The Diana Chronicles
By Tina Brown | [4 stars]



Nearly 10 years after the sensational death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Brown has managed to offer a fresh, savvy take on a familiar story. Editor of Britain’s aristo-centric Tatler when Di was a bride, Brown (later editor of The New Yorker) argues that Diana’s exalted status as a Spencer stunted her emotional life and that she was haunted by the dynastic marriage of her mother. Her mom, Frances (“a very sexy girl,” said one friend), was used as a broodmare and booted out of the family pile by Viscount Althorp when she admitted to adultery. Believing that she had been deserted, “Diana,” writes the author, “sat on the steps week after week, forlornly imagining her mother’s return.”

Brown uses well-placed sources to tackle questions including whether Charles ever loved his teen bride (yes) and what Di was looking for in her desperate final months: love, but not with Dodi Fayed. What she really wanted, says Brown, was a safe place to “nurse her wounds.” Juicy and authoritative, this is the ultimate update on the woman the world won’t forget.

Sheer Abandon
By Penny Vincenzi [3.5 stars]


The protagonists of Vincenzi’s terrifically satisfying novel meet at London’s Heathrow Airport: fiercely ambitious Martha; spoiled, impetuous Jocasta; and dowdy, insecure Clio. Just out of secondary school, the three are off for months of travel before heading to university. Fast friends, they vow to meet again in a year to compare notes on their adventures. Who’d have imagined that one such adventure would involve secretly giving birth to a daughter in an airport closet, then abandoning her? The repercussions are stunning. The reunion? It’s about 15 years late but worth the wait. In the interim there are love affairs, political intrigue, double-dealing and a gorgeous 15-year-old girl searching for her biological mother. Soap opera? You bet—but with her well-drawn characters and engaging style, Vincenzi keeps things humming.

The Maytrees
By Annie Dillard | [3.5 stars]


In her new novel, the author of the Pulitzer-winning Pilgrim at Tinker Creek follows Lou and Toby Maytree through love, child-rearing and eventual betrayal in bohemian post-World War II Provincetown, Mass. Dillard evokes the rich landscape and characters of Cape Cod—its eccentric clam diggers and poets posing as roofers—while centering her story around one family’s moving tragedy. Written in oblique, weird prose that retains the tautness of poetry, The Maytrees is a soulful exploration of love and marriage that has the hot, sunburned sting of a seaside summer afternoon.

Throw Like a Girl
By Jean Thompson | [4 stars]


Twelve stories trace the arc of womanhood from pubescent gloom to end-of-life regrets in this moody but compassionate collection. A teenage runaway finds herself in Florida with an older and possibly psychotic lover in “The Five Senses.” In the gut-wrenching “The Brat,” a girl considers what to do with a gun in her hand as a bully makes threats outside her window. These women’s melancholy reflects hard-won wisdom about the inability of love to conquer anything, never mind everything. Thompson packs a gallon’s worth of wisdom into each quart-size gem.

Warm Springs
By Susan Richards Shreve | [4 stars]


Novelist Shreve, who was stricken with polio as a baby, describes the two years she spent at the Warm Springs Polio Foundation in Georgia beginning at age 11. Surrounded by children more disabled than she, Shreve came of age, developed a crush on a priest and became romantically involved with a wheelchair-bound boy—a love that led to her being sent home. Throughout this thoughtful book, Shreve succeeds at the difficult task of recapturing, and communicating, what it was like to be young.

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