Sure, I realize that 2013 is not over yet. But we are entering the Fall publishing season, and it is becoming clear who has the right stuff and who does not.
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman is one of the really good ones. It is a short novel at less than 200 pages, with a main character who looks back on his childhood from middle age recalling a weird event of a fantasy/horror flavor. At age seven, evil entered his world, and the only force on his side consisted of three females living in the ramshackle farm at the end of the road. Lettie Hempstock, the youngest, was only 11 years old. But as the boy asks- how long has she been 11? As is true of the best in fantasy writing, such as Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, etc., Gaiman uses fantasy not just as an escape for bored readers, but rather as a lens to explore human nature. Beautiful writing.
Speaking of beautiful writing, Jhumpa Lahiri has done it again. Lahiri already has one Pulitzer for a short story collection, but her new novel "The Lowland" is sure to win her something. Two boys in Calcutta India take different life paths. Subhash takes advantage of a offer to study in the USA. Udayan stays home and becomes radicalized by the "Naxalites" movement, a 1960s offshoot of Communism. When tragedy strikes the family, it leaves a hole that the struggle to fill for more than a generation. have you read Steinbeck's "East of Eden"? it's that good. pub date is Sept 23.
For the "Pride and Prejudice" fans out there, there is one just for you. "Longbourn" by Jo Baker explores Jane Austen's brilliant classic from the downstairs point of view. Baker shows a sure hand here in fleshing out the servants of the Bennett household in a way that engages all the issues that Austen ignored. Who empties the chamber pots? Who works to make that 5000 pounds per year that constitutes Mr. Bingley's fortune? The romantic interplay of Sarah and James, two of the servants, is every bit as compelling as that of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy. perfect book group fare! Publication date is October 10.
My job is to read the good stuff before it comes out and tell you about it. I also sometimes read the crap and warn you to avoid it. Life is too short for stupid books.