Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France, by Nicholas Shakespeare. (Harper Perennial) Shakespeare knew that Priscilla Thompson, his glamorous but enigmatic aunt, had lived in Vichy France, and family lore even had her jailed by the Gestapo for her work in the Resistance. But long after her death in 1982, the author has pieced together a far more intriguing story: that of a femme fatale who made painful compromises to survive the Nazi occupation.
And the Dark Sacred Night, by Julia Glass. (Anchor) Immersing readers in a panorama stretching from New Jersey to Vermont, Glass’ heartfelt novel follows Kit – an unemployed art historian with two kids, a mortgage and an exasperated wife – as he searches for the identity of his biological father. (His quest leads to an unsuspecting family circle that includes characters from Glass’ National Book Award-winning “Three Junes.”)
My Life in Middlemarch, by Rebecca Mead. (Broadway) George Eliot’s Victorian classic “Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life” struck a deep chord with Mead when she was a young woman in England, and again at various points throughout her life. In this poignant work of biography, reporting and memoir, Mead shows us the life “Middlemarch” made for her and shares her admiration for Eliot as both a great novelist and a role model.
Kerrigan in Copenhagen: A Love Story, by Thomas E. Kennedy. (Bloomsbury) Abandoned by his wife to a dipsomaniacal middle age, Kennedy’s American expatriate is hired to write a guidebook to the drinking establishments of his adopted city of Copenhagen, Denmark. The year is 1999, and as Kerrigan strolls the cobblestoned streets with a green-eyed, 50-something woman he calls his Research Associate, the novel becomes a spiraling exploration of alcohol, history, literature, art and jazz.
Rebel Music: Race, Empire, and the New Muslim Youth Culture, by Hisham D. Aidi. (Vintage.) From the hip-hop park jams of the South Bronx to the Sufi rock bands of Pakistan, from Paris’ banlieues to Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, Aidi takes us into the musical subcultures that have emerged among Muslim youth, and traces longstanding connections between Islam and African-American music.
A Replacement Life. by Boris Fishman. (Harper Perennial) In Fishman’s ingenious first novel, Slava Gelman, a Soviet émigré and struggling writer in New York, becomes adept at forging Holocaust-restitution claims for South Brooklyn’s Russian Jews. Listening to the war stories of these elderly strangers, Slava finds himself drawing closer to his grandmother and the Holocaust memories that died with her.
Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, by Robert D. Kaplan. (Random House) Kaplan’s book tempers hard-nosed geopolitics with an engaging mix of history and travelogue, and centers on a striking analogy: “China’s position vis-à-vis the South China Sea,” he writes, “is akin to America’s position vis-à-vis the Caribbean Sea in the 19th and early 20th centuries.”
New York Times