Three highly-acclaimed novels from 2014 are now in paperback and are sure to make for great group discussion this month.
Teddy Todd, who first appeared in Kate Atkinson’s thrilling Life After Life (2013), served as a British pilot in World War II. As a young man in the throes of a brutal war, he “didn’t expect to see the alchemy of spring, to see the dull brown earth change to bright green and then pale gold.”
Of the estimated six million Jews extinguished during the Holocaust, perhaps one-fourth were children. To make this figure somewhat conceivable, imagine if every one of them had, like Anne Frank, left behind a diary—or if that many novelists reconstructed in fiction the horrors these innocents had to face. Something like this imperative motivates National Book Award finalist Jim Shepard’s seventh novel, The Book of Aron,, a loosely historical account of the children of the Warsaw ghetto.
Readers met the Langdon family in Some Luck, the first novel in Jane Smiley’s trilogy about an American family and an Iowa farm. A straightforward, almost old-fashioned novel, it opened in 1920 and covered the following 33 years—one year per chapter—in the lives of Walter and Rosanna Langdon and their six children with tenderness and surprisingly subtle humor. Now, in the more ominously titled Early Warning, Smiley casts an even wider net, as the Langdon children, now grown to adulthood and with children of their own, navigate the immense social changes of the 1960s and ’70s.
It’s late in the 19th century, and literary works are often plundered by so-called “bookaneers.” These literary pirates swoop in, abscond with a manuscript and sell it to the highest bidder. The stories should be property of the reader, not the writer, the bookaneers argue. And they’ll stop at nothing to ensure it.
Fans of authors like Sarah Waters and Michel Faber will thrill to Anna Freeman's debut, The Fair Fight, an exciting historical novel set in the little-known world of women's bare-knuckle boxing.
Set in upstate New York just after the Civil War, Jeffrey Lent’s latest book is a bit puzzling. To be blunt, it ends just when things are getting really interesting. It’s not that things haven’t been interesting from the beginning: By page three we’ve been witness to a double murder. The murderer’s name is Malcolm Hopeton, and he’s returned from the war only to find that half of his farm has been sold out from under him and his wife is canoodling with his hired man—the type who, in the old days, would have been called a cur. In his fury, Malcolm even injures his hired boy, Harlan Davis, who has witnessed the whole tawdry mess. As for Malcolm, he resigns himself to the gallows. But will he hang, after all?
Three of 2014's most acclaimed novels are now out in paperback and are sure to spark thoughtful discussion in reading groups this month.
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.
Historical novels that use real people, eras and achievements as a springboard can sometimes become overworked lessons of the history on which they’re treading. Other times, they can be inspired, original works that remind us of both the importance of history and the timeless concerns of our own humanity. Thankfully, The Architect’s Apprentice is the latter.