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There is a special joy in seeing a new release by an author with whom you have earlier established a good fit. That zippy anticipation with any new book is more of a cosy feeling when it’s by an already favourite writer. Some universally “favourite” writers are emerging with new books in the coming months and I wanted to be sure you didn’t miss a beat. Jot these down and get ready to read! Let us know if you’ve discovered any favourite writers with a new work.

Edward Rutherfurd – Paris, April 23rd

I raved about Rutherfurd’s New York a few summers ago and I also enjoyed his London before that. In a style comparable to that of James Michener, Rutherfurd explores the history of a place – social, geographical, and beyond – by introducing readers to a fictional family and then following its members’ endeavours for a number of generations. I’m a big fan of these big books – truly sagas – and am delighted the next setting is Paris. Ooo la la!

Colum McCann – Transatlantic, June 4th

I can’t imagine narrowing down favourite book choices to a top 10 list but if I were forced to, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin would be guaranteed a spot; definitely one of my favourite reads in recent times. I am therefore tickled pink that a new McCann read is on the horizon. As with Spin, this story weaves together several story-lines, some true-to life, and relates them in unexpected ways. While Manhattan was the setting in his last tale, this one connects North America with Ireland. Can’t wait – and love that cover!

Khaled Hosseini – And the Mountains Echoed, May 21st

There are very few shelves around without a copy of The Kite Runner. Its enormous success and popularity was followed by another winner, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini skillfully, and sensitively, introduced a generation of us to the realities of modern Afghanistan through his compelling characters and their stories. His novels also illuminated the universal ties of family across generations and this new one will explore this theme as well, from Kabul to Greece to the U.S. By all early-reader accounts, this one’s another keeper for the shelf.

Isabel Allende – Maya’s Notebook, Just published (April)

Isabel Allende is another family saga specialist with almost twenty popular fiction and non-fiction works to her name. Famously hailing from Chile, Allende writes novels that feature themes of the Latino experience – immigration, political upheaval, balancing South and North American identities, and the evolution of family and place over generations. Her latest book, just released, is more of a contemporary tale than some of her historical ones and blends the Chilean and American experiences in an engaging way.

Jeannette Walls – The Silver Star, June 11th

A sentimental favourite for her startling, and riveting, memoir The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls shared more of her family’s unique story with Half Broke Horses. Both were un-put-downable. The Silver Star is a novel, rather than memoir, and so follows a fictional arc.  The themes are familiar – extraordinary families, resilience, and ultimately, triumph.

Joseph Boyden – The Orenda, September 2013

A Canadian favourite, Boyden is known for his award-winning Three Day Road, and Through Black Spruce – beautifully evocative writing and emotionally-charged stories from the Native Canadian experience. His new novel is still a wee wait away but worth anticipating. This time, the setting begins in very early Canada and explores the meeting of traditional and emerging approaches to social, political and spiritual thought. Guaranteed good methinks.

Lauren Weisberger – Revenge Wears Prada, June 4th

This will appear in shops just as you’re busting out your beach bag so be sure to save room. The Devil Wears Prada had us all feeling titillatingly voyeuristic as the shocking behind-the-scenes dynamics of a famous fashion magazine were revealed – all fiction, of course. Substantial sport followed in imagining the true-life inspiration for the antics, just the same.  I’m always a champion of book over movie, but Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt shall always vividly remain the personification of Weisberger’s written characters. They’re back on the page in Revenge so buckle up for more hijinks.

Amy Tan – The Valley of Amazement, November 2013

Remember The Joy Luck Club? I think it was one of the first real book club favourites when it was released in, brace yourself, 1989! Tan followed her first novel with other successes, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and several more. This new story will similarly pursue the experience of several generations of Chinese women in China and North America – the intriguing world of Courtesans being the feature this time.  “Spanning fifty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement is a deeply moving narrative of family secrets, the legacy of trauma, and the profound connections between mothers and daughters.” (goodreads) While you’re waiting, you might want to read Amy Tan’s  biographical notes – her personal story is a wild tale unto itself.

Titanic-ish Fiction

April 10, 2012

100 years has passed since the dramatic demise of the Titanic and many fascinating features are appearing in the news. There are an extraordinary number of non-fiction narratives on the shelves about the ship, the tragedy, the victims, and survivors and even a cookbook re-creating the meals served on board. Two new releases in the Fiction department look very appealing to me. Whether Titanic-inspired or not (they are) these strike me as simply great stories.
   
Kate Alcott (a pseudonym) is a journalist who had always been intrigued by the Titanic disaster and more specifically, by the lives of its survivors. With her professional eye for detail and story, she found a particularly colourful character during her research around whom she deftly projected an imagined tale. The Dressmaker is the result. Much of the action in this novel stems from the investigative hearings which took place following the sinking. Romance and moral angst appear, of course, to keep us riveted!
 
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan also fictionally echoes the Titanic but more vaguely; the featured ill-fated vessel is named the Empress Alexandra. But, as with The Dressmaker, this novel’s story flourishes in the ethical dilemmas and emotions rising from post-sinking investigations and trial. Author Charlotte Rogan, who practised writing as a surreptitious diversion while raising triplets (!), was inspired by reading old legal texts and by time spent sailing as a youngster when she learned to appreciate on-board hierarchy and decision-making protocols. Both experiences influence the thrilling study of truth and integrity as survivors recount and defend behaviours that took place within The Lifeboat. The strategizing and posturing sounds a bit like a heated episode of TVs “Survivor”! I am certain this remarkably well-reviewed book will be a bestseller.
And just because I know I piqued your interest above … click to be taken to amazon’s peek inside.  It’s a gorgeous book!

Lisa See

July 1, 2011

    

     

There are a few writers on whom one can depend to consistently provide a solid, entertaining and memorable read; Lisa See is one.  Her four most recent novels are wonderful journeys into the lives of strong and inspiring Chinese women and their experiences at different points in China’s (and the US’s ) history. Each story is engaging and poignant and, in the style of a historical novel (though each feels very contemporary), draws us into learning about an era we may never have had the chance to understand before. Snow Flower and The Secret Fan and Peony in Love stand alone while the very recent release, Dreams of Joy, is a sequel to Shanghai Girls. The author’s website gives wonderful background and descriptions for each novel – click on the book covers to be taken there.

The writing reflects thorough research and impeccable detail.  Lisa See, though she could be mistaken for an Irish lass, is in fact half Chinese. Her interest in the history of Chinese women is intensely personal and the depth of her care is evident in the writing. If you haven’t read her books before, then do make room on your bedside table for one or more of these. If you are seeking to read some of her other writing then explore her three mystery-thrillers (Flower Net, Dragon Bones, Interior) or the memoir based on her Grandfather’s journey from China to Los Angeles’ Chinatown (On Gold Mountain). Many of her books are award winners.

You’d think she’s been busy enough writing and facilitating sessions at the Smithsonian and beyond to share her considerable knowledge of the Chinese Immigrant experience but Lisa See has also seen her book Snow Flower and the Secret Fan become a movie set for release in early July.

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