Fiction Reviews | November 1, 2012

starred review star Faulks, Sebastian. A Possible Life: A Novel in Five Parts. Holt. Dec. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780805097306. $25. F

Geoffrey Talbot, a skilled British cricket player with a gift for languages, has taught at a boys’ prep school for just one year before World War II breaks out and he signs up. Billy is seven years old in 1859 when his poverty-stricken parents choose him from among their five children to be sent to a British workhouse. In 2029, nine-year-old Elena Duranti is isolated from her peers by her brilliant mind and all-consuming curiosity; when her father brings home the orphan Bruno, the two soon bond as inseparable siblings. Jeanne is an uneducated, incurious, deeply religious peasant in 19th-century France who has been in service to the same family for as long as she can remember. And finally, in 1971, Brit Jack narrates the story of Anya, a troubled young hippie with a singing voice that stuns her listeners, captures hearts, and derails lives. VERDICT Faulks’s (Birdsong) literary artistry is on gorgeous display as he brings to life five wildly disparate protagonists in stories linked by the strength of their characters, all challenged by the horrors of war, of abandonment, of the struggle between trust and faith, and of romance gone shockingly wrong. [See Prepub Alert, 6/11/12.]—Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Wieringa, Tommy. Little Caesar. Black Cat: Grove. Nov. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Dutch by Sam Garrett. ISBN 9780802120496. pap. $15. F

Dutch writer Wieringa (Joe Speedboat) is acclaimed for his coming-of-age stories, and he has produced another accomplished one here—a potent, emotionally moving, beautifully realized novel about a young man seeking to understand his difficult, eccentric parents. Ludwig, Wieringa’s young protagonist, has been abandoned by his heartless father; the cruelty of this betrayal, as well as his parents’ acrimonious divorce, has incapacitated him. His father is a brute, a sensationalistic conceptual artist whose most recent project, the destruction of a mountain deep in the Amazon rain forest, has provoked worldwide protest. His mother is a former adult film star. The novel builds powerfully as Ludwig works his way through youthful confusion and anger to a mature and chastened understanding of his parents. VERDICT Wieringa masterfully examines the complex and often agonizing work that many of us must undertake to live our own healthy, independent, adult lives. Enthusiastically recommended for fans of literary fiction.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT

Rain, David. The Heat of the Sun. Holt. Nov. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780805096705. $26. F

What happened to the little son of Madame Butterfly after his father, Lieutenant Pinkerton, brought him from Japan to America? Two recent novels have explored this question: Angela Davis-Gardner’s Butterfly’s Child and now Rain’s debut. Both are worth reading, though they differ greatly in plot and style. Rain tells his story from the perspective of Woodley Sharpless, who first meets Trouble (as Ben Pinkerton is known) at the exclusive Blaze Academy and immediately looks up to him. Other characters from Madame Butterfly appear here as the novel moves back and forth between Japan and America, spanning most of the 20th century and touching on key moments from the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression to the work on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos during World War II. In keeping with the operatic theme, Rain divides his novel into “acts” rather than chapters. With a certain theatricality, even a bit of melodrama, this fascinating story always sweeps the reader along. ­VERDICT You don’t have to be an opera lover to enjoy this well-researched and engrossing novel. [See Prepub Alert, 5/12/12.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA

The following titles are reviewed in the November 1 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Capus, Alex. Léon and Louise. Haus, dist. by Consortium. Nov. 2012. c.265p. tr. from French by John Brownjohn. ISBN 9781908323132. pap. $15. F

Dahlie, Michael. The Best of Youth. Norton. Jan. 2013. c.288p. ISBN 9780393081855. $25.95. F

Evanovich, Janet & Dorien Kelly. The Husband List. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2013. c.320p. ISBN 9780312651329. $27.99. F

Grémillon, Hélène. The Confidant. Penguin. Nov. 2012. c.245p. tr. from French by Alison Andersen. ISBN 9780143121565. pap. $15. F

Mansbach, Adam. Rage Is Back. Viking. Jan. 2013. c.304p. ISBN 9780670026128. HC. $25.95. F

McEwan, Ian. Sweet Tooth. Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Nov. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780385536820. $26.95. F

Newland, Courttia. The Gospel According to Cane. Akashic. Feb. 2013. c.224p. ISBN 9781617751332. pap. $15.95. F

O’Donnell, Lisa. The Death of Bees. Harper: HarperCollins. Jan. 2013. c.320p. ISBN 9780062209849. $25.99. F

Richler, Nancy. The Imposter Bride. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781250010063. $24.99. F

Rubenhold, Hallie. Mistress of My Fate. Grand Central. (Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot, Bk. 1). Jan. 2013. c.453p. ISBN 9781455511808. $25.99. F

Trasandes, Monica. Broken Like This. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Nov. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781250006837. $24.99. F

starred review starWouk, Herman. The Lawgiver. S & S. Nov. 2012. c.232p. ISBN 9781451699388. $25.99. F

Short Stories

starred review star Gavin, Jim. Middle Men. S. & S. Feb. 2013. c.224p. ISBN 9781451649314. $22. F

Munro, Alice. Dear Life. Knopf. Nov. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780307596888. $26.95. F

Rash, Ron. Nothing Gold Can Stay. Ecco: HarperCollins. Feb. 2013. c.256p. ISBN 9780062202710. $24.99. F