Fiction Reviews, September 15, 2012

starred review starBoianjiu, Shani. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Hogarth: Crown. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780307955951. $24. F

In her complex, gritty first novel, Boianjiu portrays young women drafted into the Israeli army as they come of age. The compulsory service turns out to be grim, dusty, often monotonous, and sometimes dangerous. The novel primarily follows Lea, Avishag, and Yael, three young women who grew up together in a small village, as they are posted to various positions around Israel. Boianjiu’s characters are self-involved, emotionally detached, hormonal, and politically naive in the way that young people sometimes are, but they are at the same time passionate, intelligent, coarsely humorous, and cognizant of how their military experiences are changing them forever. VERDICT This is a great choice for literary fiction readers who can appreciate a thoroughly distinctive narrative voice and a certain amount of ambiguity, as well as readers generally interested in contemporary Israeli fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/12.] —Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ., Arlington, VA

starred review starOsborne, Lawrence. The Forgiven. Hogarth: Crown. Sept. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780307889034. $25. F

In Osborne’s brilliant, unsentimental rendering of contemporary East-West conflict and the imperfect human psyche, there’s a lot to forgive and no easy wrap-up. Bilious, alcoholic, chip-on-his-shoulder Englishman David Henniger is driving through the Moroccan night with his wife, Jo, on their way to a fabulously decadent weekend party at the desert villa of sort-of friends Richard and Dally. When two young men step out on the road, evidently hoping to sell fossils, a flustered and contemptuous David strikes and kills one of them. The body is brought to the villa, David is less remorseful than annoyed, and Richard is shocked by David’s insensitivity while revealing deep-seated prejudices of his own. The alcohol-swilling, drug-dazed guests swirl away from the guilty couple, and, lest readers assume this is a finger-wagging tale about arrogant Westerners abusing saintly natives, the dead man’s past is revealed in occasional flashbacks to be remorseless and ugly. Then the bereaved father appears. VERDICT Novelist and travel writer Osborne has done an extraordinary job of capturing moral complexity, never letting his characters or his readers off easy. The result should be grim reading, but instead it’s vivifying. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 3/22/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

starred review starSmith, Zadie. NW. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Sept. 2012. c.401p. ISBN 9781594203978. $25.95. F

Partway through this charged onslaught of a novel, Smith’s first in the seven years since On Beauty, a young tough refusing to put out a cigarette on a children’s playground says, “You can’t really chat to me. I’m Hackney, so,” referring to the London borough. Although it gets a rise from his challenger, the comment clarifies Smith’s story. Geography is destiny, and NW (North West London), with its housing projects and increasingly marginalized community, is the force shaping the narrative. Natalie Blake (née Keisha) grew up there but has worked hard, tugged at her Afro-Caribbean roots, and become a lawyer; friend Leah, who also got a degree (as a state-school wild card) and is now “the only white girl on [Council’s] Fund Distribution Team,” doesn’t want to move on. They circle warily, and Natalie eventually circles back, even as other characters—ambitious Felix and heartthrob Nathan, now in the gutter—wash through the you-are-there writing. VERDICT Told in numbered, run-on chapters that occasionally offer an aphorism or poetry, Smith’s elliptical prose initially frustrates, then mesmerizes; it’s a brilliant, daring way to deliver real lives—and, in the end, an emotional knockout. [See Prepub Alert, 3/5/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

The following titles are reviewed in the September 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Atlee, Alison. The Typewriter Girl. Gallery: S. & S. Jan. 2013. c.384p. ISBN 9781451673258. pap. $15. F

Atwell, Mary Stewart. Wild Girls. Scribner. Oct. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781451683271. $25. F

Atxaga, Bernardo. Seven Houses in France. Graywolf. 2012. tr. from Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa. ISBN 9781555976231. pap. $14. F

Biaggio, Maryka. Parlor Games. Doubleday. Jan. 2013. c.352p. ISBN 9780385536226. $25.95. F

Boyagoda, Randy. Beggar’s Feast. Pintail: Penguin. Sept. 2012. c.311p. ISBN 9780670066582. pap. $16. F

Brown, Sandra. Low Pressure. Grand Central. Sept. 2012. c.480p. ISBN 9781455501557. $26.99. F

Carver, Tania. The Creeper. Pegasus Crime. Sept. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9781605983592. $25.95. F

Francis, Wendy. Three Good Things. S. & S. Jan. 2013. c.256p. ISBN 9781451666342. pap. $15. F

Geye, Peter. The Lighthouse Road. Unbridled. Oct. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781609530846. $25.95. F

starred review starGreaves, C. Joseph. Hard Twisted. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Nov. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9781608198559. $25. F

Hopkins, Ellen. Collateral. Atria: S. & S. Nov. 2012. c.496p. ISBN 9781451626377. $24.99. F

starred review starHunter, Stephen. The Third Bullet: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel. S. & S. Jan. 2013. c.496p. ISBN 9781451640205. $26.99. F

Hutchins, Scott. A Working Theory of Love. Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.328p. ISBN 9781594205057. $25.95. F

Jakobsen, Mette. The Vanishing Act. Norton. Sept. 2012. c.208p. ISBN 9780393062922. $24.95. F

Joyce, G.B. The Code. Pintail: Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780670066902. pap. $16. F

Lehane, Dennis. Live by Night. Morrow. Oct. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780060004873. $27.99. F

Manguel, Alberto. All Men Are Liars. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). 2012. from Spanish by Miranda France. ISBN 9781594488351. pap. $16. F

Moore, Susanna. The Life of Objects. Knopf. Sept. 2012. c.256p. ISBN 9780307268433. $25. F

Norton, Ashley Prentice. The Chocolate Money. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Sept. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780547840048. pap. $15.95. F

Robbins, Charles. The Accomplice. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781250010513. $24.99. F

starred review starSaramago, José. Raised from the Ground. Houghton Harcourt. Dec. 2012. c.384p. tr. from Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa. ISBN 9780151013258. $26. F

starred review starTan Twan Eng. The Garden of Evening Mists. Weinstein. 2012. c.350p. ISBN 9781602861800. pap. $15.99. F

Tie Ning. The Bathing Women. Scribner. Oct. 2012. c.368p. tr. from Chinese by Hongling Zhang & Jason Sommer. ISBN 9781451694840. $25. F

Toomey, John. Huddleston Road. Dalkey Archive. Sept. 2012. c.176p. ISBN 97871564787811. pap. $20. F

Vincenzi, Penny. Wicked Pleasures. Overlook, dist. by Penguin. Oct. 2012. c.640p. ISBN 9781590203583. $27.95. F

starred review starWeir, Alison. A Dangerous Inheritance: A Novel of Tudor Rivals and the Secret of the Tower. Ballantine. Oct. 2012. c.528p. ISBN 9780345511898. $27. F

Short Stories

starred review starObject Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story. Picador. Oct. 2012. c.368p. ed. by Lorin Stein & Sadie Stein. ISBN 9781250005984. pap. $16. F

Last-Minute Mystery Gerritsen, Tess. Last to Die: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel. Ballantine. Sept. 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780345515636. $27. M

starred review starHigashino, Keigo. Salvation of a Saint. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Japanese by Alexander O. Smith. ISBN 9780312600686. $24.99. M

Wolfe, Inger Ash. A Door in the River. Pegasus Crime. Sept. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781605984209. $25.95. M