fiction

In ‘Learning to Talk,’ Hilary Mantel Conjures a Troubled Childhood

Lee Polevoi

All the stories here are closely observed, showcasing the author’s exemplary skill at painting secondary characters with a simple literary flourish: “Myra was little, she was mere, rat-faced and meager, like a nameless cut in a butcher’s window in a demolition area.” Also, Mantel reliably locates the right sensory details to evoke a childhood disrupted by arcane family dynamics and the ambition to escape provincial life in the North of England.

Beguiling Tales of County Mayo in Colin Barrett’s ‘Homesickness’

Lee Polevoi

In these beguiling stories, we are for the most part steadfastly situated in County Mayo, Ireland. As in Young Skins, this hugely talented writer immerses us in a remote part of the Emerald Isle, serving up (with great sympathy) characters who display his signature mix of humor and melancholy. Life is hard for County Mayo residents, eased only occasionally by flashes of love and warm feelings.

New Graphic Novel Pays Homage to a Kurt Vonnegut Classic

Garrett Hartman

The adaptation translates this perfectly, instead of treating us to panels showing the things Vonnegut describes, the authors instead do what Vonnegut did and tell us a bit about the creation of the original work. Part of what makes the execution of this graphic novel so brilliant is that the authors do not pretend to write as Vonnegut, but narrate this portion as themselves, similarly to how Vonnegut narrates Billy Pilgrim’s story.

A Doctor Slowly Unravels at the Height of the Vietnam War in ‘All Bleeding Stops’

Michael J. Collins

His war begins with a quiet palette of turquoise and green; soft, shaded layers of blue and white layered like quicklime over all the darkness to follow. The plane banks left. Their shadow, a hundred yards behind them, flits over the shimmering surface of the South China Sea. Ahead, blue waters lap against brilliant white sand. A canopy of jungle fronting the beach glows green in the slanting rays of the late-afternoon sun.

Love, Friendship Are Forged Amidst Conflict in ‘War With No Name’

Adam Gravano

The final installment of the series that is on the shelf, D'Arc, resumes Sebastian and Sheba’s story, just after Mort(e) has come to its dramatic end. The friends are pressed into service once more, for a more developed society that has resurfaced after the close of the main events of the War With No Name. Our friend, Sebastian, at this stage, would like to be left alone, but trouble finds him – and Sheba, too.

Intrigue and Deception Fuel Rebecca Starford’s ‘Unlikely Spy’

Lee Polevoi

Evelyn is charged with infiltrating the Lion Society, a group of homegrown fascists whom the authorities fear might help Hitler and the war effort. She conducts herself with maybe a little too much savoir faire, given that this is her first undercover experience, but soon enough the society’s members ask her to supply classified information from the British War Office. Then she discovers a surprising personal connection among the Nazi sympathizers—a connection that will return to haunt her in the years after the war.

Should Non-Diverse Authors Write Diverse Stories?

Angelo Franco

Perhaps what we as readers can do is just take everyone else’s opinions in strides. Take reviews with a grain of salt, and then decide on our own whether a book merits a place in our bookshelves, in our community book exchange program, or in the recycling bin. To read and consume consciously, patronizing the authors who gave us the stories that stirred our emotions, and then to tell everyone else about them until the industry finally gets the message.  

Curating Identity: Fabric Façades in ‘Le Père Goriot’

Eva Berezovsky

Truth in Père Goriot seems to detach from its clothing façades and succeed societal suppression in moments of climactic doom. Reality not only lies beneath clothing––beneath appearance and subsequent labels––but it hides beneath it, creeping out with the mere removal of a shirt. Just as Gustave Courbet declares that “titles have never given a true idea of things,” clothing in Père Goriot titles its characters in preservation of a society that revolves around the superficial and rejects realism.

‘Souvenir Museum’ Delves Into the Tragicomic Lives of Its Characters

Lee Polevoi

Elizabeth McCracken is one of these writers, and it’s a rare pleasure to immerse yourself in her new story collection, The Souvenir Museum. As with Thunderstruck, her previous (and equally brilliant) book of short stories, it’s immediately clear she knows what she’s doing—not surprising, given her distinguished career as both a novelist and short story writer.

Greed, Destiny, and Death at Sea Haunt ‘The Glass Hotel’

Lee Polevoi

The Glass Hotel revolves around two events:  the collapse of a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme in 2008 and, years later, a woman falling (or being pushed) from the deck of a container ship at sea. In between swirl a variety of interconnected subplots and a host of living, breathing secondary characters. And, as with Station Eleven, the author enjoys (and is seemingly peerless at) shuffling time and point of view in ways that subtly enrich the text, while never disorienting the reader as to where and what is going on.

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