Share this article

print logo

KAREN BRADY :


FICTION SERIOUS SWEET By A. L. Kennedy Little A 485 pages, $24.95 THE GUINEVERES By Sarah Domet Flatiron Books 342 pages, $25.99 Coming of age in a convent, and finding decency amidst corruption, are the province of two unconventional new novels – one but a year long, the other a day, both books, while brimming with life’s vicissitudes, limned wi…

FICTION Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down By Anne Valente William Morrow 370 pages, $25.99 The Next By Stephanie Gangi St. Martin’s Press 312 pages, $26.99 The Dollhouse By Fiona Davis Dutton 289 pages, $26 Life serves up the unspeakable, the inevitable and the irretrievable in three new first novels – one of which is so disturbingly real that a reader may …

Doris Lessing, well into her ninth decade and still making waves, brings us a fresh dawn of civilization in her new novel, "The Cleft."She tells us immediately that its story stems from a remark she saw in a scientific article "that the basic primal and human stock was probably female, and that males came along later, as a kind of cosmic afterthought.""I cannot believe tha…

Tales his mother never told him set the fragile course for John Lanchester's "Family Romance," a brave and revealing book that the talented British author clearly needed to write."I must have known, in some way at some level, that the version she gave of her life didn't quite add up," he says of his mother early on in the memoir. "I could tell there were 'Keep Out' signs a…

An ancient rite of passage becomes a fresh phenomenon in "The Empty Nest," an intriguing new book edited by Karen Stabiner. Although burdened with the overly long subtitle, "31 Parents Tell the Truth About Relationships, Love, and Freedom After the Kids Fly the Coop," its commentators include such venerable arbiters of our times as Anna Quindlen, Ellen Goodman and Letty C…

Irina McGovern cannot make up her mind in Lionel Shriver's maddening yet delightful "The Post-Birthday World." Irina vacillates, day dreams and eventually oozes discontent while juggling two lovers and taking 500 pages to conclude:"If you put the two of them together -- Lawrence's discipline, intellect and self-control, Ramsey's eroticism, spontaneity and abandon -- you'd …

Joyce Carol Oates returns to her Western New York roots in what is surely her masterwork -- "The Gravedigger's Daughter."This, her 36th novel, is a stunning tale of strength in the face of fury and foreboding.It is also, Oates intimates, deeply personal: Her late grandmother, Blanche Morgenstern, is identified in the book's dedication as the "gravedigger's daughter." Moreo…

Youth and old age tilt at time -- and one another -- in Ray Bradbury's marvelous little novel, "Farewell Summer."Fifty-five years in the making, it is "an extension" of the master storyteller's memorable "Dandelion Wine," and takes place in the same fictional Green Town, Ill. -- an evocation of the ravine-skirted Waukegan of Bradbury's boyhood.Here, blossoms touched in …

Think of it: Jane Smiley as Scheherazade in a sweeping 21st century saga, part Arabian Nights, part Decameron!Place this grand concept high over Tinseltown, people it with movie folk and -- you would assume -- "Ten Days in the Hills" couldn't miss. Yet, curiously, it does -- even though the novel is brilliant, as Smiley is brilliant, and some film zealots may find it enthr…

Saartjie Baartman's short, sad -- but ultimately historic -- existence is paid tender tribute in Rachel Holmes' scholarly "African Queen, The Real Life of the Hottentot Venus."It is an astonishing tale that evokes, in turn, admiration, anger and compassion for the famous black beauty with the prodigious behind who spent close to five long years on exhibit on London and Par…

Rachel Cusk's sixth novel, "Arlington Park," is a cerebral "Desperate Housewives" -- without a whit of action.But the thought and talk are plenteous, and often brilliant, in this tale of five young mothers living in the tony London suburb of Arlington Park.Stepford Wives they are not; they are all far too intelligent. But to dwell in Arlington Park each must capitulate to …

Danger stems from the hearth in "The Stories of Mary Gordon"Life at home is seldom what it seems. Women harbor secrets and misgivings -- while keeping up appearances. Children see through it, or they misinterpret the words and glances, carrying their misinterpretations into adulthood where there are, of course, repercussions."Concealment was the metier, the game untitled a…

Reading Edward P. Jones is humbling.His prose is hauntingly beautiful, his people and places hypnotic. And his stories -- oh, his stories! -- with their quiet power and lilting patois: They give us what is surely meant, in the everyday sense, by the phrase "the African-American experience."In "All Aunt Hagar's Children," Jones' second collection of short stories, Washingto…

Margaret Atwood, clever as ever, seems to lose some of her edge and erudition in "Moral Disorder," her latest collection of short stories. But pierce the tender crust of these tales of domesticity, and Atwood's wily, witty and challenging ways are all here -- just simpler and less daunting to the masses.It is a ploy that renders the 11 tightly-packed stories close to prism…

Joyce Carol Oates works her stygian magic once again in "Black Girl/White Girl," a tale of misguided "enlightenment" and dangerous expectations on a college campus in the 1970s. With all the foreboding that has long been an Oates trademark, she presents a portrait in contrasts that goes way beyond black-and-white into a murky world of moral ambiguity -- with deadly consequ…