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Books

‘The Confessions of Frances Godwin’ a story of maturity, by maturity

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The worldwide success of the Harry Potter series has led to a great emphasis on young adult crossover novels in contemporary publishing. For years, teen wizards, warriors, werewolves and vampires have dominated publicity and sales in what seems to be a literary high school. Robert Hellenga’s immensely satisfying seventh novel, The Confessions of Frances Godwin, is, by contrast, an adult book – and by “adult,” I don’t mean tediously pornographic. As in Hellenga’s earlier novels (The Sixteen Pleasures, Philosophy Made Simple, Snakewoman of Little Egypt), the main characters are academics past middle age with a lifetime of experience, accomplishments and regrets. Frances Godwin is a … 0

Despite fumblings, ‘Green Girl’ strives toward optimism

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Long before Lena Dunham and her Girls, writers have wrestled with youth’s peculiar blend of narcissism and self-hatred: the sense that success is just around the corner and that one’s best days are long gone. Early in Hamlet, Polonius tells his daughter, “You speak like a green girl, unsifted in such perilous circumstance.” … 0

‘Blue Mind’ a study of emotional, psychological, physical connections

Sunday, August 17, 2014

As I look up from the pages of this book, there’s nothing between me and the horizon but water. The only sounds are the hypnotic hiss of stones as they are dragged back by waves and the occasional call of a gull. Fresh air gusts over the water’s surface, picking up notes of … 0

‘Locust’ a dark and fantastical tale

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The stories we tell to explain autism go back centuries. The Celts believed fairies stole healthy babies and replaced them with elfin spirits. Bruno Bettelheim insisted the problem was cold, witchy mothers. Later, pediatricians and needles would be … 0

‘Lies’ a study of WWI virtues

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Unlike the books in Jacqueline Winspear’s popular Maisie Dobbs series, The Care and Management of Lies is not a mystery – although its scenes of World War I trench warfare certainly leave a reader in suspense. As much … 0

‘Book of Life’ crowded, complicated

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Time-tripping witch and scholar Diana Bishop returns in The Book of Life, the final installment of Deborah Harkness’s best-selling “All Souls” trilogy. When last encountered in Shadow of Night, Diana and her husband, aristo vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, … 0

American Life in Poetry: Punching holes in the sky

Sunday, August 3, 2014

At one point in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, a story set on a far-future Earth lapsed into a Dark Age, the narrator glimpses a “warrior of a dead world” in an enigmatic picture hanging in … 0

Michaelangelo bio odd but not bad

Sunday, August 3, 2014

In this enjoyable but curious biography, art historian Miles J. Unger presents the High Renaissance master Michelangelo Buonarroti through six of his major works: the Pieta, David, two segments of the Sistine Chapel frescos (the Creation of Adam … 0

‘The Beans of Egypt, Maine’ a spectacular, quirky read

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Carolyn Chute’s blockbuster novel The Beans of Egypt, Maine was a New York Times best-seller and Book-of-the-Month Club selection. It is about the impoverished townspeople of fictitious Egypt, Maine, told with total honesty and brutal detail. The author … 0

‘Dry Bones’ a disturbing debut for Bouman

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tom Bouman is a serious writer – literate, understated, elegant – and Dry Bones in the Valley is an exciting and disturbing debut. His detective, Henry Farrell, comes alive in a way that pulls us into his story from our first glimpse of him barefoot on his porch … 0

Dystopian ‘California’ amusing, if not convincing

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The environment is a disaster. Government has failed. Food is scarce. Untreatable viruses run rampant. Humans have lost the ability to reproduce. Welcome to the robust genre of post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction, otherwise known as “something really bad happened … 1

Another author boosted by ‘Colbert Bump’

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The “Colbert Bump” is becoming contagious. Edan Lepucki, whose novel California became a best-seller thanks to a plug from Stephen Colbert, has in turn helped another book catch on. During an interview on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report … 0

Compelling characters in Atkins’s ‘The Forsaken’

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sheriff Quinn Colson has been working to clean up corruption and injustice in Ace Atkins’s compelling crime fiction series, but he can’t change the past of Jericho, Miss., when he’s faced with a decades-old crime that leads to … 0