Fresh Air: Book Reviews
You'll Want To Accept The Dinner Invitation To 'The...10/23/14
On a cold evening in London in 1817, painter Benjamin Haydon hosted a dinner with the likes of Keats and Wordsworth. Critic Stanley Plumly recreates the crackling conversation about art and science.
'Florence Gordon' Isn't Friend Material, But You'll Appreciate Her
Brian Morton's novel features a 75-year-old woman — an icon of the Second Wave Women's Movement — who's a self-described "difficult woman." It's a witty, nuanced and ultimately moving novel.
After WWI, A Mother And Daughter Must Take In 'Paying Guests'
Sarah Waters' spellbinding novel — about two women in 1920s London — is no simple period piece. Waters is a superb storyteller with a gift for capturing the layered nuances of character and mood.
Futuristic 'Bone Clocks' Encompasses A Strange, Rich World Of...
David Mitchell's latest fantasy is an odyssey into the dark side, spanning from 1984 to 2043. It's about a teenager who runs away from her London home and becomes prey to a ghastly gang of mystics.
'10:04': A Strange, Spectacular Novel Connecting Several Plotlines
Ben Lerner's new novel is about a writer who gets an advance for a second work of fiction, is diagnosed with an aortic heart valve problem and agrees to be the sperm donor for a close friend.
Nostalgic For Noir? Feiffer's 'Kill My Mother' Is A Toxic Treat
In his first graphic novel, Jules Feiffer, 85, has returned to the seedy comic strips, hard boiled novels and B movies of his youth. Maureen Corrigan says it's "a mulligan stew of murder and desire."
In A Funny New Novel, A Weary Professor Writes To 'Dear Committee...
Julie Schumacher's anti-hero pens recommendations for junior colleagues, lackluster students and former lovers. The novel deftly mixes comedy with social criticism and righteous outrage.
'Ride Around Shining' Reimagines Gatsby's Nouveau-Riche Excess
Chris Leslie-Hynan's debut novel follows a white grad student who's a chauffeur to a black basketball player. It references The Great Gatsby often with fresh takes on race, manhood and meritocracy.
'Panic In A Suitcase' Puts A Fresh Spin On A Coming-To-America Story
Yelena Akhtiorskaya's debut novel is about a family that emigrates from Odessa to the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, N.Y. It's a funny tale full of insider knowledge and offbeat words.
'Mockingbird Next Door': A Genteel Peek Into Harper Lee's Quiet Life
After Harper Lee wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, she became a recluse and lived with her sister, Alice, in Alabama. Reporter Marja Mills uses rich detail to provides glimpses into their twilight years.
10 Years Later, Mystery Heroine 'Maisie Dobbs' Gains New Life
Jacqueline Winspear's debut mystery, Maisie Dobbs, set in England around World War I, came out in paperback a decade ago. A new edition testifies to the enduring allure of the traditional mystery.
'Friendship': A Startlingly Nice Novel By A Tough-Girl Blogger
Emily Gould's first novel stars 30-something single women in New York City who are figuring out what's important in life. It's worth picking up for its sharp social observations and inspired wordplay.
'Most Dangerous Book': A Rich Treasury Charting James Joyce's 'Ulysses'
There are many heroes in Kevin Birmingham's new book about the novel that sparked a revolution, but James Joyce isn't one of them. The strength of The Most Dangerous Book lies in its subtle details.
'Rise And Fall' Carries On Vagabond Adventure Tale Tradition
The Rise and Fall of Great Powers — the latest from Imperfectionists author Tom Rachman — follows the travels of a young bookstore proprietor. It's a "strange" book that requires a bit of patience.
A Second Posthumous Collection From Rock Critic Ellen Willis
The Essential Ellen Willis focuses on the writer's explicitly feminist culture criticism. It was edited by Willis' daughter, who published an earlier collection of her mother's essays in 2011.
'Chameleon' Has Cabaret, Spies And A Plot Fit For Lifetime
Francine Prose's latest novel was inspired by a 1932 photo of two lesbians, one of whom was in the Gestapo. Critic Maureen Corrigan says it's an ingenious excursion into the Parisian demimonde.
In 'Hotel Florida,' Three Couples Chronicle The Spanish Civil War
Biographer Amanda Vaill's new book delves deeply into the lives of journalists like Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, whose documenting of the war helped shape public perception.
'Bintel Brief' And 'Hellfighters': American Stories, Powerfully...
Critic Maureen Corrigan recommends two graphic novels — one about a Yiddish advice column in the early 1900s and another about a regiment of African-American soldiers who fought during World War I.
This Tightly Choreographed Tale Of Ambition And Ballet Will 'Astonish'
Maggie Shipstead tells the story of a disciplined dancer who can't make it into the spotlight. Critic Maureen Corrigan says Shipstead is "Edith Wharton with a millennial generation edge."
'Thief' Delivers An Unfiltered Depiction Of Life In Lagos
Teju Cole's latest book describes a young New York doctor's visit back to his Nigerian hometown, where he encounters a Clockwork Orange world of misery and corruption.
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