It’s time to think about fall reading and a new novel by Zadie Smith heads our list of must reads.
Zadie Smith’s “terrific” new novel, The Fraud, is historical fiction at its best. Based on an actual court case in England beginning in 1873 in which a butcher, Arthur Orton, claimed to be the long missing Sir Roger Tichborne, heir to a fortune, with the main witness being a black Jamaican ex-slave. It was a cause célebre at that time, pitting working class Britons against the disrespect they experienced in the judicial system. But…it isn’t only about this case. According to the author she tried very hard not to write about Charles Dickens, but, lo and behold, she could not avoid him nor another English author of the time, William Ainsworth. Smith is a masterful writer and The Fraud is sure to please.
We’ve discovered some extraordinary Irish authors and Queen of Dirt Island as well as the two novellas by Claire Keegan are highly recommended.
Queen of Dirt Island by Donal Ryan is a searing, jubilant story about four generations of women and the fierce devotion that binds them together. The Aylward women of Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland, are mad about each other, but you wouldn't always think it. You'd have to know them to know that—in spite of what the neighbors might say about raised voices and dramatic scenes—their house is a place of peace, filled with love, a refuge from the sadness and cruelty of the world. As the New York Times says: "If language— lyric, lovely and funny, steeped in County Tipperary— and women (men come and go, rarely center a chapter and are often useless, sometimes cruel) are of no interest to you, The Queen of Dirt Island is not your next read. Ryan's book is a celebration, in an embroidered, unrestrained, joyful, aphoristic, and sometimes profane style, of both . . . The Queen of Dirt Island gives the women their due, and the reader is rewarded." This book is a little Irish miracle.
An international bestseller and one of The Times’ top 50 novels published in the 21st century, Foster by Claire Keegan is a heartbreaking story of childhood, loss, and love. This is a story of a child taken by her father to live with relatives on a farm, not knowing when or if she will be brought home again. Foster is no less likely to move you than any heaping 400-page tome you’ll read this year says the New York Times Book Review. Pair it with Keegan’s other little masterpiece, Small Things Like These and you will be treating yourself to two epic works of art. Both of these novellas are well worth your time.
Rounding out our fiction recommendations is Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, a novel that uses the publishing industry to explore themes of white privilege, cultural appropriation, and systems of power. White lies. Dark humor. Deadly consequences…Bestselling sensation Juniper Song is not who she says she is, she didn't write the book she claims she wrote, and she is most certainly not Asian American—in this chilling and hilariously cutting novel from R.F. Kuang. A Reese’s Book Club Pick, Publishers Weekly says “This is not to be missed.”
If you are looking for a non-fiction work to balance your fiction, we recommend Elizabeth Rush’s new book, The Quickening: Creation and Community at the Ends of the Earth. It is a vital book about Antarctica, climate change, and motherhood from the author of Rising, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. The Quickening is one part memoir, one part reporting from the edge—a book that feels as though it was written from the brink. In this case the extreme scenario is literal: Rush, a journalist, joins a crew of scientists aboard a ship headed for a glacier in Antarctica that is, like much of the poles, rapidly disappearing. The book brings the environmental crisis into a personal sphere, asking what it means to have a child in the face of such catastrophic change. “The intrepid reader is treated to prose that lifts Rush’s work far above standard journalism” (Los Angeles Times)