7 Best-Reviewed Books in February 2019

  • March 5, 2019

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony this past month.

7 Best-Reviewed Books in February 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf: A Novel by Marlon James (Riverhead Books). Reviewed by Josh Denslow. “Black Leopard, Red Wolf is as dark and pulsing as blood from a fresh wound, nearly bursting with tragically flawed characters and some of the most truly musical dialogue in any book, fantasy or otherwise. As Tracker moves from village to village, the secrets become more harrowing, and it seems that, everywhere, children are in trouble.”

The Peacock Feast: A Novel by Lisa Gornick (Sarah Crichton Books). Reviewed by Jennifer Klepper. “The Peacock Feast doesn’t have the contemporary, fast-paced sense of so many historical novels today, instead embracing an old-fashioned feel. It’s more “tea in the drawing room” than #wineandbooks on Instagram, with ambling sentences meant to be read and not binged, and a sense of literary leisure at times evocative of the Gilded Age that anchors it.”

Bowlaway: A Novel by Elizabeth McCracken (Ecco). Reviewed by Robert Allen Papinchak. “Bowlaway is a totally immersive experience. It has everything — scalpel-edged prose, fully delineated characters, vividly described regional settings, a satisfying storyline, and an unforgettable powerhouse ending. It is unstoppable entertainment. Though it’s early in the reviewing year, this is likely the best novel of 2019. It is Elizabeth McCracken’s masterpiece. Bowlaway will blow readers away. Blammo.”

Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation by Steve Luxenberg (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Y.S. Fing. “For those intervening years, Luxenberg provides the biographies of four of the most important people who would be involved in the case: John Harlan, Henry Brown, Albion Tourgee, and Louis Martinet. The reader’s great honor and delight is to follow Luxenberg as he intertwines their stories from widely singular strands at the beginning, to their historical moments on stage together in 1896.”

The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay (Algonquin Books). Reviewed by Jennifer Bort Yacovissi. “Even better (or, as the author would say, ‘Delight!’), this is a physically small book that fits nicely in the reader’s hands. Each essay stands satisfyingly on its own, at most six or eight pages, more often two or fewer. All of which goes to say that it’s a book that begs to be carried along, offering insight and delight in whatever slice of time a reader may have. This is flash nonfiction.”

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday). Reviewed by Tom Glenn. “The sheer grisliness of the Northern Irish resistance made reading Say Nothing tough going. Ten nationalists starved themselves to death while imprisoned by the British. Some 16 “touts” were “disappeared,” including several whose graves were never found. Nearly 300 police officers were killed. Torture on both sides was common. Fear became a way of life.”

The Secret of Clouds: A Novel by Alyson Richman (Berkley). Reviewed by Philip K. Jason. “Will Yuri, now 12, survive? If so, in what condition and with what assurance of a healthy future? How will Katya and Sasha respond to the various possibilities? If things go wrong, will Maggie second-guess her passion for encouraging his path to normalcy? Readers will need to sort through these carefully orchestrated questions. Richman’s great strength in designing the emotional ebb and flow of her engaging narrative should win accolades and a heap of new readers.”

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