Archive for Fiction

The Charterhouse of Parma

The Charterhouse of Parma, by Maurice Stendahl (Pb $11.27, Kndl $0.00) 566 pp

This is a book, a classic, I’ve had in paperback for several years, intending to read, but never getting started.  Just discovered it is free on Kindle. — rls

CharterAmazon: Headstrong and naïve, the young Italian aristocrat Fabrizio del Dongo is determined to defy the wrath of his right-wing father and go to war to fight for Napoleon. He stumbles on the Battle of Waterloo, ill-prepared, yet filled with enthusiasm for war and glory. Finally heeding advice, Fabrizio sneaks back to Milan, only to become embroiled in a series of amorous exploits, fuelled by his impetuous nature and the political chicanery of his aunt Gina and her wily lover. Judged by Balzac to be the most important French novel of its time, The Charterhouse of Parma is a compelling novel of extravagance and daring, blending the intrigues of the Italian court with the romance and excitement of youth.

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Blood Dark

Blood Dark, by Louis Guilloux (Pb $12.76, Kndl $15.99)

BloodDarkAmazon: Set during World War I, this monumental philosophical novel about human despair inspired Albert Camus’ own writing and prefigured the greater existential movement.

Blood Dark tells the story of a brilliant philosopher trapped in a provincial town and of his spiraling descent into self-destruction. Cripure, as his students call him—the name a mocking contraction of Critique of Pure Reason—despises his colleagues, despairs of his charges, and is at odds with his family. The year is 1917, and the slaughter of the First World War goes on and on, with French soldiers not only dying in droves but also beginning to rise up in protest. Still haunted by the memory of the wife who left him long ago, Cripure turns his fury and scathing wit on everyone around him. Before he knows it, a trivial dispute with a complacently patriotic colleague has embroiled him in a duel.

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Madonna in a Fur Coat

Madonna in a Fur Coat, by SabahattMadonnain Ali

Amazon: Available in English for the first time, this best-selling Turkish classic of love and alienation in a changing world captures the vibrancy of interwar Berlin.
 
A shy young man leaves his home in rural Turkey to learn a trade and discover life in 1920s Berlin. There, amidst the city’s bustling streets, elegant museums, passionate politics, and infamous cabarets, a chance meeting with a beautiful half-Jewish artist transforms him forever. Caught between his desire for freedom from tradition and his yearning to belong, he struggles to hold on to the new life he has found with the woman he loves.

Emotionally powerful, intensely atmospheric, and touchingly profound, Madonna in a Fur Coat is an unforgettable novel about new beginnings, the relentless pull of family ties, and the unfathomable nature of the human soul. First published in 1943, this novel, with its quiet yet insistent defiance of social norms, has been topping best-seller lists in Turkey since 2013.

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The Underground Railroad: A Novel

The Underground Railroad: A Novel, by Colson Whitehead ($13.99 Kndl; $16.17 Hb)

undergroundAmazon: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.
Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.

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Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese (Kndl, $10.99; pb $10.99)

CuttingAmazon: Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon. Orphaned by their mother’s death and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution.

Moving from Addis Ababa to New York City and back again, Cutting for Stone is an unforgettable story of love and betrayal, medicine and ordinary miracles–and two brothers whose fates are forever intertwined.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel, by Annie Barrows & Mary Ann Shaffer ($11.99 Kndl, $11.60 hb, $9.52 pb)

I read this book over the summer.  Thoroughly enjoyed it. — rls

GuernseyAmazon:  #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

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My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel

My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel, by Elizabeth Strout ($12.99 Kndl, $15.91 hb)

BartonAmazon A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel, by David Mitchell

autumnsAmazon: The year is 1799, the place Dejima in Nagasaki Harbor, the Japanese Empire’s single port and sole window onto the world, designed to keep the West at bay. To this place of devious merchants, deceitful interpreters, and costly courtesans comes Jacob de Zoet, a devout young clerk who has five years in the East to earn a fortune of sufficient size to win the hand of his wealthy fiancée back in Holland. But Jacob’s original intentions are eclipsed after a chance encounter with Orito Aibagawa, the disfigured midwife to the city’s powerful magistrate. The borders between propriety, profit, and pleasure blur until Jacob finds his vision clouded, one rash promise made and then fatefully broken—the consequences of which will extend beyond Jacob’s worst imaginings.

