Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (November 2013)
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.
Based on her father’s diaries and the little she knew of her poorly paired parents, a Victorian teenager fabulates a story of her family. It is a story of obsession – Carlotta’s mother fervently devoted to her own papa who was lost at sea, the romantic but ill-fated joining of her parents on that sea voyage, and her father’s artistic fixation with sea creatures as he first sketches them and then tries to replicate them in glass. Overly emotive and mannered, the writing is evocative of journal entries as an orphan tries to give light to her reason for existence.
“13 arresting and unpredictable tales of misspent love and crimes gone horribly wrong… Kevin Barry’s dazzling language, razor-sharp ear for the vernacular, and keen eye for the tragedies and comedies of daily life invest these tales with a startling vitality. Dark Lies the Island was short-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and as one of the most acclaimed collections in Europe in many years, it heralds the arrival of a new master of the short story.” Proof that the Irish still rule in the gift of gab.
Although lawyer and local coroner Titus Cragg and his friend Dr. Luke Fidelis may be overstepping their roles while doing a little sleuthing, recent deaths in the northern British town of Preston appear politically motivated. It’s 1741, and the local election for seats in Parliament is highly contested between the Whigs and the Tories. It seems both sides will go to extremes to be sure of victory. Second in the series, following A Dark Anatomy last year, Blake’s books are filled with period details and a cast of characters representative of Georgian period town life.
The Luminaries was just awarded the 2013 Man Booker Prize, England’s top literary award. As is often the case with the Man Booker, this choice is not for the literary faint-of-heart, numbering just over 800 pages and difficult to sum up in a short sentence. It is a story of the gold rush era in New Zealand with characters described by astrological and planetary influences, layered with subplots, repeated from the perspective of other characters. It is a tight interwoven plot where one door opens to reveal another door to open, storytelling for the sheer pleasure of the telling.
Since Claire’s mother died giving birth, Claire’s father has always despaired that he could not provide a proper life for her. The well-to-do fabric store owner finally agrees to take 7-year-old Claire into her household, but the girl has disappeared. In a small impoverished place like the Haitian village of Ville Rose, what touches one person in the community touches them all. Described as luminescent and rarified, National Book Award finalist and National Book Critics Circle Award winning author Danticat’s writing is truly breath-taking and heart-breaking.
War is hell, both for the soldiers fighting it and those left at home. The two fronts alternate in this story as Angus MacGrath leaves his pacifist family in Nova Scotia and enlists to be able to search for his missing brother-in-law. Promised an office job as a cartographer, Angus is instead commissioned as an officer and sent to the very front battle lines of World War I. Back in Nova Scotia, his adolescent son tries to reconcile his beliefs with a fishing village population keen on patriotism. Gripping historical details give a unique realism to both worlds.
Fagan’s debut novel, named one of the best books of the year by London’s Times Literary Supplement, is a dark, disturbing, and raw look at foster care and juvenile detention. Anais, age 15, is sent to the Panopticon, a last resort, c-shaped detention center where a central watch tower observes all. She suspects she is part of an experiment, in fact, born just for that reason. Her social skills are limited due to constant shuffling and relocating, but it is here in this “cuckoo’s nest” that she develops the strongest family bonds and discovers her true identity.
Film rights were immediately snatched up for this first novel depicting the clash and reconciliation of scientific research and moral principles. While searching Arctic deep ice for small creature DNA that they could use for reanimation experiments, scientists find a human body. Religious fanatics and paparazzi heckle the laboratory while inside the debate centers around research possibilities versus the ethical dilemma of a resurrected man. Initially referred to as Subject One, Judge Jeremiah Rice not only has a name but opinions about his treatment.
Winner of the 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award and the first of Lemaitre’s novels to be translated into English, Alex is for readers who don’t mind a bit of gore with their noir. In the first part of the novel, a young lady – Alex – is kidnapped and held in a suspended cage as the police look for her even though they don’t know her identity. The kidnapping is only the first crime committed, causing the police under the leadership of the unforgettable Commandant Camille Verhoeven to wonder about Alex’s background.
With her own CIA cover blown and the assistance of seasoned suspense author Lovett, Plame turns to penning a literary alter-ego in CIA operative Vanessa Pierson. All the necessary elements are here in this series opener – exotic but seedy travel destinations, coded catch phrases, hidden treasures that the other side wants, and a despicable villain with equally repugnant underlings out to destroy the fragile balance of peace that there is in the world. Still, it’s action-packed, tightly-wound, and a good indication of future assignments to come.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local branch and our staff will be happy to assist you!