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Weekly Book News

May 10th, 2016

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

A compact masterpiece dedicated to the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich--Julian Barnes's first novel since his best-selling, Man Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending

1936: Shostakovich, just thirty, fears for his livelihood and his life. Stalin, hitherto a distant figure, has taken a sudden interest in his work and denounced his latest opera. Now, certain he will be exiled to Siberia (or, more likely, shot dead on the spot), he reflects on his predicament, his personal history, his parents, various women and wives, his daughter--all of those hanging in the balance of his fate. And though a stroke of luck prevents him from becoming yet another casualty of the Great Terror, for years to come he will be held fast under the thumb of despotism: made to represent Soviet values at a cultural conference in New York City, forced into joining the Party, and compelled, constantly, to weigh appeasing those in power against the integrity of his music.

Barnes elegantly guides us through the trajectory of Shostakovich's career, at the same time illuminating the tumultuous evolution of the Soviet Union. The result is both a stunning portrait of a relentlessly fascinating man and a brilliant meditation on the meaning of art and its place in society. Buy Now


The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

Winner of the Costa First Novel award!

When the remains of a young child are discovered during a winter storm on a stretch of the bleak Lancashire coastline, known as The Loney, a man named Smith is forced to confront the terrifying and mysterious events that occurred forty years earlier when he visited the place as a boy. At that time, his devoutly Catholic mother was determined to find healing for Hanny, his disabled older brother. And so the family, along with members of their parish, embarked on an Easter pilgrimage to an ancient shrine.


But not all of the locals are pleased to see the visitors in the area. And when the two brothers find their lives entangling with a glamorous couple staying at a nearby house, they become involved in more troubling rites. Smith feels he is the only one to know the truth, and he must bear the burden of his knowledge, no matter what the cost. Proclaimed a “modern classic” by the Sunday Telegraph (UK), The Loney marks the arrival of an important new voice in fiction. Buy Now


The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon, author of the international bestselling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Spot of Bother, returns with a collection of unsparing short stories

In the prize-winning story "The Gun," a man's life is marked by a single afternoon and a rusty .45; in "The Island," a mythical princess is abandoned on an island in the midst of war; in "The Boys Who Left Home to Learn Fear," a cadre of sheltered artistocrats sets out to find adventure in a foreign land and finds the gravest dangers among themselves. These are but some of the men and women who fill this searingly imaginative and emotionally taut collection of short stories by Mark Haddon, that weaves through time and space to showcase the author's incredible versatility.

Yet the collection achieves a sum that is greater than its parts, proving itself a meditation not only on isolation and loneliness but also on the tenuous and unseen connections that link individuals to each other, often despite themselves. In its titular story, the narrator describes with fluid precision a catastrophe that will collectively define its victims as much as it will disperse them—and brilliantly lays bare the reader's appetite for spectacle alongside its characters'. Cut with lean prose and drawing inventively from history, myth, fairy tales, and, above all, the deep well of empathy that made his three novels so compelling, The Pier Falls reveals a previously unseen side of the celebrated author. Buy Now


Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

From the New York Times bestselling author of In The Heart of the Sea, comes a surprising account of the middle years of the American Revolution, and the tragic relationship between George Washington and Benedict Arnold.

In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.
Valiant Ambition is a complex, controversial, and dramatic portrait of a people in crisis and the war that gave birth to a nation. The focus is on loyalty and personal integrity, evoking a Shakespearean tragedy that unfolds in the key relationship of Washington and Arnold, who is an impulsive but sympathetic hero whose misfortunes at the hands of self-serving politicians fatally destroy his faith in the legitimacy of the rebellion. As a country wary of tyrants suddenly must figure out how it should be led, Washington’s unmatched ability to rise above the petty politics of his time enables him to win the war that really matters. Buy Now


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