February books

The Arts

February 5, 2020

Notable new releases

Compiled by Sally Brewster

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, by Eric Larson

Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium on Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen to the Nazis, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. Hitler then began to wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally — and willing to fight to the end.

This is the story of how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home; his wartime retreat where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course, 10 Downing Street in London. 

The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together. 

Franklin and Washington: The Founding Partnership, by Edward J. Larson

Although separated in age by nearly a generation, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin each contributed mightily to the success of the war against the British monarchy, and each profoundly shaped the new nation at its 1787 Constitutional Convention. While from different colonies — Franklin from a free state and Washington himself a slave owner — their experiences in the French and Indian War made them realize the importance of intercolonial cooperation. Franklin’s diplomatic efforts carried him often to London and Paris, while Washington stayed home to manage his own affairs and to engage in the Virginia House of Burgesses and then lead the Colonial Army to victory. But both recognized the need for a strong central government to protect hard-won freedoms, and both commanded unwavering respect from fractious Constitutional Convention delegates. 

 A Good Neighborhood, by Therese Anne Fowler

What does it mean to be a good neighbor? What happens when you try to do the right thing but everything goes wrong?

In a tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son, Xavier, who’s headed to college in the fall. After years of single parenting, Valerie, a widow, faces the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until her neighbors tear down the house and trees next door to build a showplace.
With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and the romance unfolding between their two teenagers. A page-turning story for fans of suspenseful domestic dramas.

Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy,
by Eilene Zimmerman

Eilene Zimmerman noticed that her ex-husband looked thin, seemed distracted and was frequently absent from activities with their children. She and their friends thought he looked sick and needed to see a doctor. He told her he had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, but this was just a cover-up for what was really going on with his life. In many ways, Peter seemed to have it all: a beautiful house by the beach, expensive cars and other luxuries that come with an affluent life. Eilene assumed his odd behavior was due to stress and overwork. When Eilene and her children were unable to reach Peter for several days, she went to his house to see if he was OK. He was not. He was dead from a common bacterial infection common to intravenous drug users. So begins Smacked, a brilliant and moving memoir of Eilene’s shocking discovery, one that sets her on a journey to find out how a man she knew for nearly 30 years became a drug addict, hiding it so well that neither she nor anyone else in his life suspected what was happening.   SP

Sally Brewster is the proprietor of Park Road Books, located at 4139 Park Road. parkroadbooks.com

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