Rebecca Makkai’s second novel, The Hundred-Year House, is an appealing mix of archival mystery, ghost story and historical novel. Told in reverse chronology, it unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt set in a former artist’s colony, uncovering clues and putting pieces of the fictional puzzle in place. I was able to catch up with Rebecca at Nashville’s Southern Festival of Books.
If the mark of a great author is not merely how much she incites the imaginations of readers but the extent to which she inspires fellow writers, then there can be no doubt that Jane Austen is the greatest author of them all. Just when you think the market for Austen spinoffs has reached capacity, a new book comes onto the scene that turns the genre on its head. Such is the case with First Impressions, Charlie Lovett’s delightful new novel.
North Carolina author Charlie Lovett has always had a passion for books and writers—his father was an English professor, and Lovett is an expert on the Victorian writer Lewis Carroll and a former antiquarian bookseller. His 2013 novel The Bookman’s Tale combined these interests to create a compelling story about a bookseller who uncovers a mystery in a used bookstore. In his latest novel, First Impressions, Lovett again combines antiquarian intrigue and a literary mystery—and this time, Jane Austen herself is at the center. We asked Lovett a few questions about books, collecting and, of course, Jane.
“Vietnam Vietnam Vietnam, we’ve all been there.” So says war correspondent Michael Herr on the persistent reality of a war curiously prone to re-examination. In The Lotus and the Storm, by Vietnamese-American author Lan Cao, this revisiting takes the form of a dialogue of sorts between a daughter and a father, lotuses swept to America’s shores by the storm of the American intervention.
For most mere mortals, a position as a full-time historian and tenured professor at the University of Southern California would be sufficiently demanding. But not for Deborah Harkness, who has also managed to squeeze “best-selling novelist” onto her list of already impressive credentials.
Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House is an appealing mixture: part archival mystery, part ghost story, part historical novel, starring a house with as much personality as Manderley or Hill House. Told in reverse chronology, it unfolds as a kind of bookish scavenger hunt, uncovering clues and putting pieces of the fictional puzzle in place.
The best new mysteries feature two German imports, a chilling debut novel from Neely Tucker and the newest installment in Malla Nunn's Emmanuel Cooper series.
Author Heather Brittain Bergstrom has won awards for her short fiction from the Chicago Tribune and Atlantic Monthly, among others. Her outstanding debut novel, Steal the North, is almost guaranteed to add to Bergstrom’s award collection. Narrated from multiple perspectives, the novel is a heartbreaking tale of family secrets, unrequited love and the unbreakable bond of family.
Jean Zimmerman’s new novel, Savage Girl, is the ideal historical fiction narrative: The history is accurate, and the story nicely fits into the facts.
The novel opens with Hugo Delegate, son of an outrageously wealthy captain of industry, found next to the mutilated body of one of his friends. Because he can’t, or perhaps, will not, explain why he was found at such a gruesome scene, he is taken into custody and asked to tell his side of the story.
The surprising source of Bich Minh Nguyen’s enthralling second novel, Pioneer Girl, was her discovery that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose had traveled to Vietnam as a journalist in 1965.
Nguyen (pronounced New-win), whose family fled Vietnam in 1975 when she was 8 months old and settled eventually in Grand Rapids, Michigan, says she “had read the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid, and I loved them. And I would reread them as an adult as comfort literature."