My Picks, February 2012, Pt. 2: de Rosnay, Mallon, Mason, and Gordon/Trainor on Iraq

de Rosnay, Tatiana. The House I Loved. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780312593308. $25.99. CD: Macmillan Audio. HISTORICAL FICTION
As all Francophiles know, Paris was remade in the 1860s by order of Emperor Napoleon III, with Baron Haussmann initiating a plan that included the long, straight, sweeping boulevards that give the city its dramatic character (and, not incidentally, got rid of many crooked little alleys where rebellious types could hide). Author of the beloved Sarah’s Key, which has sold over 4 million copies in 38 countries worldwide, de Rosnay takes us back to the Haussmann era, as Rose Bazelet fights to keep her family home from being demolished while confronting a secret she’s kept for 30 years. I’m a Paris nut, so of course I’ll read this, but the combination of de Rosnay’s popularity and the subject matter‚ our attachment to home, something felt keenly at this time of foreclosures‚ truly recommends this book. With a one-day laydown on February 14.

Mallon, Thomas. Watergate: A Novel. Pantheon. Feb. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780307378729. $27.95; eISBN 9780307907080. HISTORICAL FICTION
Watergate was a defining moment in recent American history, and those of us who lived through it will be amazed to realize that nearly 40 years have passed. Endless numbers of nonfiction titles on this subject are currently available but little in the way of fiction (let me know if other titles come to mind). Author of such celebrated novels as Dewey Defeats Truman, Mallon would seem to have the right mix of historical understanding and fresh whimsy that such a crazily earthshaking event requires. As he unfolds the story from the perspectives of seven characters, Mallon takes on some of the abiding questions of this scandal (e.g., who erased those crucial moments on the tape?). This will be popular.

Mason, Richard. History of a Pleasure-Seeker. Knopf. Feb. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780307599476. $25.95; eISBN 9780307957528. LITERARY FICTION
Take one headturningly handsome young man, put him in a leading bourgeois household in Amsterdam as a tutor during Europe’s Belle Epoque, and what do you get? This new novel from the author of the award-winning The Drowning People, published when Mason was still at Oxford, and 2009’s original and ambitious Natural Elements. This story of dashing Piet Barol’s affair with the older woman who heads the household in which he works is at once windswept historical romance and focused social commentary that should evoke in gorgeous detail a time when social gears were crucially grinding. Good for a wide range of readers, there’s a reading group guide, and the author himself is such a charmer you’ll want to invite him to tea.

Gordon, Michael R. & Gen. Bernard E. Trainor. The End Game: The Hidden History of America’s Struggle To Build Democracy in Iraq. Pantheon. Feb. 2012. 640p. ISBN 9780307377227. $30. eISBN 9780307906977. Downloadable: Random Audio. CURRENT EVENTS
Gordon, chief military correspondent for the New York Times, and Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who served as military correspondent for the paper in the late 1980s, offer a comprehensive overview of our venture in Iraq. Moving from invasion to occupation to the current wind-down, they cover not just military but political and diplomatic moves and interview not just important U.S. figures but Sunni and Shia leaders, Kurdish politicians, former insurgents, and more. The big author tour (Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC) suggests expectations of wide interest; this should be as popular as the authors’ best-selling Cobra II.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.