Lucy by the Sea: A Novel

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Li, Greer, Strout, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Yiyun Li, Andrew Sean Greer, Elizabeth Strout, and more—that are publishing this week.
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The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Book of Goose: “Li follows Must I Go with an intriguing novel of two devious teenage friends who are coping with the aftermath of WWII. Fabienne helps her drunken father, a widower, on their Saint Rèmy farm, and her friend Agnès lives with her parents and attends the village school. One of their ‘games’ involves Fabienne dictating a series of stories about little children who die in various ghastly ways, which Agnès records in a notebook that they share with the recently widowed postmaster, M. Devaux, whose friendship they pursue on a lark. Devaux, an author himself, helps get them published, and Agnès, whom Fabienne decides should get sole credit, becomes famous. Her rise from peasant girl to author becomes a big story, and she is given free education at a finishing school in England. Then, on a whim, Fabienne lies and frames Devaux for a drunken sexual assault on her, forcing him to leave town in disgrace. As the story unfolds, Agnès reckons with a frightening series of episodes in which she takes on Fabienne’s mischievous traits. Bringing to mind Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, by way of Anita Brookner’s quietly dramatic prose, this makes for a powerful Cinderella fable with memorable characters. It’s an accomplished new turn for Li.”

Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Less is Lost: “Greer follows up his Pulitzer-winning Less with another delightful road story featuring middle-aged writer Arthur Less. This time, he’s traveling across the U.S., hoping to raise money to salvage his home with partner Freddy Pelu. Freddy, who narrates the story and has lived with Less for nine blissful months in San Francisco, has recently taken a teaching sabbatical in Maine, where Less plans to join him. But after the death of Less’s former lover, the poet Robert Brownburn, the estate hits him up for 10 years of back rent on Brownburn’s former house, where he now lives with Freddy. He assures Freddy he’ll make everything okay by paying it back with magazine articles and other literary gigs. Soon Less is off to do a profile of a famous sci-fi author, who has Less drive him and his pug in a camper van to Santa Fe, N.Mex., for an onstage interview. Along the way, Less accidentally floods a commune, sleeps in a tepee, and rides a donkey down a canyon. After a cascading series of humorous mishaps, Less wonders if Freddy will leave him. Though a bit overboard at times, Greer packs in plenty of humor and some nicely poignant moments. Fans will eat this up.”

Three Muses by Martha Anne Toll

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Three Muses: “Loss, memory, and romance are explored in Toll’s bittersweet debut. In 1944, Janko Stein is an 11-year-old German Jewish death camp inmate who is spared because of his beautiful singing voice. That same year, in New York City, seven-year-old Katherine Sillman receives ballet lessons as a consolation after the death of her mother and later grows up to become an acclaimed prima ballerina, thanks to her Svengali-like choreographer, Boris Yanakov, who is also her lover. Janko, adopted by a New York City family after the war and renamed John Curtin, goes on to a psychiatric residency. In 1963, John and Katherine, now rechristened Katya Symanova, meet in Paris after John becomes entranced by her performance in Yanakov’s Three Muses. Back in New York, the two of them begin a heated love affair, but will they ultimately be separated by John’s survivor’s guilt and Katya’s allegiance to Yanakov? Toll is savvy in exploring how love can flourish in the face of trauma, but her theme is undercut by clichéd situations and dialogue (‘You were born to dance’). Despite the pungent realism of the death camp setting and the vibrant depiction of the New York ballet scene, John and Katya feel a bit too wooden, with every emotion spelled out. It’s an ambitious if uneven effort.”

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Lucy by the Sea: “Strout follows up Oh William! with a captivating entry in the Lucy Barton series. This time, Lucy decamps to rural Maine during the first year of the Covid lockdown. At the pandemic’s onset in 2020, Lucy’s philandering ex-husband and longtime friend, William, whisks her away from New York City to a rental house in coastal Maine. He may have self-centered ulterior motives beyond his assertion that he’s trying to save her life, but they are not readily transparent for most of the narrative. Personal and public events intrude during the lockdown as the pair develop a “strange compatibility” while attempting to comprehend the new normal. Their two daughters each face a crisis in their marriage; William contacts his once unknown half sister, Lois Bubar, and reveals a life-threatening medical condition; and the country roils from George Floyd’s murder and the insurrection on January 6. Bleak memories of Lucy’s impoverished childhood and of her recently deceased husband surface in shattering flashbacks. Loneliness, grief, longing, and loss pervade intertwined family stories as Lucy and William attempt to create new friendships in an initially hostile town. What emerges is a prime testament to the characters’ resilience. With Lucy Barton, Strout continues to draw from a deep well.”

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