Archive for May, 2009
SNOW FLOWER AND THE SECRET FAN is an epic tale which chronicles the lives of two Chinese women, Lily and Snow Flower. Set in a remote area of Hunan Province, Lily was born in 1823, “on the fifth day of the sixth month of the third year of Emperor Daoguang’s reign.” During her lifetime, Lily lives through the reigns of four emperors.
Not too long ago, a lady called the offices of The Nation and said she was â€śstuckâ€ť in Abbeyville, Louisiana. â€śI want to move, but I want to move to somewhere where I can see a Democrat before I die,â€ť she said. This phone call was the catalyst for The Nation. Guide to the Nationâ€”a fun and interesting if haphazard compilation of left-leaning hot spots, organizations and businesses around the country.
ADMISSION is a novel that examines the complex process of selecting incoming freshmen for Princeton University from a large pool of eager and often superbly qualified applicants. Jean Hanff Korelitz draws on her experience as an “outside reader” for Princeton to add verisimilitude to her story. She also spoke with deans of admissions and college counselors to gain a broad perspective on what has become, for many, a harrowing and competitive race to the finish line.
Colson Whiteheadâ€™s newest â€śnovelâ€ť is not strictly a novel at all. A book that he himself refers to as his â€śAutobiographical Fourth Novel,â€ť it features a family that resembles his ownâ€”middle-class, upwardly mobile, and well-educatedâ€”a New York City-based family that spends summers at their vacation home in Sag Harbor, on Long island, â€śin the heart of the Hamptons.â€ť
At least at the beginning of the 20th century, Korean fathers prized their male children as they would carry on the family name. Female children, whose sole purpose is to serve their brothers, fathers and husbands, languish without an education. This partly explains how the protagonist in this novel, HONOLULU, was named Regret. Not satisfied with her lot, Regret longs to read, write, learn English and not live in the shadow of her male family members.
Leo Stepanovich Demidov, a loyal member of the state security commission in the Stalinist Soviet Union of the nineteen-fifties, was introduced as a conflicted crime investigator in Tom Rob Smith’s first novel, CHILD 44. In that enormously entertaining thriller, Smith provided the backdrop of the authoritarian state that brooks no dissent, where security apparatchiks like Leo Demidov must bend their own judgement regarding others’ innocence and guilt, and must become ruthless instruments of its repression. In THE SECRET SPEECH, Smith’s second novel, it is 1956. Not only has Stalin been dead for three years, but his successor Khrushchev has just given his famous speech of February 1956.