Fiction Previews, Jun. 2013, Pt. 2: Great Book Club Books from Upcoming Writers

Brown, Eli. Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Farrar. Jun. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780374123666. $26. HISTORICAL
Evocative title, and the plot sounds like a hoot. In 1819, the pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot kills the lord of a booming tea concern but will spare his chef, the famous Owen Wedgwood, as long as he manages to serve her an extraordinary meal every Sunday. Soon, the understandably overwrought Owen has swept away the weevil-infested cornmeal for tea-smoked eel. Brown’s first novel, The Great Days, won the Fabri Prize for Literature, so check this out. Evidently Farrar’s biggest June fiction in the commercial sense; originally scheduled for June 2012.

Brown, Natalie. The Lovebird. Doubleday. Jun. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780385536752. $24.95. LITERARY
Lots of in-house enthusiasm for this debut novel starring sweet Margie Fitzgerald, whose caretaker mentality extends first to her Latin professor, a widower and single father who literally quakes in class, and then to helpless animals. That’s why she joins H.E.A.R.T. (Humans Encouraging Animal Rights Today), gets involved with freeing lovebirds from their pet-store cages, and finds herself on the run because of her activism. Watch.

Casey, Anne-Marie. No One Could Have Guessed the Weather. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Jun. 2013. ISBN 9780399160219. $25.95. POP FICTION
Poor Lucy. She and her husband have lost everything in the financial crash and must move the family into a tiny apartment in Manhattan’s East Village. But then Lucy falls in love with New York (as the author herself did) and has adventures with three different women friends on the verge of big life changes. Casey’s been a scriptwriter/producer of prime-time television in the UK and Ireland, so her sense of drama should be strong. Originally scheduled for April 2013 and called An Englishwoman in New York; we could have fun speculating about the title change.

Delijani, Sahar. Children of the Jacaranda Tree. Atria: S. & S. Jun. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781476709093. $24.99; eISBN 9781476709116. LITERARY
Born in Tehran and raised in California (she now lives in Italy), Delijani drew on her own experiences and those of family and friends to craft this debut novel about postrevolutionary Iran. As she shows, the consequences of revolution hit the next generation hardest. Neda was born in prison and taken from her mother shortly thereafter, Omid was only three when he watched the arrest of his activist parents, and Sheida didn’t learn of her father’s execution in prison until 20 years later. A big book club push.

DiSclafani, Anton. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jun. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781594486401. $27.95. POP FICTION
Much buzzed even before it was bought for reputedly seven figures, this debut is set during the Depression era at the fictional Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in Blue Ridge, NC. The rebellious young heroine, sent to the camp after precipitating a scandal that derailed her wealthy, standoffish family, finds a chance to grow. A skilled horseback rider, DiSclafani modeled Yonahlossee on a real camp located near a cabin owned by her family, so she should get the atmosphere just right. Don’t miss this one.

Dominczyk, Dagmara. The Lullaby of Polish Girls. Spiegel & Grau: Random. Jun. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780812993554. $25. LITERARY
This coming-of-age debut features three girlfriends from Poland who successfully make their way in America. Dominczyk comes by her story naturally; having been born in Kielce, Poland, she emigrated here in 1983 as a political refugee owing to her father’s involvement in Solidarity. Bought in a preemptive bid, this novel may be heading for the silver screen; actress Dominczyk hopes to turn it into a feature film.

Ebel, Kathy. Claudia Silver to the Rescue. Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9780547985572. $25. POP FICTION
Openly aiming at the audience for HBO’s Girls, this debut stars floundering twentysomething Claudia Silver, who’s lost her job and lost touch with her offbeat Brooklyn family. When her desperate younger sister reenters her life, Claudia tries to help her but instead lands in a messy love affair until all is resolved. Billed as smart women’s fiction and boasting a reading group guide.

Fremantle, Elizabeth. Queen’s Gambit. S. & S. Jun. 2013. 464p. ISBN 9781476703060. $26; eISBN 9781476703084. Downloadable: S. & S. Audio. HISTORICAL
We’ve heard so much about Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, in both historical and fictional accounts, that it’s refreshing to see London-based first novelist Fremantle start at the other end of the famous saying “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” Katharine Parr, 31 and twice widowed, falls for courtier Thomas Seymour but instead is chosen by Henry VIII as his sixth wife and navigates court intrigue skillfully while keeping friends and family close. Pushed to the Weir/Gregory crowd but with writing that might attract Wolf Hall fans as well; a reading group guide.

