The Paris Wife

by PAULA McLAIN |

REVIEWED BY KIM HUBBARD

NOVEL

Hadley Richardson was the first of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives, and she arguably got the best of him: He was 21 (to her 28) when they met, all brown eyes and burning talent and not yet compromised by fame or his own demons. In The Paris Wife, McLain has taken their love story, partially told by Hemingway himself in A Moveable Feast, and fashioned a novel that’s impossible to resist. It’s all here, and it all feels real-the tiny flat the couple shared on rue Cardinal Lemoine, the mingling with Pound and Fitzgerald, the fights and the lovemaking and finally the sleek Vogue editor, Pauline Pfeiffer, who toppled their world. Only occasionally is it apparent that McLain has a biographical script to follow. (Lost valise in the Gare de Lyon? Check. Falling out with Gertrude Stein? Check.) More often you’re swept along by her portrayal of a once-sheltered woman who, in that prefeminist era, subsumed herself to her man yet got what she wanted-as the real Hadley put it, “the key to the world.”

The Old Romantic

by LOUISE DEAN |

REVIEWED BY ANNE LESLIE

NOVEL

Nick, the beleaguered son in Dean’s fine fourth novel, has spent decades distancing himself from his lower-class parents. Education was his ticket out of poverty and away from his father’s adage, “It’s sufferin’ what makes a person strong.” Now he’s a Cambridge-educated lawyer with a stylish beauty by his side, but Nick’s irascible father, Ken, sensing his own mortality, isn’t going to let Nick forget his past. A defiant old coot with a temper and an accent to match (“Oy! Big ‘ead! I’ll tell you what you are! You’re nothing!”), Ken manages, through stubbornness and insult, to insert himself back into his children’s lives, ultimately reconstituting his fractured family. Dean’s dialect will keep you entertained as these distinctly English characters, like ensemble actors, explore the light and dark sides of relationships, memory, death and the deep pull of family love.

Townie

by Andre Dubus III |

REVIEWED BY ERIC LIEBETRAU

MEMOIR

In his powerful debut memoir, novelist Dubus charts the violent arc of his early manhood. Following his parents’ divorce, he grappled with the challenges and temptations on the streets of a series of blue-collar Massachusetts towns. Well into his 20s, he found the visceral allure of street fighting and general violence irresistible, but he eventually channeled his energies into boxing and, finally, a successful writing career. Dubus’ novelistic storytelling combines with insightful introspection and striking, blunt prose, and the author’s father, also a writer, stands out as a complex influence on his son’s life, alternately distant, compassionate and vexing.

History of a Suicide

by Jill Bialosky |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

MEMOIR

Could the aftermath of a suicide be depicted any more poignantly than this? “Everyone…at the grave site must have wondered what he or she might have said or done that may have affected Kim’s act, and our responsibility left us speechless.” So writes poet and novelist Bialosky of her sister’s decision to end her life at age 21. Bialosky was as much mother as sister to Kim, and her death, even two decades later, remains as devastating as the loss of a child. This searing elegy is the author’s release from speechlessness and an encouragement to other suicide survivors to find such release. Studded with Kim’s writings and informed by the latest research, this memoir reads like butter and cuts like a knife.

Georgia Bottoms

by Mark Childress |

REVIEWED BY JOANNA POWELL

NOVEL

In this hilarious southern-fried novel, belle Georgia Bottoms cuts a sassy swath through the Alabama town her family has occupied for generations. Though the clan was once prosperous, gorgeous Georgia now makes ends meet with help from a round-robin of lovers. Riffs on small-town hypocrisy and racial tensions enliven the plot, but it’s the unsinkable Georgia who makes the book delicious.

And I Shall Have Some Peace There

by Margaret Roach |

MEMOIR

In 2008 Roach, then an exec at Martha Stewart Living, ditched Manhattan and moved upstate to launch a “vigil for my self, a one-woman sit-in in the woods.” Though some elements of her memoir rankle-she never quite acknowledges the affluence that funded her escape-her writing is witty and elegant, proof that despite her seemingly perfect fast-lane life, she was indeed meant for more artistic pursuits.

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