Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Edward Carey, Avni Doshi, Annabel Lyon, and more—that are publishing this week.
The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Swallowed Man: “British writer and illustrator Carey (Little) brings his grotesque whimsy to this lackluster retelling of a harrowing episode from Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio. The story begins with Giuseppe Lorenzini having been swallowed by a giant sharklike creature. Giuseppe, who had been sailing the seas looking for his runaway wooden son, Pinocchio, takes up residence in the monster’s abdomen, finding refuge in a Danish ship the fish has also ingested. Thus sheltered and supplied (with food, drink, candles, and ink), he composes his autobiography, attempts some new carving projects, and, as time passes, succumbs to hallucinatory fits of madness. The humble craftsman is an orotund narrator, holding forth from the belly of the beast in high rhetorical style: ‘I am a monarch of space. Emperor of Inner Sharkland.’ Some of Collodi’s famous scenes (burning feet, growing nose) are briefly replayed, but the narrative is mostly devoted to Giuseppe’s backstory, including tepid accounts of the women he loved, and to his Crusoe-like survival strategy. In the most interesting sections, Carey dives into Giuseppe’s strained relationship with his own father that presages his tempestuous relationship with the impish Pinocchio, but these moments are few and far between. The book feels both slight and overstuffed, a prolonged exercise in style that brings little insight into Collodi’s classic.”
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Thousand Ships: “The women of the Trojan War take center stage in this excellent take on the Greek classics from Haynes (The Ancient Guide to Modern Life). Hopping through nearly a dozen perspectives, Haynes provides an enthralling reimagining of the lives of women from both Troy and Greek culture. There is Calliope, the muse who resents the poets demanding she supply them with inspiration; Andromache, who goes from princess to spoil of war when her husband, Hector, is killed by Achilles; and Penelope, who writes biting letters to Odysseus, asking him why it is that he doesn’t feel any urge to come home to her and their son. There are also the royal heroines, such as Clytemnestra, who seeks revenge against Agamemnon for sacrificing their daughter; and Helen, who is weary of being constantly blamed for her role in beginning the war and for plots and prophecies she has no power to stop. Cassandra, cursed with prophesies no one will ever believe, struggles to function when she knows exactly what will become of her and her family after the war. Haynes shines by twisting common perceptions of the Trojan War and its aftermath in order to capture the women’s experiences. Readers who enjoyed Madeline Miller’s Circe will want to take a look.”
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Burnt Sugar: “Doshi’s stunning debut, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, explores the murky, toxic relationship between a mother and daughter living in the Indian city of Pune. Antara, a reflective, recently married artist, notices something is off with her volatile, demanding mother, Tara. Doctors believe it’s early-onset dementia but can’t find biological evidence of the disease, causing Antara to wonder if her mother is willfully forgetting her. She concludes her mother named her Antara (‘Un-Tara’) ‘because she hated herself,’ setting up a dynamic in which the two women became pitted against each other. She reexamines her early years living in an ashram, where her mother landed after leaving her husband. There, Tara fell in love with the ashram leader but neglected her daughter, not seeing Antara for weeks at a time. The young Antara refused to eat and eventually resigned herself to self-sufficiency to avoid beatings from her mother. Tara’s rejection of her daughter continues after Antara’s grandparents send her to boarding school against her will and Tara neglects to intervene, and Tara later criticizes Antara’s teenage body. Yet by the captivating conclusion, Tara’s memory loss proves too much for Antara, causing the daughter to react in ways she never expected. Doshi’s portrayal of troubled mother-daughter intimacy is viscerally poetic. This has the heft and expansiveness of a classic 19th-century novel.”
No Heaven for Good Boys by Keisha Bush
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about No Heaven for Good Boys: “Bush’s vivid and heart-wrenching debut paints a jarring portrait of Dakar, Senegal, inspired by the author’s encounters with the talibés, boys forced by their teachers to beg on the street. The novel follows Ibrahimah, age six, as he fights for survival under the abusive hands of Marabout Ahmed, a duplicitous stranger who has tricked Ibrahimah’s parents into sending their child to join his older cousin Etienne to beg in Dakar under the guise of studying the Quran. Ibrahimah sustains himself with memories of his village and the family he left behind, in order to cope with the physical, verbal, and sexual abuse they endure from his and Etienne’s teacher, while Etienne determines to rescue them both. Snippets from the perspective of Ibrahimah’s family deepen the kaleidoscopic portrait of a family whose faith blinds them against hearsay about the talibés’ treatment. Ibrahimah is portrayed with realistic childlike innocence, which informs his occasional magical encounters with animals, such as a red bird that lands on his knee like a ‘ball of fire.’ Etienne, in contrast, has an all-knowing edge from the trauma he’s suffered. This tale of survival and familial love will move readers.”
Sergeant Salinger by Jerome Charyn
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sergeant Salinger: “In this literary tour de force, Charyn (The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King) recreates J.D. Salinger’s experiences during WWII. The book begins with a bravura set-piece in which Sonny Salinger goes on a date with teen debutante Oona O’Neill to the Stork Club, where he rubs shoulders with columnist Walter Winchell, gangster Frank Costello, and his idol, Ernest Hemingway, before returning home to receive his draft notification. Assigned to the Army’s much-feared Counter Intelligence Corps, Sonny storms Utah Beach on D-Day, helps to liberate Paris, survives the Battle of the Bulge, and frees the inmates of a concentration camp, all the while carrying with him the work-in-progress that will one day become his masterpiece. One year after the end of the war and a nervous breakdown, Sonny returns home to his family in New York, accompanied by a German war bride and suffering from writer’s block. Charyn makes a persuasive case for how America’s most famous reclusive author endured the horrors of war and carried these memories into his postwar writing career. With standout scenes—Sonny’s disastrous bar mitzvah, a confrontation with Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, a breakthrough in Bloomingdale’s bargain basement—Charyn vividly portrays Sonny’s journey from slick short story writer to suffering artist. The winning result humanizes a legend.”
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Consent: “The lives of two pairs of sisters from Vancouver intersect in Lyon’s intense, intimate novel of love, grief, and murder (after The Sweet Girl). After 30-something Sara Landow’s mother dies in 2011, Sara assumes responsibility for her intellectually disabled younger sister, Mattie. A month later, when Sara returns from a short trip, Mattie has married their late mother’s handyman, Robert Dwyer. While Mattie had never been declared legally incompetent, Sara doubts she is capable of consenting to marriage, and tries to have it annulled. In 2015, the lives of 27-year-old twins Saskia and Jenny Gilbert are derailed when a car accident leaves Jenny in a coma. While Jenny is still unconscious in the hospital, a man is caught masturbating in her room. As Saskia, disturbed by the news, learns about Jenny’s practice of BDSM, Lyon alternates back to Sara as she grieves in the aftermath of Mattie’s death from a fall for which Robert was present, a few years after they married. When Sara and Saskia eventually meet, they process their sisters’ disturbing relationships. While the circumstances leading to the women’s connection are not entirely surprising, their reactions ramp up the novel toward a deliciously dark conclusion. Lyon’s mesmerizing novel perfectly captures the odd mix of love and resentment faced by caregivers.”
Also on shelves this week: The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (translated by Tiina Nunnally).