by Emma Donoghue |
This satisfying historical novel revolves around a real unsolved murder that took place in San Francisco in the summer of 1876, a period marked by extreme heat and widespread smallpox. The city, still reeking of the Wild West, is itself a wondrous character here, its peculiarities—including racism against the Chinese—drawn in vivid detail. Blanche Beunon, a 24-year-old Parisian immigrant, works as a burlesque dancer and prostitute to support her dandy lover; she rarely sees her infant son P’tit after “farming him out” to dubious care at birth. Blanche makes an unlikely new friend in Jenny Bonnet, a delightful original who catches frogs for the restaurant trade and dresses in men’s clothing, which often earns her mistreatment. The friendship provides a bittersweet center for the novel: It prompts Blanche to seize control of her own life, though her boldness will prove dangerous to both women. Jenny is murdered in the book’s opening pages, but as the narrative moves back and forth in time, the mystery of her killer’s identity endures to the end. Still, most fascinating is the story of Blanche, who evolves from an immature girl, appalling mother and browbeaten lover to a woman of strength and soul.
—REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI
BY THE AUTHOR OF …
Donoghue’s acclaimed 2010 bestseller Room, about a mother and son who are held captive, is set to become a film.
THE DIVORCE PAPERS
by Susan Rieger |
At age 67, Rieger has written a witty first novel about the breakup of a straying doctor and his genteel wife, Mia, who finds her inner brawler when she’s served with a divorce summons at her favorite restaurant. The engaging tale is told entirely through e-mails, memos and the like, providing all the voyeuristic pleasure of snooping through someone else’s inbox.
—REVIEWED BY LAURIE MUCHNICK
by Harlan Coben |
NYPD Det. Kat Donovan sees her ex-fiancé’s photo on You AreJustMyType.com and soon finds herself in a maelstrom involving Internet fraud, psychos, a bipolar yoga teacher and her cop dad’s unsolved murder. Coben’s story twists tight: It will leave you eyeing your computer, wondering what horrors might await the next time you log on.
—REVIEWED BY ELLEN SHAPIRO
by Ellen Litman |
Growing up in Soviet Moscow, Kat Knopman has always been a bit of an outsider. But when she’s diagnosed with scoliosis and fitted with a brace, her oddities feel suddenly on display. Kat’s struggles to become a “mannequin girl”—straight-backed and pliant, like a model—make up this tender, bittersweet coming-of-age tale.
—REVIEWED BY ANDREA WALKER