In Anthony Doerr’s riveting novel, All the Light We Cannot See, we meet 16-year-old blind girl Marie-Laure and 17-year-old Nazi soldier Werner as they are hunkered down in separate corners of the French seaside town of Saint-Malo during the American liberation of the Nazi occupied city. Through alternating chapters that jump back and forth in time between 1934 and 1944, Doerr beautifully tells the story of two children doomed by the war and destined to meet.
Stephen King is really good at acknowledging the human grief that underlies so much horror, and how that grief can twist a person into something monstrous—Pet Sematary, anyone? This is one of the themes of his new hair-raiser, Revival.
This month's best new mysteries include a riveting cold case, a grisly discovery at an old playhouse, another novel of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, and a thrilling case set in Thailand.
Three books following unconventional lives make great picks for reading groups this month.
Colm Tóibín’s new novel, Nora Webster, never strays from the quiet, deceptive simplicity of its storytelling, and yet this persuasive portrait of a compelling woman blossoms into something greater than the sum of its parts. Set in a small town in County Wexford, Ireland, in the early 1970s, it is the story of a mother navigating the first, tentative days and months of a premature widowhood.
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is such an iconic military figure that he is legendary to Civil War scholars and schoolchildren alike. So it’s hard to imagine an author breaking new ground with another Jackson biography. But S.C. Gwynne does just that in Rebel Yell, which deserves comparisons to Shelby Foote’s three-volume The Civil War for its depth of knowledge and graceful narrative. Gwynne, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Empire of the Summer Moon, casts Jackson as a human being, not as a bronze figure towering over a battlefield. Readers will come away from Rebel Yell with an understanding of the man that goes beyond his military exploits.
Amid the 21st-century glut of overindulgent memoirs, The Removers is a poignant, near-perfect addition to the genre. Andrew Meredith writes of growing up in a crumbling Philadelphia neighborhood, his family quietly imploding in the wake of a scandal that cost his father his university job.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is a novel that is both highly celebrated and much hated. Termed “diffuse” and “pretentious” by the likes of Virginia Woolf, the dense book is the subject of much debate within the literary community, with some dismissing it and others embracing it (but very few fully understanding it). Either way, it’s inarguable that Ulysses has made an indelible cultural mark since its publication in 1922. And the release of Maya Lang’s debut novel, The Sixteenth of June, provides more evidence of its lasting influence.
Stephen King has been thrilling readers for four decades, ever since the 1974 publication of Carrie. So it’s particularly remarkable that such a long-lived (and prolific) writer can still generate buzz for doing something different. But that’s exactly what’s happening with King’s 51st novel, Mr. Mercedes, which is being billed as his first “hard-boiled detective tale.”
There is a near irresistible urge to believe what we want to believe, even in the face of conflicting evidence. Seldom has that regrettable impulse been demonstrated more starkly than in 2006 when three members of the Duke University lacrosse team were charged with raping a woman they had hired to perform at a party as an “exotic dancer.” The accused were white men from well-to-do Northern families and the accuser a poor local black woman with two young children to support. With its overtones of racism, regionalism, gender advantage and class privilege, the situation couldn’t have been more dramatic—or potentially explosive.