Was John Updike one of America’s great writers or merely, as Harold Bloom famously said, “a minor novelist with a major style”? In Updike, his meticulously detailed and highly readable new biography—the first full-fledged life of the writer, who died in 2009—Adam Begley makes a convincing case for the former view while providing a rich account of the events that shaped Updike’s fiction.
As a investigator who specializes in death penalty cases, Rene Denfeld had a wealth of real-life material to draw on when she wrote her first novel, The Enchanted, which is set on death row in a crumbling prison. A mute inmate narrates this mesmerizing story in which love and unimaginable horror coincide, making for a uniquely powerful page-turner.
Heather Nill is living a dead-end life in a washed-up town. Prospects are so grim that the high school kids’ best hope of escaping is through a legendary game called Panic. Everyone pays in, and there can be only one winner, but it's not just a matter of facing down your worst fears—the stakes can be life or death.
This month's best new mysteries include a deadly oil spill, a charming francophile's mystery, the finale to Leif GW Persson's Story of a Crime Trilogy, plus an "ink-dark" psychological thriller from Kem Nunn.
Is there anyone who hasn’t wondered which actions and incidents most gave shape to their lives? In Tessa Hadley’s Clever Girl, Stella is the author of her own life, recounting her story in a series of gracefully drawn but honestly expressed episodes starting in the 1960s and running to the present day.
Because he seldom cites specific dates or alludes to what’s happening in the outside world as he’s prowling through the jungle in Peru, Paul Rosolie’s Mother of God: An Extraordinary Journey into the Uncharted Tributaries of the Western Amazon has a breathless, dream-like quality—a tone one might find in the journals of a relentlessly eager and factually retentive Boy Scout.
Author Matthew Quick probably is tired of hearing the word “quirky,” but it really is the singularly best way to describe his storytelling. After his first novel, The Silver Linings Playbook, was adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, Quick delivers a new story featuring Bartholomew Neil, a uniquely likeable protagonist who at nearly 40 has lived with his mother his entire life.
There is surely no deeper or more important bond than the one between parent and child, but at times the double helix of DNA that ties one generation to the next can feel like shackles. In Sarah Cornwell’s first novel, What I Had Before I Had You, Olivia Reed learns this harsh truth first as a daughter, at the age of 15, and then again two decades later as a mother to two children of her own.
V.S. Naipaul said of the writing of Vladimir Nabokov: "It's bogus, calling attention to itself. Americans do that. All those beautiful sentences. What are they for?" James Scott has been compared, justifiably, to Michael Ondaatje and Cormac McCarthy. But his debut novel The Kept, as bleak as McCarthy and as lush as Ondaatje, seems at times an assemblage of beautiful sentences...
Would Jane Austen be rolling over in her grave after reading the latest additions to the Austen-phile’s bookshelf? Au contraire: If Austen had an iPhone, she would likely be tweeting the praises of these three charming Austen pastiches and tributes—which may have readers reaching for the originals.AN OVERLOOKED HEROINEThe Pursuit of Mary Bennet, former librarian Pamela...