Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Fiction at Boswell--Follow Ups for Diane Setterfield, Charles Palliser, Dan Simmons, David Leavitt and Jane Austen (sort of).

The world was a simpler place when I could sit back and read Diane Setterfeld's The Thirteenth Tale. Now with only five books read in October, and all of them either event titles or in-store book club selections, Setterfield's newest, Bellman and Black (Emily Bestler/Atria) completely got away from me. Per the publisher, here's how the story begins: "As a boy, William Bellman commits one small, cruel act: killing a bird with his slingshot. Little does he know the unforeseen and terrible consequences of the deed, which is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to be a man blessed by fortune—until tragedy strikes and the stranger in black comes. Then he starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, William enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business. And Bellman and Black is born." Lots of bookstore websites and blogger reviews for Setterfield's latest. Here's a five stars out of five review from Lynn Whorton, whose blog is called Tattle Tale.

Another author with a similar reputation and a hit in his past is Charles Palliser, whose novel The Quincunx made his reputation. and returns with Rustication (W.W. Norton). Here's what they told us: "It is winter 1863, and Richard Shenstone, aged seventeen, has been sent down--"rusticated"--from Cambridge under a cloud of suspicion. Addicted to opium and tormented by sexual desire, he finds temporary refuge in a dilapidated old mansion on the southern English coast inhabited by his newly impoverished mother and his sister, Effie. Soon, graphic and threatening letters begin to circulate among his neighbors, and Richard finds himself the leading suspect in a series of crimes and misdemeanors ranging from vivisection to murder." Tucker Shaw in The Denver Post is a fan: "Palliser maintains suspense; it's quite late in the story before we discover whether or not Richard will get his come-uppance (or whether he even deserves it), but while we await our satisfying conclusion, Palliser's dank and dripping style — here Victorian, there 21st century Steampunk — make for an entertaining, stylized, Gothic-esque read."

I wondered what happened to Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines, another book with some buzz and a read from yours truly when it came out. It turns out he was working on Want Not (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), his new novel. His publisher calls it "a compulsively readable, deeply human novel that charts the course of three intersecting lives—a freegan couple living off the grid in Manhattan, a once prominent linguist struggling with midlife, and a New Jersey debt-collection magnate with a new family and a second chance at getting things right—in a thoroughly contemporary examination of that most basic and unquenchable emotion: want."

Here's an interview with the author by Jesse Chambers in Alabama.com where Miles talks about waste. I assume it first appeared in the Birmingham News.  Per Miles:"Miles also hates being forced to discard things that still have some life them simply because it would cost more to repair them than replace them." It's also noted that Want Not got an A- in Entertainment Weekly, where Leah Greenblatt writes: "What Want Not does best, though, isn't plotting but portraits of humanity: the small epiphanies and private hurts of every person whose life, like the detritus they produce, is as beautifully mundane and unique as a fingerprint."

It's not often I see a novel reviewed in Wired, but I'm sure they are there. Poking around for things I found  Dan Simmons featured for his new novel, The Abominable (Little, Brown), and featured on their Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. Notes the head Geek, "ndeed, The Abominable contains enough mayhem and dread to satisfy any horror fan, though some of the book’s most macabre moments are drawn straight from real life, such as a climber whose body was so battered after falling thousands of feet that only his jawbone was ever found, or a Tibetan funeral in which the deceased is hacked apart with knives and fed to vultures. That dark edge combined with the book’s fine writing, well-drawn characters, and carefully researched historical detail make it a worthy successor to The Terror."

You're probably not surprised to hear that our buyer Jason is a fan of Dan Simmons with his speculative-horror groove. You might be more surprised that Jason also reads David Leavitt, whose new novel, The Two Hotel Francforts (Bloomsbury) is just out.  Leavitt was reviewed in The New York Times Book Review last Sunday by Michael Pye, who noted "What David Leavitt tells in The Two Hotel Francforts is a small story set against the big one, which is brave and risky. He’s using this history as a backdrop." That said, he had some issues. And Heller McAlpin in The Christian Science Monitor wrote "Despite its wartime setting and its concern with issues of guilt and responsibility, The Two Hotel Francforts offers a bouncier read than Leavitt's previous novels, with an especially satisfying, almost jaunty ending. A book group might want to start by considering how Leavitt uses historical fiction not just to illuminate the past but to shed light on contemporary issues – including how different are the options for men like Edward today."

It just came off Boswell's Best, but I feel remiss for not talking about Longbourn (Knopf), by Jo Baker, a novel I really wasn't paying attention to, but now I feel like I'd be letting any JASNA (Jane Austen Society) members down if they weren't paying attention to it. It's Pride and Prejudice through the servants, sort of a mashup of Austen and Downton Abbey/Upstairs Downstairs, which of course reminds me a bit of the Tasha Alexander I just read. In USA Today, Carmela Ciuraru (we briefly traded emails several years ago!) called Longbourn "a bold novel, subversive in ways that prove surprising, and brilliant on every level. This is a masterful twist on a classic." And Melissa Bargreen in The Seattle Times calls it " a refreshing departure from the Austen-inspired fictionalizations."

Hey, if you come in by next Monday (11/11/13) and mention you read about Longbourn in the blog, we'll still give you 20% off Jo Baker's novel. 

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