Something Wonderful: Stories

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Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Levy, Jeffers, Barker, and More

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Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Deborah Levy, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Pat Barker, and more—that are publishing this week.
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Real Estate by Deborah Levy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Real Estate: “Levy (The Cost of Living) brings her trilogy of autobiographies home in this incandescent meditation on writing, womanhood, and the places that nurture both. From her shabby flat in North London, she imagines a dream property: ‘a grand old house with the pomegranate tree in the garden,’ and returns to this refrain throughout her delightful memoir-in-vignettes. Levy is 59 and single, and, with her youngest daughter off to university, takes a fellowship in Paris and contemplates the nature of middle-aged female freedom that includes, for her, a deep longing for an expansive kind of rootedness. ‘Domestic space,’ she observes, ‘if it is not an affliction bestowed on us by patriarchy, can be a powerful space. To make it work for women and children is the challenge.’ She accumulates treasures for the ‘unreal estate’ of her dreams, contemplates a friend’s extramarital affair, rents a crumbling old home in Greece, and encounters sexist male writers. Despite what physically occurs, this is a cerebral affair—Levy’s mind is both troubled and titillated by the slipperiness of time and place—and her wry wit and descriptive powers are more pleasurable than any plot. Eloquent and unapologetically frank, Levy’s astute narrative is a place worth lingering in.”

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: “Poet Jeffers (The Age of Phyllis) debuts with a staggering and ambitious saga exploring African American history. Ailey Pearl Garfield, the youngest daughter of Geoff Garfield, a light-skinned Washington, D.C., physician, and Belle Driskell Garfield, a Southern school teacher, reckons with ancestral trauma while growing up in the 1980s and ’90s. Throughout, historical sketches (or ‘songs’) link Ailey to her ancestors: Creeks, enslaved Africans, and early Scot slave owners. Ailey follows in the footsteps of her parents, attending the southern HBCU where they met and married as undergraduates before moving north to the ‘City,’ where Geoff attended medical school at Mecca University (a thinly veiled Howard). W.E.B. Du Bois’s theories emerge in epigraphs throughout and are sagaciously reflected in the plot, as the accounts of Ailey’s college life correspond to the ‘talented tenth.’ Later, tragedy unfolds as Lydia, Ailey’s oldest sister who is haunted by childhood sexual abuse, succumbs to crack addiction. The multigenerational story bursts open when Ailey unearths some unknown family history during her graduate studies, as well as secrets of the Black female founder of her family’s alma mater. Themes of family, class, higher education, feminism, and colorism yield many rich layers. Readers will be floored.”

Something Wonderful by Jo Lloyd

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Something Wonderful: “Each story in Lloyd’s crisp and layered debut collection is like a picture postcard from the Welsh countryside, belied by family secrets, dashed hopes, and the long shadows of history. In ‘My Bonny,’ a widow raises her son after her husband is killed at sea, beginning a family saga that stretches into an ominous future in just a few short pages. The unseen upper-class visitors to a close-knit community leave a mark on its citizens in ‘The Invisible,’ and in ‘Butterflies of the Balkans,’ set in the run-up to WWI, two young women pursue a passion for lepidopterology. Other stories feature hopeful young people falling in and out of love as they make their first forays into adulthood, as in ‘Ade/Cindy/Kurt/Me’ and ‘Your Magic Summer’; the latter follows the friendship of two girls as they become women, marry, and find their rapport threatened by the changes in their lives. Perhaps the best entry is the gothic ‘The Earth, Thy Great Exchequer, Ready Lies,’ wherein the imperious and self-made lord of a humble township ventures into the lowlands, only to meet a mysterious fate. Throughout, the author shows a knack for stretching each germ of a story into a miniature epic. Lloyd’s singular talent is on full display.”

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Women of Troy: “In Barker’s masterly continuation of her fiercely feminist take on Homer’s Iliad (after The Silence of the Girls), the Greeks drag their wooden horse into Troy and achieve victory after a 10-year siege, but a freak storm prevents their ships from returning home. As time drags on, Briseis, the heroine of the previous installment, struggles to survive as an enemy noncombatant prisoner in the siege camp. A former queen of a Trojan ally, she was kidnapped by Achilles as his prize of honor and turned into his sex slave. But now Achilles is dead and Briseis is pregnant. Handed down to Lord Alcimus as his wife, she spends her days, as soldiers play football with a human head, commiserating with the other Trojan women—Hecuba, Cassandra, Andromache and, of course, Helen, the cause of the war. Briseis shares narrative duties with Pyrrhus, the bloodthirsty son of Achilles, and Calchas, a canny priest of Troy. In a novel filled with names from legend, Briseis stands tall as a heroine: brave, smart and loyal. The author makes strategic use of anachronistic language (‘living in the real world,’ ‘keep a low profile’) to illuminate characters living at the dawn of myth. Barker’s latest is a wonder.”

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