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November 12, 2014
The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachman

In his zinger of a debut, Rachman deftly applies his experience as foreign correspondent and editor to chart the goings-on at a scrappy English-language newspaper in Rome. Chapters read like exquisite short stories, turning out the intersecting lives of the men and women who produce the paper—and one woman who reads it religiously, if belatedly. In the opening chapter, aging, dissolute Paris correspondent Lloyd Burko pressures his estranged son to leak information from the French Foreign Ministry, and in the process unearths startling family fare that won’t sell a single edition. Obit writer Arthur Gopal, whose “overarching goal at the paper is indolence,” encounters personal tragedy and with it, unexpected career ambition. Late in the book, as the paper buckles, recently laid-off copy editor Dave Belling seduces the CFO who fired him. Throughout, the founding publisher’s progeny stagger under a heritage they don’t understand. As the ragtag staff faces down the implications of the paper’s tilt into oblivion, there are more than enough sublime moments, unexpected turns and sheer inky wretchedness to warrant putting this on the shelf next to other great newspaper novels. — Publishers Weekly


December 10, 2014
The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single setting, The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.

This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.


January 14, 2015
Mary Coin
by Marisa Silver

Bestselling author Marisa Silver takes Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph as inspiration for a story of two women—one famous and one forgotten—and their remarkable chance encounter.

In 1936, a young mother resting by the side of the road in central California is spontaneously photographed by a woman documenting migrant laborers in search of work. Few personal details are exchanged and neither woman has any way of knowing that they have produced one of the most iconic images of the Great Depression. In present day, Walker Dodge, a professor of cultural history, stumbles upon a family secret embedded in the now-famous picture. In luminous prose, Silver creates an extraordinary tale from a brief event in history and its repercussions throughout the decades that follow—a reminder that a great photograph captures the essence of a moment yet only scratches the surface of a life.


February 11, 2015
The Picture of Dorian Gray
by Oscar Wilde
 
Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life, indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The novel was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at his trial at the Old Bailey in 1895.

 


March 11, 2015
This Beautiful Life
Helen Schulman

In this sobering tale of how adolescent stupidity can have criminal and social repercussions, Schulman (A Day at the Beach) explores what happens when a privileged teen boy forwards to friends a sexually explicit video made for him by a classmate. Jake Bergamot, 15, has recently moved to New York City from Ithaca, N.Y., with his parents, Richard and Liz, and his kindergarten-aged sister, Coco. Life in Ithaca was easy and idyllic, but after Richard takes a job in the city, that all changes. Jake is enrolled at Wildwood, a New York City prep school where he makes a new circle of friends and attends wild parties, one of which leads to the video—later made by a girl at the party who Jake refuses to sleep with because, among other reasons, she’s too young—that could determine the direction his young life will take. Jake is a good student and a nice kid, and his parents are rocked to their foundations by their son being snared in a child pornography scandal. The plot is ripe for salacious tabloid treatment, but Schulman sidesteps easy shock and hyperbole to turn out a provocative story of ethics and responsibilities in the ever-shifting digital age.— Publishers Weekly


April 8, 2015
A Charmed Life: Growing Up in MacBeth's Castle
by Liza Campbell

“We grew up with the same parents in the same castle, but in many ways we each had a moat around us. Sometimes when visitors came they would say, “You are such lucky children; it’s a fairytale life you live.” And I knew they were right, it was a fairytale upbringing. But fairy tales are dark and I had no way of telling either a stranger or a friend what was going on; the abnormal became ordinary.”

Liza Campbell was the last child to be born at the impressive and renowned Cawdor Castle, the family seat of the Campbells, as featured in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Liza’s father Hugh, the twenty-fifth Thane, inherited dashing good looks, brains, immense wealth, an ancient and revered title, three stately homes, and 100,000 acres of land. A Charmed Life tells the story of Liza’s idyllic childhood with her four siblings in Wales in the 1960s, until Hugh inherited Cawdor Castle and moved his family up to the Scottish Highlands. It was at the historical ancestral home that the fairytale began to resemble a nightmare.


May 13, 2015
Sweet Tooth
by Ian McEwan

Serena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has just completed her math degree at Cambridge. Her brief affair with one of her professors leads to an interview with MI5. Serena lands an assignment in Operation Sweet Tooth: the funding of artists and writers with whom MI5’s political views align. Her “target” is Tom Healey, a promising young writer. First she falls in love with his stories, then she begins to fall in love with the man. When his novella wins a prestigious prize, the deceit becomes too much for Serena to bear. But before she can confess, her cover is blown, scandalizing the literary world and crippling MI5’s efforts. Who blew the whistle and why? Ian McEwan will keep you guessing in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal, intrigue, and love.


June 10, 2015
The Good Lord Bird
by James McBride

From the bestselling author of The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung comes the story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.

Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.

An absorbing, mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.
 


 

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