Booklists · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (March 2012)
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.
Winner of France’s distinguished 2010 Prix Goncourt, Houellebecq’s study of artist Jed Martin is smart and terse in a way that the French do so well. The author himself enters the tale as the writer of Martin’s exhibit catalog and murder victim of the “police procedural” part of the story. Jed Martin goes from an unknown photographer to renowned portrait painter, lending insight into the conception of art and its very fickle critics and adoring public. A psychological study stretching the boundaries of reality.
The Russian fairy tale about a childless couple whose snow child becomes a real person has migrated across the Bering Strait to 1920s Alaska where Mabel and Jack are ill-equipped to make it through their first winter in the land of cold and darkness. Suddenly their deepest heartfelt wish seems to have come true. Faina is a pale spritely child, a woodland creature of magic and hope, who comes and goes with the frosty wind. But is she real or a hallucination of two minds tottering on the edge of survival?
A sudden influx of illegal Latinos, an upswing in the crime rate, and a new sheriff in town gives this story about a small rural area in Ohio the feel of a good, old-fashioned Western. The three lawmen that are the main characters run the gambit of “live and let live” to down-right vigilante attitudes about the change in the community. McDonald has created a border-town feel in the Buckeye State and effectively shows both sides of the story simultaneously - locals and immigrants - as it unfolds and in flashbacks.
Lately Israeli author Amos Oz has appeared on the list of Nobel Prize finalists, and this short novel is indicative of his work. Oz writes about his native country and the isolation and change that its recent history has wrought. This work is a string of short stories held together by interconnecting characters whose village is changing from an agricultural basis to an emerging trendy arts area. There is an obvious divide between the older residents who can’t quite overcome their distrust of the new neighbors.
While Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha woos the young Queen Victoria, rumor on the London streets teems with the description of a coach driven by a bull-headed devil that snatches up young women in the night. Although she spurns the gossip, when female private investigate Liberty Lane is hired to find a missing fiancée, she wonders if there could be a connection. Meanwhile another of her cases concerns the entertainment for Albert’s brother while visiting at Windsor. A “crackerjack whodunit.”
Matthew Pearl’s atmospheric historical thrillers are a bit like the recent Sherlock Holmes movies – lots of chase and adventure before revealing that last twist of the plot and solution. As graduation day draws near for the first class of MIT (1868), four students band together in a secret society. Their science background will be necessary to solve the weird happenings in Boston as ships’ instruments go haywire in the harbor and glass melts in downtown buildings. And as for rival Harvard –we all know geeks rule.
Something of a cross between a regular novel and a graphic novel, this 1920s romance is formatted as the scrapbook that Frankie (she hates Frances) Pratt received as a high school graduation present. Using her father’s old Corona typewriter to caption her pages, Frankie preserves her college years at Vassar, her quest to become a writer, her trip to Paris, and her trip down the aisle. It’s a delightful trip down memory lane filled with ticket stubs, postcards, magazine clippings, and other nostalgia of the time period.
“Welcome to the Demi-Monde, a simulated world of cruelty, violence, and chaos run by psychopaths, madmen, and fanatics. And if you die in the Demi-Monde, you die in the Real World.” Like in “The Matrix,” this computer-generated world has become blurred so that the line between fantasy and reality ceases to exist. The President’s daughter is trapped inside the constantly warring platform used to train soldiers, and a young jazz singer seems to be the perfect choice to rescue her. The first of a four volume series.
“Seventy years ago, the old man’s last words to each child had been a distinct warning: ‘Never bring the Hallows together.’ No one had ever thought to ask him why.” Now the children are elderly and being hideously murdered for the relics they have protected all these years. This is a not-for-the-squeamish, roller-coaster-pace narrative, a classic battle, again and again, of the bad guys and the good guys. The end delivers a promise of a sequel set in America for the honeymooning young couple that met over a broken sword.
Seven representations of literate women, captured in time and immortalized as works of art, make up the thread that weaves their stories together. Each subject was in the act of reading when catching the eye of an artist. The women vary from a Dutch house servant to a psychic relative to a random muse, but their images portray the time and culture they lived in. Their stories give a glimpse behind the face the world sees. Much like Girl with a Pearl Earring, it is an interesting commentary on women’s history as well as the arts.
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