Before reading The Millstone, I spent years wanting to read a Margaret Drabble novel but never got around to it. She is what you would call a serious writer. To quote the LA Times, she is “as meticulous as Jane Austen, and as deadly as Evelyn Waugh.” So I knew The Millstone would be literary and well-written, and it was. But what came as a surprise to me was how easily readable the novel was and how much I was completely drawn into the main character’s life. The novel, one of Drabble’s early works, is set in 1960s London. The narrator is a young woman who has an unplanned pregnancy as a result of a casual love affair. This isn’t your typical unplanned pregnancy story; the narrator is highly educated, independent, and strong. She does not weep for her circumstances nor expects anyone to weep for her. The Millstone was a wonderful read, and I greatly enjoyed the 1960s London setting. I will most definitely be reading more of Drabble’s novels. I hope that you give her a go as well…if you have not done so already. Also--as an aside-- Margaret Drabble is A.S. Byatt’s sister.
If you are looking for a page-turning literary novel that you can read in one day, All Yours, a slim crime novel about a woman’s revenge on her cheating husband, is the book for you. The author, a native Argentinean, tells a gripping tale of domestic conflict and, at the same time, sheds light on Argentina’s class structure and the selfish behaviors of the entitled class. This author’s crime novels are all bestsellers in Latin America...and for good reason! All Yours is a great read.
Ruiz Zafon returns to the Barcelona of his The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game in this short novel which connects the characters and time periods of the previous two installments. Daniel Sempere, the young hero of The Shadow of the Wind, is now a married man, assisting his father in running their small bookstore. Business isn’t good, which is why it initially seems a blessing when a disfigured stranger buys a rare and expensive copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. However, the man leaves the book behind with a note addressed to Daniel’s friend Fermín Romero de Torres—“ For Fermín Romero de Torres, who came back from among the dead and holds the key to the future.” This single sentence inspires Daniel to investigate the stranger and, by extension, Fermín. What he discovers has wider-reaching consequences than he could ever have anticipated, touching on not only Fermin’s mysterious past and prior incarceration as a political prisoner but upon the death of Daniel’s mother Isabella and the writing of a strange book by the nearly forgotten author (and fellow prisoner to Fermín) David Martin—The Angel’s Game.
The storylines begun in Ruiz Zafon’s first two books of the Cemetary of Forgotten Books series begin to interweave here in exciting ways. While shorter and perhaps a shade less complex and rich than the previous two installments, Ruiz Zafon’s fans will not want to miss The Prisoner of Heaven. An open ending promises more to the story.
Spanning the years between 1787 and 1797, this fictionalized account of a real-life scandal follows three figures in London’s beau monde society: common-born actress Eliza Farren, who has spent her life striving to reach the pinnacle of high society; famously ugly Lord Derby, who has spent years pursuing Eliza’s affections but must wait until his ill and estranged wife passes away before Eliza can be his; and Derby’s friend, the widowed sculptress Anne Damer, who strikes up a close friendship with young Eliza. Politics are complicated in this time—the American Revolution has only recently ended, the French Revolution is about to begin, and liberal and conservative factions are going head-to-head for control of British government—but no more so than romantic and social relationships. Casual (and often shocking to chase Eliza) multiple-partner relationships seem to be the norm among the indolent gentry, and Anne Damer has been fighting rumors of lesbianism which now threaten the reputations of all those close to her as well.
Deliberately paced, with much tension simmering beneath the surface, Life Mask is a compelling portrait of a fascinating time and three appealingly flawed characters. The fast-paced thrills of Donoghue’s bestselling Room are not on offer here, but for a reader of novels of manners, there is much to enjoy.
On the waiting list for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn? You’re not alone! Every once in a while, a book takes us by surprise with its sudden popularity and the waiting lists skyrocket! We are buying multiple extra copies to make the wait time shorter, but if you’re looking for something fun to read in the meantime, we have some suggestions for you! Gone Girl is a twisty, complex thriller with unreliable narrators, slowly unraveling layers of deceit, and an unrelentingly suspenseful tone. If that sounds good to you, you might like one of the following titles, all of which share some of these characteristics!
Barr, Nevada. 13 ½
LaPlante, Alice. Turn of Mind
Lehane, Denis. Shutter Island
Lippmann, Laura. What the Dead Know
Lupton, Rosamund. Sister
Unger, Lisa. Black Out
Walters, Minette. The Breaker
Watson, S.J. Before I Go to Sleep