Allende, Keneally, Sontag, & More | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Nov. 2017

Allende, Isabel. In the Midst of Winter. Atria. Nov. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781501178139. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501178153. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY
When the personal shades into the political, Allende is there. Her latest novel features 60-year-old human rights scholar Richard Bowmaster, who feels he’s hit the end of the road—and one snow-blown Brooklyn night really does hit the car of Evelyn Ortega. Young, undocumented Guatemalan Evelyn later appears at his house seeking help, which sends him scurrying to his tenant, Chilean lecturer Lucia Maraz, for advice. Moving between contemporary times and 1970s Chile and Brazil, the novel addresses human rights issues and the burgeoning personal relationships among its main characters.

Dunmore, Helen. Birdcage Walk. Atlantic Monthly. Nov. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780802127143. $26. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Orange Prize–winning and Whitbread short-listed Dunmore has a sophisticated way with the past, so readers of all stripes should enjoy her latest, set in late 1700s Europe. Raised in a Radical household, Lizzie Fawkes welcomes the promise of the French Revolution. But her new husband, John Diner Tredevant, is a Bristol-based property developer who stands to lose everything if social turmoil or war comes to pass. With his plans for a grand terrace built high about a gorge now teetering, Tredevant turns on the wife he finds too independent-minded and in need of correction.

Fitch, Janet. The Revolution of Marina M. Little, Brown. Nov. 2017. 816p. ISBN 9780316022064. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780316125772. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Fitch caught fire when she debuted with White Oleander, a No. 1 New York Times best seller and Oprah’s Book Club selection, then followed up with Paint It Black, a national best seller that was made into a film. Her new work is a little different, stepping back in time to St. Petersburg, Russia, New Year’s Eve, 1916. There, young Marina Makarova is getting ready to betray her upper-class origins and join the revolution, falling in love with a radical young poet along the way. Her life story captures a tumultuous time. With a national tour.

Keneally, Thomas. Crimes of the Father. Atria. Nov. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781501128486. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501128509. LITERARY
What do you do with a priest who preaches pitilessly against the Vietnam War, apartheid, and other contentious issues? You send him from his native Australia to Canada, where he becomes a dedicated monk and psychologist. But when Father Frank Docherty returns home to lecture, he’s placed on a commission investigating sex abuse within the Church, and soon his life is tied up with a suicidal young man and a former nun who claim that they were sexually abused by a powerful monsignor. From the author of Booker Prize winner Schindler’s List and, most recently, Napoleon’s Last Island.

Pochoda, Ivy. Wonder Valley. Ecco. Nov. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780062656353. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062656377. LITERARY
Pochoda did well with her first two novels, in particular 2013’s Visitation Street, an indelible portrait of coming of age with a firm sense of place. That place was blue-collar Red Hook, Brooklyn, but in her ambitious new novel, Pochoda moves cross-country to Los Angeles and tangles up her plot in a monstrous traffic jam. A runner fleetly moving among the cars manages to redirect the lives of several characters, including bored lawyer Tony; troubled adolescent Ren; twins Owen and James, whose father presides mightily over a desert commune; desperate Britt, who seeks comfort there; and the dangerous drifter hiding nearby. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Sontag, Susan. Debriefing: Collected Stories. Farrar. Nov. 2017. 320p. ed. by Benjamin Taylor. ISBN 9780374100759. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780374717407. SHORT STORIES
With her seminal writings, exemplary public intellectual Sontag so shaped our perception of literary fiction that a few folks might forget that she wrote fiction, too: four novels in all, including the National Book Award–winning In America. Here’s a collection of her short fiction, a format that gave her the scope to explore personal issues not so easily addressed in essays. Editor Taylor has written both fiction and memoir and also edited the work of Saul Bellow.






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.


  1. Kumari says:

    I always love when a new Barbara’s Picks is posted. Thanks for the heads-up on these titles!

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