Literary


A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Anthony Marra explores the extraordinary circumstances of war that bring both tragedy and humor, often in equal doses, in this complex tale of the Chechen wars (yes, there were two) that captures the fragmentation of war. This riveting novel follows three main characters (Akhmed, Havana and Sonja) whose lives intertwine via compassion, coincidence and violence. […]

The Grand Duchess of Nowhere

The Grand Duchess of Nowhere

When a novel opens with a two-page diagram showing generations of the Romanov family tree, I admit to being daunted. Yet The Grand Duchess of Nowhere by Laurie Graham is not daunting at all. Told in the chatty, first-person voice of the Grand Duchess Victoria (Melita) Feodorovna, it’s brisk and lively. I quickly came to […]

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas

Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas

“Being a Jane Austen Mystery,” I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this derivative work by Stephanie Barron. Baron’s Jane, a character based on her historical counterpart, solves murder mysteries. (No zombies.) Barron has captured Austen’s tone, if not Austen herself, with early 19th century humor and gentile snark. The story takes place in an English country […]

The Perfect Gift: A Book

The Perfect Gift: A Book

One of our favorite things to do, and we mean favorite of all time, is to make a cup of Irish Breakfast tea, let is steep until it’s dark and rich, then add a pinch of whole fat milk, followed by wrapping our hands around our favorite mug—which at the moment is one from local […]

A Woman in White

A Woman in White

When a mystery reader has a Brit fetish and has gorged on P.D. James, Ian Rankin, Reginald Hill, Ruth Rendell, Minette Walters, Sarah Waters, and Martha Grimes (just to name a few), where does she go next? Back to the beginning. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins was published in 1859 and is considered […]

Deep Down Dark

Deep Down Dark

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free   On August 5, 2010, a “gray guillotine” — “a vast destructive mega-block” — “a broken skyscraper of stone” trapped 33 men in the depths of a copper and gold mine in Chile. On […]

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Early in Andrew Sean Greer’s The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, Greta walks with her beloved twin brother, Felix, near their childhood home, a brownstone in Patchin Place, Manhattan. It’s their 31st birthday and they’ve just left the party, happy in each other’s company. When a neighbor is outwardly unkind to them Felix asks her, […]

Out Stealing Horses

Out Stealing Horses

Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses shimmers with blue: the bright blue of a Norwegian summer sky, the dark blue of a moonless night, the blue-black of a flowing river, even the faded blue flowers on the cloth of a woman’s dress. From his perspectives as a 67-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy, Trond Sander tells […]

The Circle

The Circle

I’m a little late to the party on this book, and it’s maddeningly shallow, but what a lucid, fast take on a timely, important subject. Extremely readable, if it weren’t for a few graphic sex scenes and liberal profanity it could (should?) be compulsory reading for every seventh grader. The book’s message is as crystal-clear […]

The Bell Jar

The Bell Jar

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” The opening sentence of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar reflects the ambivalence of her main character, a young and talented woman who’s discovering that what she wants (to be a great writer) […]

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