Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in March 2023
- April 4, 2023
We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.
The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America by Christopher C. Gorham (Citadel). Reviewed by C.B. Santore. “Whatever the reasons for overlooking this remarkable woman, The Confidante will enhance the library of anyone interested in 20th-century American history or women’s history. Anecdotes about Rosenberg and her experiences with famous acquaintances (like carpooling with Fiorello La Guardia), along with a competent chronicling of the period, make this valuable book both enjoyable and instructive.”
A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe by Mark Dawidziak (St. Martin’s Press). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “The perplexing demise of Poe, abuzz with bizarre details, may be enticing enough in its own right, but strange occurrences — suspicious, creepy, or downright melodramatic — seemed to bedevil him at every turn. Mark Dawidziak chronicles these lowlights in A Mystery of Mysteries, his brief biography of the 19th-century poet, essayist, and master of a nascent genre, the short story. Dawidziak focuses first on Poe’s death, then backtracks, attempting to unpack and explain the curious events of his weirdly troubled life.”
In Memoriam: A Novel by Alice Winn (Knopf). Reviewed by John P. Loonam. “While the cinematic clarity of the action makes this book memorable, it’s the author’s ability to keep us focused on the central relationship that’s truly impressive. Even as we watch the fear and violence of the war overwhelm them, the question of whether Gaunt and Ellwood will admit their love for each other remains the heart of the novel. It is perhaps ahistorical that most of their comrades come to recognize and accept the pair’s relationship even as they themselves struggle to do the same.”
Syntax of the River: The Pattern Which Connects by Barry Lopez and Julia Martin (Trinity University Press). Reviewed by Christopher Lancette. “When a sensational writer delivers another outstanding work, it is a gift to all of us. When he manages to do so from beyond the grave, it’s another thing entirely. Something ethereal. That’s exactly what Barry Lopez gives us with Syntax of the River. On its surface, the book is simply the transcript of a 2010 conversation between writer-professor Julia Martin and Lopez, an outdoorsman — he told Martin he wasn’t a “naturalist” — and master of multiple genres of writing. Yet it brings to life mental images of something most of us have never seen: Oregon’s McKinzie River, Lopez’s sacred place.”
The Sun Walks Down: A Novel by Fiona McFarlane (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “McFarlane’s debut novel, The Night Guest, earned significant acclaim for its tender, insightful depiction of a mind slipping into dementia. There are lovely parallels in The Sun Walks Down; both are stories of isolation and disintegration, though instead of one person, as in Guest, here we have an entire community coming undone. Equally important, McFarlane’s empathy, her delicious facility with language, and her keen insight into human nature, rendered in the smallest brushstrokes that eventually build into a complete picture, are all here, undiminished.”
Künstlers in Paradise: A Novel by Cathleen Schine (Henry Holt & Co.). Reviewed by Kristin H. Macomber. “Over time, Mamie and Julian’s forced togetherness morphs into a pleasant sanctuary. Their combined daily routine is punctuated by errands that need running and a dog that needs walking and martinis that need mixing. But after that, what to do between lunch and dinner, dinner and bedtime? With the outside world shut down, and with Mamie not getting any younger, she announces to Julian that there’s no time like the present to share some details of her wondrous life story, and it’d be a good thing if he sat up and took notes.”
Once We Were Home: A Novel by Jennifer Rosner (Flatiron Books). Reviewed by Marilyn Oser. “The best passages pull the action forward while also revealing movement in the inner lives of the characters. At the kibbutz, for instance, the adolescent Ana has taken a toddler under her wing. When the little girl is reclaimed by her mother, Oskar ‘feels a flash of gladness for his sister’s sorrow.’ Why gladness? Because he resents Ana’s insensitivity to his sadness at the loss of their Polish family. But the next moment, his dependence on her comes through when he perceives Ana forming an attachment to a boy her own age. ‘Then the boy next to her, Yehoshua, extends an arm to comfort her.’ At Rosner’s best, every action is subtly and compactly laden.”
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