Award-Worthy Fiction from Aaron Gwyn, Sadie Jones, Simon Sebag Montefiore, & More | Fiction Previews, May 2014, Pt. 1,

Davenport, Randi. The End of Always. Twelve. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781455573073. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455573066. lib. ebk. ISBN 9781455552108. Downloadable: Hachette. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Winner of the Great Lakes Colleges Association Prize for Creative Non-fiction, Davenport drew on her family history to write this first novel about a young woman’s desire to escape a legacy of domestic abuse. In 1907 Wisconsin, Marie Reehs wants nothing more than to avoid marrying someone violent, as her mother and grandmother had. But despite her passionate involvement with a charming young man, she’s stuck in a job her father has arranged that puts her in the clutches of a possessive older man.

Feldman, Ellen. The Unwitting. Spiegel & Grau. May 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780812993448. $26. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
For her latest, Guggenheim Fellow Feldman (The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank) draws on Cold War history, when many liberal anti-Communist writers and artists worked for companies that were CIA fronts. The individual in the company who knew about the CIA connection was called witting. Feldman’s heroine works for such a company as one of the unwitting, and it’s only when her husband is murdered that she finds out he betrayed her—as the witting one with CIA loyalty.

Gwyn, Aaron. Wynne’s War. Eamon Dolan: Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780544230279. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544230323. LITERARY
Gwyn, whose Dog on the Cross was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, spoke with Green Berets, Army Rangers, and other veterans to craft a novel that’s part thriller (“It would have been a lovely evening but for the half-dozen men trying to kill them”) and part literate exploration of hard moral choice, with the feel of a contemporary Western thrown in. When Corp. Elijah Russell’s skills as a rider are revealed in fierce fighting in Afghanistan, he’s asked to teach horsemanship to an elite Special Forces unit slated for a secret mission in the country’s craggiest reaches. It’s soon evident that the mission, under the command of charismatic Captain Wynne, has a dangerous, heart-of-darkness aspect. With a 35,000-copy first printing.

Jones, Sadie. Fallout. Harper. May 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780062292810. $25.99. ebk. ISBN 9780062292834. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Jones’s Outcast grabbed a Costa First Novel Award, as well as Orange Prize and Los Angeles Times Book Prize/Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction nominations; The Uninvited Guests was a best seller nationwide and got a Washington Post Best Book nod. This new novel involves not one but two triangles: young playwright Luke Kanowski leaves a gutted childhood in northern England for the bright lights of London, where he forms a theater company with producing hopeful Paul Driscoll and his girlfriend. Then he meets an actress named Nina, who’s magnetic but just damaged enough to marry a domineering theater bigwig. Art, love, and friendship; with a 50,000-copy first printing and lots of reading group and library outreach.

Lane, Johanna. Black Lake. Little, Brown. May 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780316228831. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316228824. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316322577. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. LITERARY/FAMILY LIFE
Lane won a Robert T. Jones Graduate Fellowship from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, which allowed her to study at Columbia’s Creative Writing MFA program. This debut novel was short-listed for the University of East Anglia’s Charles Pick Fellowship as a work in progress. The Campbells, who have lived at beautiful Dunlough on the Irish seaside for generations, find themselves cash-strapped and decide to open the house to the public as a museum. That means living in a damp cottage behind the house and watching family ties fray.

Montefiore, Simon Sebag. One Night in Winter. Harper. May 2014. 496p. ISBN 9780062291882. $26.99. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Montefiore, whose Young Stalin won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography, the Costa Biography Prize, and Le Grand Prix de Biographie, clearly knows his Russian/Soviet history, and Sashenka proved that he can write colorful and absorbing fiction, too. This second novel takes place in Moscow, whose citizens are celebrating the end of World War II when two teenagers in traditional 19th-century dress are found shot to death. Since their parents are top Soviet officials, the authorities swing brutally into action, with young people citywide arrested and compelled to bear false witness, even as two pairs of illicit lovers try to remain safe. Love and politics, and don’t think it sounds improbable; Montefiore was inspired by true events. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Zentner, Alexi. The Lobster Kings. Norton, May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780393089578. $26.95. LITERARY
Zenter’s short fiction has received O. Henry and Pushcart honors, and his first novel, Touch, was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; an early reader I spoke to about this new novel was enthusiastic. The setting is rough and rocky Loosewood Island, somewhere off the Maine coast, and the feeling is clearly meant to be Shakespearian: when Woody Kings, whose family has been harvesting the sea for 300 years, looks ready to give up control of the business, it’s his daughter Cordelia who will take over. She just has to stare down sibling rivalry, local meth dealers, and the complications of love.

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.