And once again, beloved patrons, we arrive at another Friday, and another round-up of some of the fascinating books that are frolicking on our shelves, eager to go along with you on a weekend adventure.
And speaking of this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the International Festival this Sunday, September 11, from 12-6pm! There will be plenty of entertainment, activities, arts, and, naturally, a smörgåsbord of food from Greece, Brazil, China, Poland, Portugal, to name only a few. And lastly, don’t miss your chance to visit the Friends of the Library Booth, where you may just have a chance to meet the remarkable Lady Pole in person! Free Parking & a Shuttle service will be available from Higgins Middle School or Northshore Mall parking lot (by East Boston Savings Bank). Look for the Council on Aging Vans with International Festival Signs, and have a safe, wonderful, and delicious time!
The Nix: This book has been gracing any number of “Best of 2016” lists, and getting rave reviews from critics, authors, and readers alike. A Nix, in Norwegian folklore, often appears as a white horse, and steals away children. In Nathan Hill’s debut novel, a ‘Nix’ is anything that is loved–and lost. For Samuel Andresen-Anderson, college professor and would-be writer, that ‘Nix’ is his mother, who abandoned him when he was a child, and, in 2011, suddenly re-appears, the alleged perpetrator of an outlandish crime that is attracting national media attention. Though his mother is being portrayed as a radical, amoral hippie, Samuel has always held a memory of a kind, young, and very, very ordinary woman–so which version of his mother is true? To find out, he embarks on a journey into his family’s past, from the Chicago riots in 1968 to Norway, and the mythical Nix itself, resulting in a big, sprawling, and emotionally impactful book that earned a starred review from Kirkus, which called it a “sparkling, sweeping debut novel that takes in a large swath of recent American history and pop culture and turns them on their sides. . . .A grand entertainment, smart and well-paced, and a book that promises good work to come.”
The Pigeon Tunnel: John Le Carré created the Cold War spy novel, raising espionage from the land of magazine tales and pulp novels and crafting a genre that is still selling millions of copies today. This newest release is his first memoir, detailing a life that seems equally as interesting and surprising as any of his fiction. Le Carré himself worked for British Intelligence during the Cold War, and, both in that capacity and in his literary work, has travelled to some of the most extreme places, and met with some of the most extraordinary people (and parrots), on earth (the parrot could perfectly mimic machine gun fire and sing the opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at will, in case you were wondering). From Rwandan genocide museums to meetings with international heads of state, from preparing television adaptations to living in a bunker with a female German terrorist, Le Carré’s incisive, insightful style brings each of these tales to life in a way that will make you think you, too, have acquired all the stamps he has in his passport. Publisher’s Weekly agrees, saying, “Always insightful, frequently charming, and sometimes sobering, the memorable tales told by master storyteller le Carré about his life will surely delight both longtime fans and newcomers.”
The Fortunes: Peter Ho Davies’ newest book re-imagines America’s history through the eyes of Chinese immigrants, a group of people who had an enormous and crucial impact on American culture and society, but whose story is so seldom considered in literature. Intertwining the tale of four lives: a railroad baron who unwittingly launches the Chinese Labor Movement to a Chinese actress who is forbidden from kissing white men on public or on screen, to a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes other immigrants, to a biracial writer who travels to China in the hopes of adopting a baby, this Davies spins stories that are heavily influenced by actual historic events, and deals with issues of identity and community, belonging and isolation, loss and hope in a way that is beautfully empathetic and relatable, not to mention surprisingly funny and genuinely touching. Publisher’s Weekly also loved this book, giving it a starred review and cheering, “The book’s scope is impressive, but what’s even more staggering is the utter intimacy and honesty of each character’s introspection. More extraordinary still is the depth and the texture created by the juxtaposition of different eras, making for a story not just of any one person but of hundreds of years and tens of millions of people. Davies…has created a brilliant, absorbing masterpiece.”
True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy: Noel Field was a British-born American who moved back to the US following his father’s death, and attended Harvard University. He was hired by the U.S. State Department in the late 1920’s, and went to work for the League of Nations in 1936. This was around the same time that he began working as an operative with the Soviet NKVD. A devout Communist and staunch believer in the Soviet Union, Fields was arrested in 1949 by the Soviets, interrogated, tortured, and held for five years in solitary confinement. Nevertheless, he remained devoted to the Communist cause until his death in 1970. In this new biography, Kati Marton not only details Fields’ startling life, but also analyzes his beliefs, trying to understand what makes a person so loyal to a cause that has treated him with such inhumanity. The result is a powerful and engaging book that is proving a hit with critics and readers alike. Library Journal also notes that “Marton’s own parents were the only Western journalists to ever interview Field and his wife, Herta Field. . . . The conspiracy, subterfuge, and cataclysmic destruction of Field’s family and friends are all addressed in this well-researched book.”
We Eat Our Own: In 1980, an Italian horror film called Cannibal Holocaust, which tells the story of a documentary film team that traveled to the Amazon to find cannibalistic tribes, and was widely thought to be a ‘snuff film’ (a film where the murders or suicides portrayed are real), and which is still banned in many places. Kea Wilson’s debut novel takes that film as inspiration to tell the story of a down-and-out actor who gratefully (and a little desperately) accepts a job for a film being made in South America. But he never dreams of the very real dangers that lurk around the set, from the area’s dyng economy, drug traffikers and guerilla fighters to the jungle that surrounds the cast and crew. Playing with concepts of time and identity and truth, Wilson’s book has been making quite a splash already, with Kirkus Reviews noting ” Wilson shows impressive command of a narrative that weaves back and forth and back again in both time and locale; much like the viewer of a pseudo-documentary horror movie (ever seen The Blair Witch Project?), you wonder throughout whether you should trust whatever it is you’re told—and jumping to the end won’t help at all. You shouldn’t anyway, because Wilson’s writing style is hypnotic, tightly wound, and harrowingly evocative of the story’s stifling, bug-heavy atmosphere. Even the sunniest skies of this ill-starred shoot are thick with menace and portent. Keep telling yourself, ‘It’s only a novel, it’s only a novel'”.
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!