eyebrow enigmatically," quoth the press release—which also included a short, unrevealing excerpt.
Wednesday 24 October 201211.27 p.m. Just presss d SEND. Iss fineisn’t it?You see, this is the trouble with the modern world. If it was the days of letter-writing, I would never even have started to find his address, a pen, a piece of paper, an envelope, a stamp, and gone outside at 11.30p.m. to find a postbox. A text is gone at the brush of a fingertip, like a nuclear bomb or exocet missile.DATING RULE NO:1DO NOT TEXT WHEN DRUNK
Was it the intimidating triple name? The comparisons to serious authors like Achebe? The preconception that books about Africa were likely to be on the grim side? Whatever the reason, despite the literary buzz surrounding Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I had somehow placed her in the category of authors I might admire, but probably wouldn't love. At least, until I cracked open her latest, Americanah, a completely enjoyable novel that's full of heart as well as ideas and features a realistic, relatable modern heroine: Nigerian-born Ifemelu. Given its trenchant observations on race and immigration, you might call Americanah the American White Teeth, although Adichie's novel (her third) demonstrates more maturity and less exuberance than Zadie Smith's notable debut.
As Americanah opens, Ifemelu has decided to return to Nigeria after being educated in the United Sates, and finds herself remembering the boy she left behind: her first love, Obinze. Ifemelu has spent much of her time in America writing a popular blog on race, Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (those formerly known as Negros) by a Non-American Black, so her observational powers are finely honed. Here, she contemplates her fellow train passengers:
So here she was, on a day filled with the opulence of summer, about to braid her hair for the journey home. Sticky heat sat on her skin. There were people thrice her size on the Trenton platform, and she looked admiringly at one of them, a woman in a very short skirt. She thought nothing of slender legs shown off in miniskirts—it was safe and easy, after all, to display legs of which the world approved—but the fat woman's act was about the quiet conviction that one shared only with oneself, a sense of rightness that others failed to see. Her decision to move back was similar; whenever she felt besieged by doubts, she would think of herself as standing valiantly alone, as almost heroic, so as to squash her uncertainty.
There's much more to love: Adichie's depictions of modern Lagos, her portrait of life as an undocumented immigrant, her exploration of why someone who lived in a country that wasn't facing starvation or genocide, but simply a lack of opportunity, might be willing to risk all for a chance in the West—I could go on, but I'll stop there and just tell you to pick this one up already. What are you reading this week?
RELATED IN BOOKPAGE: Our review of Americanah.
Today's the day: Dan Brown's Inferno (Doubleday) is keeping readers busy everywhere. Our reviewer is frantically turning pages, but there have been a couple of early, entertaining pieces going 'round the web:
"How to Deal with Dan Brown's 'Inferno' " from The Atlantic:
You will see Inferno in a pile at your local bookstore, laughing in your face. You will hear about Inferno around the water cooler. Your mom will ask you, "Have you read this book, Fernono-something-or other, you know, by The Da Vinci Code guy? I like that Tom Hanks!" You may even read Inferno yourself, whether at the behest of an angry albino monk or because you you simply want to. . . . More important than whether you read it or not is knowing you have options. If you're wondering what they are, read on.
“Hello agent John, it’s client Dan,” commented the pecunious scribbler. “I’m worried about new book Inferno. I think critics are going to say it’s badly written.”
The voice at the other end of the line gave a sigh, like a mighty oak toppling into a great river, or something else that didn’t sound like a sigh if you gave it a moment’s thought. “Who cares what the stupid critics say?” advised the literary agent. “They’re just snobs. You have millions of fans.”
That’s true, mused the accomplished composer of thrillers that combined religion, high culture and conspiracy theories. His books were read by everyone from renowned politician President Obama to renowned musician Britney Spears. It was said that a copy of The Da Vinci Code had even found its way into the hands of renowned monarch the Queen. He was grateful for his good fortune, and gave thanks every night in his prayers to renowned deity God.
Alex: First, this woman missed her cat, Dustin. Her cat!!!! Would you keep this woman from her cat? It probably has an adorable name like Señor Mittens and is cute.
Second, all these people were allowed to do was eat and sleep and translate Dan Brown—literally the best part of the experience was translating Dan Brown. That is horrible.
Dustin: Exactly. Sleeping in a hotel sounds pretty good. Food: sounds fine. What part of this equation might be so bad that it’s led these people to share their harrowing stories with the media?
[T]he main emphasis here is hardly on gloom. It is on the prodigious research and love of trivia that inform Mr. Brown’s stories (this one makes mincemeat of all those factoid-heavy wannabes, like Matthew Pearl’s “Dante Club”), the ease with which he sets them in motion, the nifty tricks (Dante’s plaster death mask is pilfered from its museum setting, then toted through the secret passageways of Florence in a Ziploc bag) and the cliffhangers. (Sienna: “Don’t tell me we’re in the wrong museum.” Robert: “Sienna, we’re in the wrong country.”) There is the gamesmanship that goes with crypto-bits like “PPPPPPP.” (Sienna: “Seven Ps is ... a message?” Robert, grinning: “It is. And if you’ve studied Dante, it’s a very clear one.”)
Since its publication in 2009, Jamie Ford's Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (Ballantine) has sold 1.3 million copies. That's some debut!
Well, Ford is finally following up on his success: Songs of Willow Frost will be published September 10. Like Hotel, Songs of Willow Frost is historical fiction and features a Chinese-American character and a childhood friendship. This time, though, the story is set in the 1920s and 1930s, where a lonely young boy looks for the mother he longs for. From the publisher description:
Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.
Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.
Did you read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet? Will you be looking for Songs of Willow Frost?