Reading Recommendations · Featured List: Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (November 2014)
Only a few books reach the top of the fiction bestseller charts, but there are many more terrific new titles available at the Library. Here are some recent favorites.
Accompanied by his young mistress, Zionist hero and Israeli cabinet member Baruch Kotler retreats to his homeland in the Crimea where life for Jews in the old Soviet territory remains difficult. While there, Kotler, previously known as Boris Solomonovich, comes face to face with a man who betrayed him to the KGB and set him on the path to life in Israel. Issues of betrayal and loyalty–to family, country, religion–are explored in this soul-searching novel.
The death of 4-year-old Issy Bradley is a test of faith for her family, who are Mormons living in a small religious community in England. In this first novel, Bray allows each family member an expression of grief and conviction. Father Ian, who is a bishop in the church, relies on Bible passages to continue life as normal, while mother Claire is shaken to the core and refuses to leave her daughter’s bed. The three children struggle to find some degree of comfort between the parental extremes, but this family will never be the same again.
Inspired by a cabinet house in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Burton's stunning novel concerns the bride of a young merchant during the Dutch Golden Age. With a mostly absent husband and a stern overbearing sister-in-law, Nella Oortman can’t take control of the household she married into, so she sets about furnishing a replica doll house that her husband gave her as a wedding present. The craftsman she has hired provides tiny exact reproductions of furnishings and people, plus some unrequested additions that darkly foreshadow the exposure of family secrets.
Everyone knows Gutenberg and his role in book history, but most don’t know about Johannes Fust, his financial backer, or Peter Schoeffer, the type creator and setter, who actually undertook much of the hand labor on the now famous Bible. In an era that considered copying the word of God a religious act of the highest order, a mass-produced Bible could be regarded as blasphemous. Yet wouldn't God have given men the talent and calling to spread His word in a more efficient and easily obtainable manner? A fascinating tale of high historical merit.
Sophie Porter wants her children to have everything she never did. For her, that is symbolized by an old Philadelphia house in the proper neighborhood. So obsessed is Sophie with acquiring the house, that she and husband Brian don’t focus on the details of the mortgage payments, which quickly balloon out of control. The art museum where Brian works is cleaning out some storage areas. Would the museum miss, Sophie wonders, a few of the smaller items should they disappear? Now with the FBI involved in tracking down the decorative pieces, how can Sophie make it right again?
This war novel by the much lauded Australian author was recently awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the British equivalent of the American Book Award. Inspired by his father’s experience in a Japanese POW camp where the prisoners were used for medical experiments and as labor for the Thai-Burma railway, Flanagan’s narrative follows the life of Dorrigan Evans, a young womanizer who becomes a highly regarded doctor after the war. The scenes of war and of civilian life are emotionally powerful and serve to philosophically question life's priorities.
Still overwrought with grief after her fiancé’s death, Alex Morris moves to Edinburgh to provide drama therapy at a last-resort school for troubled teenagers. One class in particular, the dreaded fourth-years, catches Alex’s attention. Through the guts, gore, and passion of the Greek tragedies, Alex manages to capture the imaginations of her pupils. One student, Mel, is a bit too taken with the new teacher and begins stalking Alex during her frequent trips to London. When Mel learns unexpected details about Alex's life and history, the teenager’s inflamed heroic need for justice leads to tragic results. A powerful and psychologically complex character study.
Japan’s most popular mystery writer is slowly becoming available in English translation, and this title introduces his character, detective Kyochiro Kaga. Kaga is surprised to find that he is acquainted with a confessed murderer, whom he met when they were teachers in the same school. Knowing who committed the wrongdoing doesn’t lessen Kaga's work because the suspect can’t be convicted without evidence. Despite having a written account for the evening of the crime, Kaga must keeping digging, peeling back more layers of story to solve this “whydunit.”
In a thought-provoking debut novel, Manko presents the study of a man without a country through the character Austin Voronkova. When he's coerced into stating he's an anarchist, the Russian émigré finds himself deported from the U.S. Returning to his native country with his new wife in tow, Austin is once again ousted and eventually migrates to Mexico. While his wife and children are allowed back into the U.S., Austin expects to return, but years pass as the Red Scare turns his hopes into disappointments.
Dr. Maggie Bose realizes that loneliness has driven Lakshmi to attempt suicide. Treating her patient calls for a certain amount of finesse that the informality of Maggie’s home office will achieve. Lakshmi is charming but naïve about doctor/patient boundaries. Maggie can’t help but like her patient, and a natural friendship develops. Still, Lakshmi is stunned when she stumbles upon a secret of Maggie’s. This is smart, literary chick lit, held to a high standard. Umrigar, a Case Western professor, once again spans the Indian-American cultural divide with a solid winner.
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