If, without buying an airline ticket, you want to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of both 1880 and 1980 Venice, Italy, Deborah Weisgall’s The World Before Her (Mariner, $13.95) is the book to read. Against the gorgeous Venetian backdrop, the novel plays out the stories of two marriages, separated by 100 years: the first is a fictionalized version of the actual trip to Venice made by the newlywed Marian Evans—the author George Eliot—with her husband, a friend 20 years her junior; and the second is the completely fictional visit by Caroline Spingold, a sculptor, and wife of a man 20 years her senior. Both women take journeys to discover themselves.  I’ve come away from this book with a commitment to reread George Eliot this year.

The World Before Her Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780547237961
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mariner Books - May 13th, 2009

Aleksandar Hemon’s compelling dual narrative, The Lazarus Project (Riverhead, $16)  focuses on the killing of Lazarus Averbuch by Chicago police in 1908, and on the efforts of a Bosnian émigré to tell Averbuch’s story a century later. Can Brik raise this Lazarus from the dead? Should he even try, or is life already too preoccupied with death? With death, violence, and paranoia, that is. The 1908 murder was part of a response to the anarchist threat (“anarchist” defined largely by a foreign accent and poverty), and parallels the post-9/11 terrorist alert. Brik’s struggle with these issues takes him to Ukraine, Averbuch’s birthplace, and, finally, to his own home, Sarajevo, a city both strange and familiar, where he feels like a ghost. Hemon is a powerful writer, and his novel is laced with wit, satire, anger, and moments of lyric grace. 

The Lazarus Project Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781594483752
Availability: Backordered
Published: Riverhead Books - May 5th, 2009

There has not been a more charming and witty book released in the past year than The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society (Dial, $14), by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  In this epistolary novel, a published London author begins a correspondence with a book group shortly after the end of the Second World War.  As letters are exchanged, she discovers how much she admires the bravery, wisdom, and perseverance of the residents of the isle of Guernsey, and she learns a great deal about the difficult circumstances they overcame during the Nazi occupation of their island.  One is reminded of Jane Austen in the depiction of eccentric, endearing, affectionately-rendered characters and the society they inhabit.  Ultimately, the book is a celebration of love, community, and a passion for literature, and is supremely pleasurable.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: A Novel Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780385341004
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - May 5th, 2009

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