Remarkably Bright Creatures: A Novel

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Diaz, Cañas, Hart, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Hernan Diaz, Isabel Cañas, Michelle Hart, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Trust by Hernan Diaz

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Trust: “Diaz returns after his Pulitzer finalist In the Distance with a wondrous portrait in four texts of devious financier Andrew Bevel, who survives the Wall Street crash of 1929 and becomes one of New York City’s chief financial barons before dying a decade later at age 62. First there is Bonds, a novel by controversial writer Harold Vanner, which tells the story of Benjamin Rask, a character clearly based on Bevel. The novel, published shortly before Bevel’s death, infuriates the magnate, particularly for its depiction of Bevel’s deceased wife, Mildred, as a fragile madwoman. Bevel responds by undertaking a memoir, which only serves to highlight his own touchiness and lack of imagination. The third story-within-the-story is the most significant; in it, the reader meets Ida Partenza, daughter of an Italian anarchist in exile, who, in pursuit of her own writerly ambitions, suppresses both her own conscience and the suspicions of her suitor, Jack, to become Bevel’s secretary and coconspirator in ruining Harold Vanner, as Ida concocts a counternarrative of a saintly Mildred. The reader eventually hears from Mildred directly via her journal, discovered by Ida during her research and included as a coda. The result is a kaleidoscope of capitalism run amok in the early 20th century, which also manages to deliver a biography of its irascible antihero and the many lives he disfigures during his rise to the cream of the city’s crop. Grounded in history and formally ambitious, this succeeds on all fronts. Once again, Diaz makes the most of his formidable gifts.”

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Hacienda: “Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in Cañas’s stunning debut. After Beatriz’s mestizo father, General Hernandez, is betrayed and murdered in Mexico’s War of Independence, Beatriz marries mysterious widower Don Rodolfo Solórzano, as his estate, the Hacienda San Isidro, seems the perfect escape for Beatriz and her mother. Beatriz’s first sign that something’s off is the housekeeper, who refuses to work without burning copal incense and chalking glyphs on the kitchen door. Then Beatriz is plagued by bad dreams and mysterious, bloody visions. Her sister-in-law, Juana, who shares the estate, insists these are signs that Beatriz is going mad. Beatriz, however, comes to believe that her husband’s first wife was murdered and is haunting the house, and she finds an ally in Mestizo priest Padre Andrés, who’s torn between the folk beliefs of his childhood and his Catholic teachings. To exorcise the house, the pair digs into a past deliberately obscured by those who would kill them if the truth comes out. Cañas clearly knows the genre, alternately deploying and subverting haunted house tropes. The result is a brilliant contribution to the new wave of postcolonial Gothics. Readers won’t want to miss this.”

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Remarkably Bright Creatures: “A cross-species friendship helps solve a pair of decades-old mysteries in Pelt’s whimsical if far-fetched debut. After Tova Sullivan’s husband dies, she takes a night job as janitor at an aquarium, where she enjoys talking to the sea creatures. She’s particularly fond of Marcellus, a giant octopus who shies away from most human attention. But when Tova finds Marcellus out of his tank and helps him back to safety, he becomes fond of her. Meanwhile, Cameron Cassmore comes to town looking for his long-lost father and joins Tova on the night shift, disrupting her routine. However, the two soon realize that Cameron’s mother, who disappeared after leaving him with an aunt when he was nine, and Tova’s son, who died after falling off a boat decades earlier, might have known each other. Marcellus, who lived in the sea before his capture, is the only creature who knows for sure. Pelt imbues Tova, Cameron, and Marcellus with pathos, but her abrupt cycling between their perspectives can be disorienting, and her no-frills prose is ill-suited for the anthropomorphic conceit at the story’s core. While the premise intrigues, this fantastical take on human-animal connection requires a bit too much suspended disbelief.”

The Premonitions Bureau by Sam Knight

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Premonitions Bureau: “A British psychiatrist’s inquiries into ‘the problem of precognition’ are recounted in New Yorker contributor Knight’s mesmerizing debut. In October 1966, one week after the collapse of an enormous coal waste pile killed 116 schoolchildren in Aberfan, Wales, John Barker, a psychiatrist with ‘a keen interest in unusual mental conditions,’ and Evening Standard science reporter Peter Fairley issued a call for people to report their premonitions of the disaster. The responses they received—including a letter from Kathleen Middleton, a London dance teacher who awoke the morning of the accident ‘choking and gasping and with the sense of the walls caving in’—led Barker to speculate that precognition ‘might be as common as left-handedness.’ To test the theory, he and Fairley established a ‘premonitions bureau’ to ‘log premonitions as they occurred and see how many were borne out in reality.’ Within 15 months, they received more than 700 premonitions, 3% of which proved to be correct. One of the most accurate correspondents was Middleton, who also envisaged a train derailment, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, and Barker’s untimely death from a burst vessel in his brain. Amid the vivid profiles of Barker, Middleton, and others, Knight interweaves intriguing episodes of precognition from history and literature. The result is a captivating study of the uncanny. Photos.”

Six Days in Rome by Francesca Giacco

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Six Days in Rome: “In Giacco’s sensual and deliberately paced debut, an American artist in her early 30s takes a transformative trip to Rome. After getting out of a relationship with a married man, Emilia turns the Roman vacation they had planned together into a solo trip, wandering the city and reflecting on the breakup and her memories of growing up as the daughter of a famous rock singer. Emilia begins an affair with a charming American ex-pat, whose thoughtful conversation helps her to see the toll that her father’s passions and celebrity exacted on her family throughout her childhood. Giacco revels in her setting, providing rich descriptions of the streets, food, and people Emilia encounters (‘Butter-yellow buildings, with their faded blue windows…. Around a nondescript corner, a gorgeous slap in the face’), but much of the narrative takes place inside Emilia’s head as she forges an identity independent of her father and her ex. Indeed, the author’s discursive style and the inconclusive ending will frustrate readers looking for an immersive narrative. Though slow moving, this is sumptuously written.”

We Do What We Do in the Dark by Michelle Hart

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about We Do What We Do in the Dark: “Hart debuts with a transfixing queer coming-of-age novel about a woman’s affair with a much older professor. Mallory Green is in her first year at a college on Long Island shortly after her mother’s death from cancer in 2008. There, she becomes fixated on a never-named woman who teaches children’s literature. The professor, who is brusque but encouraging in their conversations, invites Mallory over for dinner. Her husband is away, and she makes plain her own attraction to Mallory. Despite feeling ’embarrassed, as if she’d written an intense journal entry that she now had to read aloud,’ Mallory plunges into an affair with her. The woman ends it when her professor husband returns at the end of the semester, leaving Mallory floundering as she attempts to date a male student and later drifts through postgraduation life in New York City. A flashback to Mallory’s youth traces her close friendship with a neighbor girl, saturated with frustrated desire. The professor’s reappearance four years after graduation, just as Mallory is settling into a new relationship, opens old wounds. Mallory’s intense interiority and self-consciousness will remind readers of Sally Rooney’s work, and Hart’s prose is delicate and piercing. This is auspicious and breathtaking.”

Also out this week: Patience is a Subtle Thief by Abi Ishola-Ayodeji.

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