Notable new releases
compiled by Sally Brewster
Shrines of Gaiety, by Kate Atkinson
1926, and in a country still recovering from the Great War, London has become the focus for a delirious new nightlife. In the clubs of Soho, peers of the realm rub shoulders with starlets, foreign dignitaries with gangsters, and girls sell dances for a shilling a time. The notorious queen of this glittering world is Nellie Coker, ruthless but also ambitious to advance her six children, including the enigmatic eldest, Niven, whose character has been forged in the crucible of the Somme. But success breeds enemies, and Nellie’s empire faces threats from outside and within. Beneath the dazzle of Soho’s gaiety, there is a dark underbelly, a world in which it is all too easy to become lost.
The Marriage Portrait, by Maggie O’Farrell
Florence, the 1550s: Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo, free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: The duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf. Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
Prisoners of the Castle: An Epic Story of Survival and Escape from Colditz, the Nazis’ Fortress Prison, by Ben Macintyre
In this gripping narrative, Ben Macintyre tackles one of the most famous prison stories in history and makes it utterly his own. During World War II, the German army used the towering Colditz Castle to hold the most defiant Allied prisoners. For four years, these prisoners of the castle tested its walls and its guards with ingenious escape attempts that would become legend. Prisoners of the Castle traces the war’s arc from within Colditz’s stone walls, where the stakes rose as Hitler’s war machine faltered and the men feared liberation would not come soon enough to spare them a grisly fate at the hands of the Nazis. Bringing together the wartime intrigue of his acclaimed Operation Mincemeat and keen psychological portraits of his bestselling true-life spy stories, Macintyre has breathed new life into one of the greatest war stories ever told.
Lucy by the Sea, by Elizabeth Strout
As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it’s just Lucy, William and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea. Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we’re apart — the pain of a beloved daughter’s suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship and the comfort of an old, enduring love.
The Unfolding, by A.M. Homes
The Big Guy loves his family, money and country. Undone by the results of the 2008 presidential election, he taps a group of like-minded men to reclaim their version of the American Dream. As they build a scheme to disturb and disrupt, the Big Guy also faces turbulence within his family. His wife, Charlotte, grieves a life not lived, while his 18-year-old daughter, Meghan, begins to realize that her favorite subject, history, is not exactly what her father taught her. In a story that is as much about the dynamics within a family as it is about the desire for those in power to remain in power, Homes presciently unpacks a dangerous rift in American identity, prompting a reconsideration of the definition of truth, freedom and democracy — and explores the explosive consequences of what happens when the same words mean such different things to people living together under one roof. SP
Sally Brewster is the proprietor of Park Road Books. 4139 Park Rd., parkroadbooks.com.