In Brief: New releases for spring and summer

Posted May 25, 2015 by Lory in brief reviews / 14 Comments

This holiday weekend seemed an appropriate time to mention some new releases that I haven’t had a chance to review in full, but recommend as summer reading. What are you looking forward to this season?

Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard
This is a follow-up to the bestselling memoir Lunch in Paris, but can definitely be read on its own. In this installment, the transplanted American author and her French husband leave the bustle of their beloved Paris for an atmospheric Provencal town. The trials of new motherhood and of being a foreigner in a proudly insular society provide some drama, but mostly this is merely an excuse to do some armchair traveling to one of the most beautiful places in the world. Each chapter concludes with several appropriate recipes; I haven’t tried them yet but they look doable and delicious.  
Release date: April 7, 2015 by Little, Brown

The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude
A “golden age” murder mystery from the beautifully produced British Library Crime Classics series, which is being published in the US by Poisoned Pen Press. It was highly readable, and made good use of its Sussex chalklands setting, though I found the style somewhat creaky. Recommended for enthusiasts or collectors of the genre, if not a patch on Dorothy Sayers or Josephine Tey in my opinion.  
US reprint release date: May 5, 2015 from Poisoned Pen Press

The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
The era of “American Romanticism” is a fascinating chapter in literary history. This historical novel, written in the voice of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife, the artist Sophia Peabody, brings it to life through one of the often-overlooked but essential women of the age. I enjoyed that aspect, though the overheated prose surrounding Nathaniel and Sophia’s love affair made me want to seek out some of the primary sources the author consulted to find out whether they really did think and talk like that.
Release date: May 5, 2015 from New American Library

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
Rakoff’s memoir made me wonder what might have been … if I had taken the plunge into the New York publishing world after college as she did, only a few years after I graduated. It was fun to have the vicarious experience of life at an old-school literary agent, on the cusp of the technological revolution (they have only one computer for the whole office). On the other hand, I was glad that the experience of an incredibly horrible literary boyfriend was only vicarious.  
Paperback release date: May 12, 2015 from Vintage

Review copy source: ARCs and early finished copies from publishers. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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14 responses to “In Brief: New releases for spring and summer

  1. Looks to be a very interesting bunch of books.

    Your comments on The House of Hawthorne raises a question that I think about a lot. Whenever real life historical personages are fictionalized some editorial license is taken. Is this fair to these people's memories? I am not against these fictionalized accounts, but this issue is interesting.

    • It is a tricky thing. A writer's version of a real person, however convincing, is still a fictional creation. It does make one wonder what the "original" would have thought of his or her portrayal.

  2. My Salinger Year is in my TBR pile. I've been picking up books from the British Library Classics Crime series and am looking forward to getting started on those. Picnic in Provence looks like fun. I'm always interested in books that are set in France. Hope you enjoy your great selections!

  3. Simon from Stuck in a Book was just recommending My Salinger Year to me. He said it was good even if you don't like (as I do not like) Catcher in the Rye. Which is nice to hear! And now I am interested to try it.

    • It's been a really long time since I read any Salinger, but that didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all. It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a literary phenomenon, even if you personally are not one of the fans.

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