Tolstoy is famous for writing, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” What he doesn’t mention is that each member of the family can be happy and unhappy in their own individual ways. That’s where Angela Flournoy picks up in The Turner House, the story of a big African-American family struggling with the decision of what to do with their family home.
Venetia Stanley was a great beauty of her day, sought after by poets and painters eager to pay homage to her good looks. Her early death in 1633 has remained a mystery over the centuries, some accusing her husband, Sir Kenelm Digby, of murder and others ascribing her demise to the toxic beauty treatments she was rumored to have used. Hermione Eyre’s brilliant debut, Viper Wine, explores the perils of achieving beauty at all costs, set against a backdrop of the political and social upheaval of 17th-century London.
The story of a young woman trying to make it in Hollywood is familiar to most. However, Shanna Mahin turns this common tale into a simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming story. Oh! You Pretty Things gives readers a glimpse of the destruction that celebrity (and the obsession with it) can cause in day-to-day life. Encompassing humor, wit, irony and sheer sass, this story shows that even in glitzy Hollywood, life can be filled with hardships.
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.
If you were born in 1800, there was a 50 percent chance that you would die before your fifth birthday. Popular sports of the day were often bloody: bear- or badger-baiting, cockfighting and, of course, bare-knuckle boxing.
“Anna was a good wife, mostly.” So opens Jill Alexander Essbaum’s remarkable debut novel, the mesmerizing story of Anna Benz, an American expatriate who has lived in Zurich for nine years with her husband, Bruno—a Swiss banker—and their three children.
Readers looking for another end of days, survivalist tale with the same trite conclusions will be out of luck with British author Claire Fuller’s debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days.
Debut novelist Daniel Torday puts a fresh spin on World War II in The Last Flight of Poxl West, a page-turning literary tale about truth, lies and forgiveness. Eli Goldstein idolizes his uncle Poxl, a Hungarian Jew who served in Britain's Royal Air Force during WWII. The novel alternates between the adult Eli's voice and the pages of Poxl's memoir as the two coming-of-age stories converge.
So much can happen in one day. And when it comes to Eddie Joyce’s first novel, so much is remembered in one day: Small Mercies is the story of the Amedolas, an Irish-Italian family living on Staten Island. The story is set in the current day, but it stretches back through generations with a particular emphasis on September 11, 2001, the day they lost Bobby—he was a firefighter, but he was also a son, brother, father and husband.
When Nica Baker, a gorgeous, popular 16-year-old, is found dead on the campus of her prestigious private high school, her family, friends and community are shocked and devastated. While the case is closed neatly and quickly—an awkward classmate with an unrequited crush and a bad temper—Nica’s older sister Grace has the sick suspicion that the obvious answer is not always the right one. She goes on a quest to find out what really happened to Nica—and ends up discovering far more than she ever wanted to know about her family, her friends and herself.