Amidst all the Jane Austen and Downton Abbey mania, this artfully crafted novel about the servants living behind the scenes of the Pride and Prejudice Bennett household stands out. Passed over in the original telling, servants Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, Polly and mysterious newcomer James are given the spotlight and their seemingly simple lives unfold into a compelling emotional complexity.
A young Louise Brooks, the glamorous and headstrong silent-film icon, takes the stage in this historical novel, but Cora Carlisle is the star. Cora, a seemingly happy housewife in Wichita, agrees to travel to New York City and chaperone the free-spirited fifteen-year-old Louise so that she can attend the distinguished Denishawn dance school for the summer. Cora, we soon learn, has her own reasons for going to New York.
This beautiful new novel from British author Kate Atkinson is truly an inventive piece of storytelling. The reader is introduced to Ursula Todd not once, but multiple times. That is because Ursula is born and then dies over and over, going a little farther each time, down different paths, all leading to startlingly different versions of Ursula's life. Through her eyes we experience her childhood and family life in a middle-class English household, love in all its forms, and most importantly, the role, or many roles, she will play in World War II.
In 2009, Philipp Meyer was named one of the 20 best writers under 40 by the New Yorker after publishing his book, American Rust. I think it is safe to say that his most recent book, The Son, will secure his place on that list. The story focuses on the McCullough dynasty, who have held power in Texas since the 1800s, actively shaping the social, economic and physical landscape of the state since the wild frontier days.