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.
Like all good scary stories, Rooms begins with a death. When Richard Walker passes away, his estranged family must return to the erstwhile family home to sift through a household—and lifetime—of memories and belongings. But Richard’s ex-wife Caroline and troubled children, Trenton and Minna, are not alone as they work to rid the house of the traces of the man who once lived there: Their actions and emotions are acutely observed by two former residents of the home, Alice and Sandra, each so different from the other, yet both bound to the house by dreadful tragedies.
It is said that truth is often stranger than fiction, but what happens when truth can only be found in the pages of fiction? Readers of Laila Lalami’s latest novel, The Moor’s Account, may find themselves asking exactly that question, as fact and fantasy coalesce in a masterful story that shines a new light on one of the darkest eras of history.
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.
Following the success of his critically acclaimed debut, The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman returns with an ambitious new novel, The Rise & Fall of Great Powers. Along with a plucky protagonist named Tooly Zylberberg, Rachman whisks readers away on a whirlwind jaunt around the globe, through the waning days of the 20th century and into the dawn of the 21st.
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, May 2014
Paris may be known as the City of Light, but in Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, it serves as the backdrop for some of the darkest events of human history—and for an exhilarating new novel from writer Francine Prose.
Francine Prose has written more than 20 books, including the National Book Award finalist Blue Angel, so the term “breakout book” doesn’t really apply. But her new historical novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, is poised to become her biggest hit yet. Told from various perspectives, the novel pieces together the life of Lou Villars—auto racer, cross-dresser and eventual Nazi sympathizer—against the turbulent backdrop of Jazz Age Paris. We asked Prose a few questions about the new book. Read on to find out about her own double identity and why she writes for readers like herself.
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, April 2014
The title of Maggie Shipstead’s second novel, Astonish Me, is a fitting one indeed. It’s a request, a demand, a dare, all wrapped up in two little words, heavy with promise.
California-born author Maggie Shipstead returns to fiction with a dazzling second novel, Astonish Me. The story of a ballerina that spans decades, it's as sharply observed as it is entertaining—and was our April 2014 Top Pick in Fiction. We asked Shipstead a few questions about the book.