An American MP in Korea by Richard Cezar is a fine story with roots in From Here to Eternity and a refreshing change of scene from Vietnam to Korea. I zipped right through it. Interesting note: The main character has the same name as the author. The book is clearly taken from the author's life but with a cleverly woven plot superimposed.
What we have in The Monogram Murders is a new Poirot novel written not by Agatha Christie but by Sophie Hannah. And she does a good job. The plot is, I think, a little more convoluted than it would have been in a Christie mystery and the Scotland Yard detective whom Poirot assists (or rather who assists Poirot) is a little more complicated than the usual cop in a Golden Age detective story.
When the story begins Poirot has decided to rest his "little grey cells" and has gone on a vacation - to a boarding house across the park from his apartment, which he can see out of the window of his room. Is that quintessential Poirot or what!
Locked room mystery, gathering of all the suspects for a denouement as is usual in a Poirot story, and a murderer it's pretty hard to guess.
Wow. I gobbled down this book in no time. It has so much that I love in a novel. It takes place in 1914 and 1964, in New York, Oxford, and Berlin and switches back and forth between times and places. It has a couple of love stories, a lot of interesting (if not very complex) characters. There's wit, charm, and a plot that's a lot like a road up a mountain with all it's U-turns and surprises around the corners.
I like "meet cute" stories (I have a couple of my own) and the one between Vivian (our main character) and Dr Paul (her would-be lover) is as cute as they come. She gets a card from the post office to pick up a parcel. There are only 20 minutes before the post office closes so Vivian hustles from her ratty fifth floor apartment on Christopher St (the Village) to the post office and gets in line. Behind a very handsome guy in scrubs who has apparently fallen asleep standing up. Vivian attracts his attention by putting on a stand up comedy routine that is better than most you see on TV. This is a witty and incredibly charming girl. She does slip just under the wire and get her package but it's large and heavy and so the kind, if somewhat somnambuliant, guy in the scrubs (Dr Paul) offers to carry it home for her.
She discovers in the package a suitcase that belonged to her great-aunt, Violet Grant. It has been sitting in a moldy warehouse in Zurich since 1914. She asks around her bizarre but close and loving family and discovers Aunt Violet was disowned when she shot and killed her husband in Berlin in 1914 and disappeared with her lover.
How could a budding magazine writer resist such a story? Certainly Vivian can't and she takes off on a research project that she hopes will make her reputation as a writer. Will she succeed? Did Aunt Violet really murder her husband? Was there a lover and did she run off with him? Will Vivian find true love with her doctor despite discovering that he is . . .
Well, to tell you more would be a spoiler. I gave the book five stars not because it's in a class with War and Peace but because as popular fiction goes it's as good as it gets.
With brisk chapters and sumptuous language, Doerr’s second novel follows two characters whose paths will intersect in the waning days of World War II: an orphaned engineering prodigy recruited into the Nazi ranks, and a blind French girl who joins the Resistance. Tackling questions of survival, endurance and moral obligations during wartime, the book is as precise and artful and ingenious as the puzzle boxes the heroine’s locksmith father builds for her. Impressively, it is also a vastly entertaining feat of storytelling.
Offill’s slender and cannily paced novel, her second, assembles fragments, observations, meditations and different points of view to chart the course of a troubled marriage. Wry and devastating in equal measure, the novel is a cracked mirror that throws light in every direction — on music and literature; science and philosophy; marriage and motherhood and infidelity; and especially love and the grueling rigors of domestic life. Part elegy and part primal scream, it’s a profound and unexpectedly buoyant performance.
In 1933, the anthropologist Margaret Mead took a field trip to the Sepik River in New Guinea with her second husband; they met and collaborated with the man who would become her third. King has taken the known details of that actual event and created this exquisite novel, her fourth, about the rewards and disappointments of intellectual ambition and physical desire. The result is an intelligent, sensual tale told with a suitable mix of precision and heat.
Sharma’s austere but moving novel tells the semi-autobiographical story of a family that immigrates from India to Queens, and has just begun to build a new life when the elder son suffers severe brain damage in a swimming pool accident. Deeply unnerving and gorgeously tender, the book chronicles how grief renders the parents unable to cherish and raise their other son; love, it suggests, becomes warped and jagged and even seemingly vanishes in the midst of mourning.
In this brilliant debut story collection, Klay — a former Marine who served in Iraq — shows what happens when young, heavily armed Americans collide with a fractured and deeply foreign country few of them even remotely understand. Iraq comes across not merely as a theater of war but as a laboratory for the human condition in extremis. The collection is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad: the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.
Cartoons, it turns out, are tailor-made for the absurdities of old age, illness and dementia. In Chast’s devastating and sublime graphic memoir, the odd dramas and repetitive minutiae find perfect expression in her signature antic drawings as she describes helping her parents navigate their final years — from packing up their cluttered Brooklyn apartment to getting a seat at the “right” table in the nursing home. No one has perfect parents, and no one can write a perfect book about them. But Chast has come close.
In this spellbinding blend of memoir, science journalism and literary criticism, Biss unpacks what the fear of vaccines tells us about larger anxieties involving purity, contamination and interdependency. Deeply researched and anchored in Biss’s own experiences as a new mother, this ferociously intelligent book is itself an inoculation against bad science and superstition, and a reminder that we owe one another our lives.
The life and times of that elusive, original miracle worker, the English novelist and biographer Penelope Fitzgerald, have been brilliantly captured by Lee, previously the author of masterly portraits of Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather and Edith Wharton. Growing up steeped in literature but sidetracked by the vicissitudes of life, Fitzgerald published her first book at 58 and did not become famous until she was 80. But her fiction, when it finally emerged, had a tamped-down force and intense compression, as if the decades-long wait had worked its own clarifying, crystallizing magic.
Kolbert reports from the front lines of the violent collision between civilization and our planet’s ecosystem — from the Great Barrier Reef to her own backyard — in this, her third, book. Traveling to some of the world’s remotest corners, she examines how man-made climate change threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century. This is environmental writing at its most rigorous and richly detailed — and as riveting as any thriller.
In 1978, over 13 days at Camp David, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter hammered out a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt that remains the most profound diplomatic achievement to emerge from the Mideast conflict. In a fascinating account of the talks, Wright combines history, politics and, most of all, a gripping drama of three clashing personalities into a tale of constant plot twists and dark humor. He reminds us that Carter’s visionary idealism and doggedness represented an act of surpassing political courage.
Akhil Sharma, All the Light We Cannot See, and Sadat at Camp David, Anthony Doerr, Begin, Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?, Dept of Speculation, Elizabeth Kolbert, Eula Biss, Euphoria, Family Life, Hermione Lee, Jenny Offill, Lawrence Wright, Lily King, New York Times 10 Best Books of 2014, On Immunity - An Inoculation, Penelope Fitzgerald, Phil Klay, Redeployment, Roz Chast, The Sixth Extinction - An Unnatural History, Thirteen Days in September - Carter
"We believe that one critical difference between lit and pop fiction is the extent to which the characters are complex, ambiguous, difficult to get to know, etc. (in other words, human) versus stereotyped, simple." -- Emanuele Castano at the New School for Social Research
Literary fiction enhanced participants' empathy because they had to work harder at fleshing out the characters. The process of trying to understand what those characters are feeling and the motives behind them is the same in our relationships with other people says an article in an online journal, mic.com.