Fowler, Therese Anne. Z—: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9781250028655. $24.99. HISTORICAL FICTION
Fowler won an LJ star for her 2008 debut, Souvenir, settling comfortably into fraught contemporary relationship territory and finding herself compared to Jodi Picoult. Here she does something entirely different, reimagining the tumultuous life of the Zelda Fitzgerald. The novel opens with the feisty 17-year-old Zelda meeting Lt. Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at a country club dance, then defying her parents as she rushes to New York to marry him. A big burst of publisher enthusiasm for this book, so turn off that umpteenth screening of Midnight in Paris and get serious.
Graver, Elizabeth. The End of the Point. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780062184849. $25.99; eISBN 9780062184863. lrg. prnt. HISTORICAL FICTION
Spanning five decades, this latest novel from Drue Henz Literature Prize winner Graver is propelled by events that take place during World War II. The Porter family, which has summered for generations at Ashaunt Point, a spit of land pushing its way into Buzzards Bay, MA, is upended when the U.S. Army arrives there in 1942; teenagers Helen and Dossie start crossing boundaries, while younger sister Janie is involved in an incident so upsetting that the family abandons its vacation early. The next generation tries and fails to find escape at Ashaunt Point as Vietnam looms. Perhaps not as big as some other titles on this list, but there’s publisher excitement.
Hood, Ann. The Obituary Writer. Norton. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780393081428. $26.95. HISTORICAL FICTION
This latest from best-selling author Hood (e.g., The Knitting Circle and Comfort) portrays two different women in two different eras whose stories eventually come together. The title character is Vivien Lowe, still hunting for a lover who vanished in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 while writing obituaries to help herself and others become reconciled to loss. Readers eventually uncover her connection to Claire, a young wife and mother who on the day of JFK’s inauguration considers whether she should leave her safe, airless marriage for the man she loves. Lots of high profiling—there’s a reading group guide and a seven-city tour to Boston, New York, Providence, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Tucson—so take a close look.
Kirk, David. Child of Vengeance. Doubleday. Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780385536639. $25.95; eISBN 9780385536646. HISTORICAL FICTION
Kirk, who now teaches English in Japan, fell in love with the country when his father gave him a copy of James Clavell’s Shogun. It’s no surprise, then, that his first novel is inspired by renowned samurai Musashi Miyamoto, author of the military/philosophical classic The Book of Five Rings. Here, in a late 1500s Japan beset by turmoil, a well-born youth named Bennosuke, abandoned by his warrior father to be raised by an uncle who’s a Buddhist monk, is readying himself for a religious life when his father returns home badly injured. Bennosuke comes to understand his role in society and embraces the warrior’s life, soon taking the name Musashi Miyamoto. First in a series; for fans of epic fiction.
Silver, Marisa. Mary Coin. Blue Rider: Penguin Books (USA). Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780399160707. $26.95. HISTORICAL FICTION
Silver, who’s always written nuanced, eye-catching fiction (The God of War was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist), offers a novel inspired by Dorothea Lange’s emblematic Depression-era photo of Florence Owens Thompson, a Native American and mother of seven. Her characters are Mary Coin, a struggling migrant mother during the 1930s; Vera Dare, an ambitious young photographer compelled to abandon her own children to work; and Walker Dodge, a contemporary professor of cultural history who discovers a surprising personal connection to Vera’s photo of Mary. With a six-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle; I’m excited about this one.
Steinberg, Janice. The Tin Horse. Random. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780679643746. $26; eISBN 9780345540287. CD: Random Audio. HISTORICAL FICTION
Mystery author Steinberg breaks out with a novel rooted in memory. While packing up her belongings as she prepares to move to a retirement community, octogenarian Elaine Greenstein finds something that hints at what happened to twin sister Barbara, who went missing from their home in Boyle Heights, CA, a close Jewish community, on the eve of World War II. Elaine recalls the personal trauma of her sister’s disappearance—and of having been considered the smart rather than the popular twin—even as she considers the larger historical events that shaped her family, eager immigrants who never felt entirely at home in sunny California. With book-club outreach and sales to over a half-dozen foreign countries.