Buchanan, Cathy Marie. The Painted Girls. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781594486241. $26.95. HISTORICAL
Though you may not know Canadian author Buchanan, you know the subject of her work: Edgar Degas’s Little Dancer Age 14, modeled on the young ballet student whose life is fictionalized here. With her father dead and the household barely scraping by on her laundress mother’s meager salary (much of it lost to absinthe), Marie Van Goethem is training as a dancer at the Opéra even as older sister Antoinette works as an extra on the stage. Then Marie starts earning a few more sous by modeling for Degas and meets a rich patron who throws her life in disarray. Lots of in-house enthusiasm for this book, helped along by book club promotions and a guide.
Celona, Marjorie. Y. Free Pr: S. & S. Jan. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781451674385. $24.99. LITERARY
Y stands for an unknown quantity, which pretty much sums up Shannon, abandoned as a baby on the doorstep of the local YMCA (interestingly, another Y). After ricocheting through foster care, Shannon finds a good home with single mom Miranda, who has another daughter. But Shannon is desperate to understand how a parent could give up a child and digs until she uncovers the story of a stubborn young woman trapped by tragic circumstance. Gung-ho in-house enthusiasm for this first novel.
Cornwell, Bernard. 1356: Go with God, but Fight Like the Devil. Harper: HarperCollins. Jan. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9780061969676. $28.99. lrg. prnt. CD: HarperAudio. HISTORICAL
No one picks a fight like Cornwell, who here does for the Battle of Poitiers what he did for the bloody fray that was Agincourt in the book of that name. On September 19, 1356, the English army, led by Edward, the Black Prince, eldest son of England’s king, faced a numerically superior French army yet emerged triumphant, capturing not just Poitiers but the French king. Cornwell’s hero, though, is Thomas of Hookton, leader of a mercenary company of bowmen, who joins with Edward but has his sights set on La Malice, a legendary sword reputedly hidden near Poitiers. With Agincourt having debuted No. 2 on the New York Times best sellers list and Anglophiles everywhere, this book will likely be victorious.
Leary, Ann. The Good House. St. Martins. Jan. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250015549. $24.99. POP FICTION
A novelist (Outtakes from a Marriage), memoirist (An Innocent, a Broad), and cohost of NPR’s Hash Hags, Leary returns with a novel starring Hildy Good‚ good neighbor, good mother, good grandmother, and good real estate agent, who’s also really good at denying her alcoholism. Even as she discovers that drinking in moderation isn’t possible, she navigates some underhanded doings in her small Massachusetts town and discovers the possibility of sixtysomething love. A big promotional push, so pay attention.
McMahon, Jennifer. The One I Left Behind. Morrow. Jan. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780062122551. pap. $14.99. THRILLER
McMahon, who’s been making a name for herself with the literary thriller arena with books like Island of Lost Girls, returns with the story of awkward, teenaged Reggie, who’s starting to link up with the school’s outcasts even as a serial killer called Neptune stalks their community, kidnapping women and leaving a severed hand on the police department steps five days before showcasing the body around town. The latest hand belongs to Reggie’s mother, but her body is never found. Years later, a detached Reggie learns that her mother has been found alive‚ and that Neptune is on the move again. The 150,000-copy first printing for this paperback says a lot.
Rich, Simon. The Last Girlfriend on Earth: And Other Love Stories. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Jan. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780316219396. $19.99. SHORT STORIES
Four years as staff writer for Saturday Night Live, four Emmy nominations, a bunch of books and film scripts, and he’s still only 27. Rich showcases his proven talents in a collection of stories that range from Center of the Universe (God balances the demands of his job and his needy girlfriend) to Magical Mr. Goat (a girl’s imaginary friend wants to be more than friends). For the zany and with-it.
Saunders, George. Tenth of December. Random. Jan. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780812993806. $26; eISBN 9780812993813. CD: Random Audio. SHORT STORIES
Since Saunders’s acclaimed story collections‚ e.g., CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, In Persuasion Nation‚ have led to his winning a MacArthur genius grant, this current collection should be brought to the attention of literati and short story lovers everywhere. The title story features a troubled boy whose life is saved by a middle-aged cancer victim intent on suicide at a frozen lake.