Daily Archives: October 10, 2016

October Reads: ‘The Girl from Venice’ by Martin Cruz Smith

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The highly anticipated new standalone novel from Martin Cruz Smith, whom The Washington Post has declared “that uncommon phenomenon: a popular and well-regarded crime novelist who is also a writer of real distinction,” The Girl from Venice is a suspenseful World War II love story set against the beauty, mystery, and danger of occupied Venice.

Venice, 1945. The war may be waning, but the city known as La Serenissima is still occupied and the people of Italy fear the power of the Third Reich. One night, under a canopy of stars, a fisherman named Cenzo comes across a young woman’s body floating in the lagoon and soon discovers that she is still alive and in trouble.

Born to a wealthy Jewish family, Giulia is on the run from the Wehrmacht SS. Cenzo chooses to protect Giulia rather than hand her over to the Nazis. This act of kindness leads them into the world of Partisans, random executions, the arts of forgery and high explosives, Mussolini’s broken promises, the black market and gold, and, everywhere, the enigmatic maze of the Venice Lagoon.

The Girl from Venice is a thriller, a mystery, and a retelling of Italian history that will take your breath away. Most of all it is a love story.

http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-Girl-from-Venice/Martin-Cruz-Smith/9781439140239

October Reads: ‘The Spawning Grounds’ by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

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On one side of the river is a ranch once owned by Eugene Robertson, who came in the gold rush around 1860, and stayed on as a homesteader. On the other side is a Shuswap community that has its own tangled history with the river–and the whites. At the heart of the novel are Hannah and Brandon Robertson, teenagers who have been raised by their grandfather after they lost their mother. As the novel opens, the river is dying, its flow reduced to a trickle, and Hannah is carrying salmon past the choke point to the spawning grounds while her childhood best friend, Alex, leads a Native protest against the development further threatening the river. When drowning nearly claims the lives of both Hannah’s grandfather and her little brother, their world is thrown into chaos. Hannah, Alex, and most especially Brandon come to doubt their own reality as they are pulled deep into Brandon’s numinous visions, which summon the myths of Shuswap culture and tragic family stories of the past.
The novel hovers beautifully in the fluid boundary between past and present, between the ordinary world and the world of the spirit, all disordered by the human and environmental crises that have knit the white and Native worlds together in love, and hate, and tragedy for 150 years. Can Hannah and her brother, and Alex, find a way forward that will neither destroy the river nor themselves?

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/532573/spawning-grounds#9780345810816

October Reads: ‘Three Years with the Rat’ by Jay Hosking

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After several years of drifting between school and go-nowhere jobs, a young man is drawn back into the big city of his youth. The magnet is his beloved older sister, Grace: always smart and charismatic even when she was rebelling, and always his hero. Now she is a promising graduate student in psychophysics and the centre of a group of friends who take “Little Brother” into their fold, where he finds camaraderie, romance, and even a decent job.

But it soon becomes clear that things are not well with Grace. Always acerbic, she now veers into sudden rages that are increasingly directed at her adoring boyfriend, John, who is also her fellow researcher. When Grace disappears, and John shortly thereafter, the narrator makes an astonishing discovery in their apartment: a box big enough to crawl inside, a lab rat, and a note that says This is the only way back for us. Soon he embarks on a mission to discover the truth, a pursuit that forces him to question time and space itself, and ultimately toward a perilous confrontation at the very limits of imagination.

This kinetic novel catapults the classic noir plot of a woman gone missing into the 21st century city, where so-called reality crashes into speculative science in a novel reminiscent of Danielewski’s House of Leaves. Three Years with the Rat is simultaneously a mind-twisting mystery that plays with the very nature of time and the story of a young man who must face the dangerously destructive forces we all carry within ourselves.

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/417541/three-years-rat#9780670069378

October Reads: ‘Here I Am’ by Jonathan Safran Foer

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God asked Abraham to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, and Abraham replied obediently, “Here I am.”

This is the story of a fracturing family in a moment of crisis. Over the course of three weeks in present-day Washington, D.C., three sons watch their parents’ marriage falter and their family home fall apart. Meanwhile, a large catastrophe is engulfing another part of the world: a massive earthquake devastates the Middle East, sparking a pan-Arab invasion of Israel. With global upheaval in the background and domestic collapse in the foreground, Jonathan Safran Foer asks us: What is the true meaning of home? Can one man ever reconcile the conflicting duties of his many roles– husband, father, son? And how much of life can a person ultimately bear?

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/546349/here-i-am#9780735232938

October Reads: ‘Nutshell’ by Ian McEwan

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New from the bestselling author of Atonement and The Children Act

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home—a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse—but John’s not there. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/549109/nutshell-by-ian-mcewan/9780385542074/

October Reads: ‘Mischling’ by Affinity Konar

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Pearl is in charge of: the sad, the good, the past. Stasha must care for: the funny, the future, the bad.
It’s 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood.
As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele’s Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.
That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but clings to the possibility that Pearl remains alive. When the camp is liberated by the Red Army, she and her companion Feliks–a boy bent on vengeance for his own lost twin–travel through Poland’s devastation. Undeterred by injury, starvation, or the chaos around them, motivated by equal parts danger and hope, they encounter hostile villagers, Jewish resistance fighters, and fellow refugees, their quest enabled by the notion that Mengele may be captured and brought to justice within the ruins of the Warsaw Zoo. As the young survivors discover what has become of the world, they must try to imagine a future within it.
A superbly crafted story, told in a voice as exquisite as it is boundlessly original, Mischling defies every expectation, traversing one of the darkest moments in human history to show us the way toward ethereal beauty, moral reckoning, and soaring hope.

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/534457/mischling#9780345816412

 

October Reads: ‘After James’ by Michael Helm

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A neuroscientist retreats to a secluded cabin in the woods, intending to blow the whistle on a pharmaceutical company and its creativity drug gone wrong. A failed poet is lured to Rome as a “literary detective” to decode the work of a mysterious Internet poet who seems to write about murders with precise knowledge of private details. On the heels of a life crisis, a virologist discovers her identity has been stolen by a conceptual artist in whose work someone always goes missing. After James is an audacious, masterful novel, told in three connected parts, each gesturing toward a type of genre fiction — the gothic horror, the detective novel, and the apocalyptic. As the novel unfolds in great cities, remote regions, and deadly borderlands, it weaves connections both explicit and subtle, pulling us deeper into a greater mystery that has come to define our times. Gorgeously written, alive with intelligence and wit, full of adventure and suspense, After James confirms Michael Helm’s reputation as one of the most electrifying writers of his generation.

http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/533181/after-james#9780771038761