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On Gold Mountain: The 100-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family

On Gold Mountain: The 100-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family, by Lisa See ($11.76 pb, $11.99 Kndl)

GoldAmazon: Lisa See, daughter of novelist Carolyn See, brings a novelist’s skill to this sprawling ancestral history. Books tracing the roots of overseas Chinese writers are not uncommon these days, but See uncovered in her family tree a capsule history of the Sino-American diaspora: her great-grandfather, Fong See, founded a California business, married a Caucasian woman and fathered many offspring, and returned periodically to China to redistribute some of his wealth and launch another family. See, a Publishers Weekly writer, has conducted extensive interviews and drawn on family lore for an enthralling saga of ambition, prejudice, love, loyalty, and sorrow–social history at its best.

 

From Publishers Weekly

The See family history is becoming public property. First mother Carolyn with Dreaming (Nonfiction Forecasts, Jan. 2) and now daughter Lisa?but with something far different in mind. Always aware of her part-Chinese roots, she set out five years ago to learn about her far-flung and, as it turns out, famous paternal family. Her great-grandfather Fong See was an extraordinary figure. He established a business in Sacramento, Calif., and later in Los Angeles, when it was an unheard-of thing for a Chinese to do; married a Caucasian and fathered a large brood; returned to China on and off, spreading his wealth around in his tiny native village and creating another extensive family there too. Drawing on family legends and dredging up intimate history through countless interviews with uncles, aunts and cousins both in California and in China, See, PW’s West Coast correspondent, has created a matchless portrait not only of a remarkable family but of a century’s changing attitudes. The early anti-Chinese racism was horrific, and even 40 years ago it was hard for a Chinese to emigrate here, let alone become a citizen. The ambitions, fears, loves and sorrows of See’s huge cast are set forth with the storytelling skills of a novelist?and a great, sprawling novel is what her book often resembles. There are times when it flags and the constant new names become tiresome, and a heartfelt but superfluous chapter on actress Anna May Wong disrupts the flow; but the book is a striking piece of social history made immediate and gripping. Photos. 60,000 first printing; Literary Guild alternate.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, by Franz Werfel ($16.25 pb, $8.99 Kndl)

The author and this book were mentioned in New York Review of Books article about the Armenian genocide.  Here is the article (it’s free and worth reading — rls).

Among the books related to the subject of this novel (the Armenian genocide) are The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response, by Peter Balakian, and Armenian Golgotha, by Grigoris Balakian.

Amazon: The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is Franz Werfel’s masterpiece that brought him international acclaim in 1933, drawing the world’s attention Musato the Armenian genocide. This is the story of how the people of several Armenian villages in the mountains along the coast of present-day Turkey and Syria chose not to obey the deportation order of the Turkish government. Instead, they fortified a plateau on the slopes of Musa Dagh Mount Moses and repelled Turkish soldiers and military police during the summer of 1915 while holding out hope for the warships of the Allies to save them.

The original English translation by Geoffrey Dunlop has been revised and expanded by translator James Reidel and scholar Violet Lutz. The Dunlop translation, had excised approximately 25% of the original two-volume text to accommodate the Book-of-the-Month club and to streamline the novel for film adaptation. The restoration of these passages and their new translation gives a fuller picture of the extensive inner lives of the characters, especially the hero Gabriel Bagradian, his wife Juliette, their son Stephan and Iskuhi Tomasian, the damaged, nineteen-year-old Armenian woman whom the older Bagradian loves. What is more apparent now is the personal story that Werfel tells, informed by events and people in his own life, a device he often used in his other novels as well, in which the author, his wife Alma, his stepdaughter Manon Gropius, and others in his circle are reinvented. Reidel has also revised the existing translation to free Werfel’s stronger usages from Dunlop’s softening of meaning, his effective censoring of the novel in order to fit the mores and commercial contingencies of the mid-1930s.

In bringing The Forty Days of Musa Dagh back into print and revising the English translation, we aim to make this new Verba Mundi edition more faithful to the book Thomas Mann read “with pleasure and profit” in German.

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