I got some really wonderful books this week and here they are:
Meike from Peirene Press sent me Title No. 10: The Mussel Feast by Birgit Vanerbeke, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch (February 2013). This novella is being praised as “the German book that has shaped an entire generation.” Written in 1989, just prior to the fall of the wall between East and West Germany, it revolves around a mother and her two teenage children sitting around their dinner table. In the middle of table stands a pot of mussels. What unfolds is a conversation which “lays bare the contradictory logic of an inflexible mind.” The author was motivated to write the story, in part, to explore how revolutions start. The publisher describes the narrative as “poignant yet hilarious” with “a brilliant ending.”
Birgit Vanderbeke is one of Germany’s most successful literary authors and has written 12 novels. The Mussel Feast was her first publication and won the most prestigious German-language literature award, the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize. Published in 1990, the book has not been out of print since. It has been translated into all major European languages.
Jamie Bulloch has already translated Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by FC Delius (Peirene No 3) and Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe (Peirene No 9) for Peirene. He has worked as a professional translator from German since 2001. He is also the author of A Short History of Tuscany and Karl Renner: Austria.
The incomparable Lydia Hirt sent me a wonderful package of books, all of which look incredible:
The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill (Riverhead Books, April 2013) is being marketed for book clubs…and I am happy to say that my new face-to-face books club of three will be reading this one together. The main character in the novel, Hannah Gardner Price, was inspired by Maria Mitchell (pronounced Ma-RYE-ah), America’s first professional female astronomer (read more about Mitchell here). Set in 1845, the book opens with Hannah who has lived all twenty-four years of her life according to the principles of the Nantucket Quaker community in which she was raised. She is expected to marry and become a mother. But Hannah pursues a very different—and elusive—goal: discovering a comet and thereby winning a gold medal awarded by the King of Denmark. When Hannah meets Isaac Martin, a dark-skinned whaler from the Azores, she discovers a man with intellectual curiosity and an honest manner. Their common attraction and shared interest in the stars challenges Hannah’s most fundamental beliefs…and will change her life forever.
Amy Brill is a writer and producer. Her articles, essays, and short stories have appeared in numerous publications including Salon, Guernica, and Time Out New York, and have been anthologized in Before and After: Stories from New York and Lost and Found. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has been awarded fellowships in fiction by the Edward Albee Foundation, Jentel, the Millay Colony, Fundacion Valparaiso, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. As a broadcast journalist, she received a George Foster Peabody Award for writing MTV’s The Social History of HIV, and she researched, wrote, or produced over a dozen other projects for the network’s pro-social initiatives. A native New Yorker, Amy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two small daughters. Read more about Brill and her work by visiting the author’s website.
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead Books, April 2013) is being praised as “a dazzling, panoramic novel about what becomes of early talent, and the roles that art, money, and even envy can play in close friendships.” It is he summer that Nixon resigns, and six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. The novel follows these characters from the height of youth through middle age, as their talents, fortunes, and degrees of satisfaction diverge.
From the publisher:
Wide in scope, ambitious, and populated by complex characters who come together and apart in a changing New York City, The Interestings explores the meaning of talent; the nature of envy; the roles of class, art, money, and power; and how all of it can shift and tilt precipitously over the course of a friendship and a life.
Meg Wolitzer’s previous novels include The Uncoupling; The Ten-Year Nap; The Position; and The Wife. She is also the author of a novel for young readers, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. Wolitzer’s short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Learn more about Wolitzer and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Suspect by Robert Crais (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, January 2013) is the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author. LAPD cop Scott James is reeling after a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie and nearly killed him. Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED. The two become partners and set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. It turns out they are each other’s last chance and their journey will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.
Watch a quick blurb from an interview with Crais about the book – and then you’ll have an idea why I wanted a copy!
Robert Crais is the author of many New York Times bestsellers, most recently Taken, which debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Sentry. He lives in Los Angeles. Learn more about Crais and his work by visiting the author’s website.
The lovely Caitlin from Unbridled Books sent me Masha Hamilton’s newest book: What Changes Everything (June 2013).
From the publisher:
After Todd Barbery, director of a humanitarian organization working with refugees, is assaulted and kidnapped on the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan nothing remains the same. How could it?
What Changes Everything is the story of Todd’s wife, Clarissa, who tries to save her husband, while her own life spins out of control in the dark nights of Brooklyn. There on the night streets, she meets Danil, an angry New York graffiti artist whose life was derailed by a loss in the same incomprehensible war half a world away. Danil’s mother Stela writes letter after letter from her bookstore in Cleveland in hopes of comprehending the loss of one son on an Afghan battlefield and of reconnecting with Danil, who abandoned her in anger when his brother died. This is also the story of Mandy, a mother from Texas, grappling with the fury of a wounded son who barely made it home from that war. And it’s Todd’s story, too, who for only a moment let down his guard in a Kabul marketplace and now confronts the worst of possibilities.
But, remarkably, What Changes Everything also tells another story: the true story of Mohammad Najibullah, the last president of Afghanistan during the Communist era, whose fall from power was made final by the arrival of the Taliban. The letters in this novel from Najibullah to his three daughters are imagined, but the author had the privilege of lengthy exchanges with one of them, who shared recollections of her father—and a poem her mother had written about him.
This novel about the grace of human connections in a world that is so often too harsh and dangerous to face alone, is getting wonderful early praise. It is being called “intensely gripping and beautifully written,” and “as real and immediate as a racing pulse.” Author Meg Waite Clayton writes about the book: “Quite simply stunning. Every once in a while, a book comes along that makes you want to wrest even your own work from readers’ hands and command that they instead read this.”
Masha Hamilton is the author of four acclaimed novels, most recently 31 Hours, which The Washington Post called one of the best novels of 2009, and independent bookstores named an Indie choice. She also founded two world literacy projects, the Camel Book Drive and the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. She is the winner of the 2010 Women’s National Book Association award. She is the Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy at the US Embassy in Kabul. Learn more about Hamilton and her work by visiting the author’s website.
Did any amazing books arrive at YOUR house this week?