Holt, Elliott. You Are One of Them. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Jun. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781594205286. $25.95. LITERARY
Cautious Sarah Zuckerman, whose father has peremptorily returned to England and whose mother fears nuclear holocaust, lives in a well-to-do part of Washington, DC, in the 1980s and is best friends with golden-girl Jenny. So far, pretty standard, but then the tale gets alluringly twisty. Both girls have written Soviet premier Yuri Andropov pleading for world peace, but only Jenny gets a response and becomes an international media darling. Shortly thereafter, she and her parents are killed in a plane crash, but not until a decade later does a letter hinting that the crash was no accident reach Sarah. Coming of age, then, becomes end-of-Cold-War intrigue.

Kalotay, Daphne. Sight Reading. Harper: HarperCollins. Jun. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780062246936. $25.99; eISBN 9780062246950. lrg prnt. LITERARY
Violinist Remy was an ambitious conservatory student when she met hot new composer Nicholas and his wife, the delicate Hazel. Twenty years hence, Remy, now married to Nicholas, encounters Hazel on a street corner, and a dramatic backstory unfolds. Kalotay wrote affectingly of betrayal, tangled triangles, and the artist’s calling in Russian Winter, which sold in 24 territories, so I’m really anticipating her new book.

Kwan, Kevin. Crazy Rich Asians. Doubleday. Jun. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780385536974. $25.95. POP FICTION
When Nicholas Young asks American-born Rachel Chu to summer with him at his home in Singapore, she readily agrees—failing to realize that he is in fact heir to one of the wealthiest families in all Asia. Soon, she’s flying in private jets, attracting envious stares, and contending with Nick’s determined mother. Culturally interesting for clarifying the difference between mainland and overseas Chinese but also evidently very funny and juicy-good reading about how the point-one percent live; it’s billed as Jackie Collins meets Amy Tan.

Lovett, Charlie. The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession. Viking. Jun. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780670026470. $27.95. ROMANCE
Devastated by the death of his wife, Amanda, young antiquarian bookseller Peter Byerly has left North Carolina for England, where he picks up an interesting-looking tome on Shakespeare forgeries in a bookstore in Ham-on-Wye. Within its pages he discovers a small Victorian watercolor so resembling Amanda that he is compelled to track down its origins. Billed as romance but drawing comparison to A.S. Byatt’s Possession, this should be great for real bibliophiles; note the reading group guide.

O’Farrell, Maggie. Instructions for a Heat Wave. Knopf. Jun. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780385349406. $24.95. LITERARY
O’Farrell should be a household name here because she surely collects prizes: After You’d Gone won a Betty Trask Award, The Distance Between Us a Somerset Maugham Award, and The Hand That First Held Mine a Costa Award. So pay attention to her newest work, set during an infamous heat wave in 1976 London. When Robert Riordan fails to return after heading out to buy a newspaper, wife Gretta calls in her grown children to suggest where he might have gone, though she has some ideas of her own.

O’Neil, Ryan. The Weight of a Human Heart: Stories. St. Martin’s. Jun. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9781250024992. $24.95; eISBN 9781250025005. SHORT STORIES
No, not that O’Neil; this O’Neil is a Glasgow-born, Australian-based award winner whose current collection was shortlisted for the 2012 Queensland Literary Prize–Steele Rudd Award. These stories, with subjects ranging from an affair carried out within the pages of a book review section to a Tutsi girl’s flight from genocide, are beautifully weighty. Take a look.

Roffey, Monique. Archipelago. Penguin. Jun. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780143122562. pap. $16. LITERARY
Trinidad-born, London-based author Roffey triumphed last year with The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, an Orange Prize finalist and Pearl Pick that also got a rave LJ review. A year after a flood wrecks his home in Trinidad, Gavin Weald returns, only to find his daughter panicking as the rainy season looms. To help her feel at ease with water, Gavin takes her (and the family dog) on a journey across seas and through various archipelagos. This is a love of a writer; read her.

Wascom, Kent. The Blood of Heaven. Grove. Jun. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780802121189. $25. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
The Grove/Atlantic folks are pitching this books as one of their most powerful debuts ever, which is something when you consider that only recently they brought us Karl Marlantes’s Matterhorn. Winner of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Prize, 26-year-old Wascom sets his story in early 19th-century America. Angel Woolsack forsakes life with his itinerant preacher father to follow a daring highwayman, then ends up wending his way from on-the-edge West Florida to the bordellos of Natchez, the plantations of Mississippi, and finally New Orleans, where Aaron Burr is leading efforts to create a new country. It’s a brave and bloody new world, captured with energy.

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.