Alice McDermott’s hypnotic, evocative novel, Someone, unfolds through a series of snapshots capturing the life of a woman living in Brooklyn before, during, and after the Second World War. The stories are lean and deliberate, and they appear to be randomly assembled, like snapshots pulled from an old shoebox. But as the exquisite images and poignant truths add up, we’re reminded that nothing happens in a McDermott novel by accident. This is a writer in complete control.
Former Washington Post reporter Peter Carlson’s terrific book Junius and Albert’s Adventures in the Confederacy: A Civil War Odyssey follows two colorful pals as they try to escape the South. That may sound like the plot of a certain classic American novel, but this isn’t fiction. Junius Browne and Albert Richardson were covering the Civil War for the New York Tribune when they hitched a ride aboard a tugboat ferrying supplies to Grant’s army at Vicksburg. Confederates bombarded the tug, and the two were captured and imprisoned. They escaped and walked more than 300 miles to safety. Here’s a conversation with Carlson.
The world said goodbye to Nigerian author Chinua Achebe in March, but the towering man of letters survives through works such as his classic novel Things Fall Apart and the many writers he inspired. One of those, Achebe’s 35-year-old compatriot Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, reminds us just how worthy an heir she is, with her big, masterful new book, Americanah.
Marie Arana’s new book, Bolívar: American Liberator, is the first popular biography in English about Venezuelan revolutionary Simón Bolívar. Known as the Great Liberator and often compared to George Washington, Bolívar was a larger-than-life figure who liberated six South American countries from Spanish rule.
One of publishing’s great partnerships began in 1984 when an out-of-work Barbara Meade, back in Washington after a four-year stint in Portland, Oregon, responded to a classified ad in the Washington Post for a bookstore manager. “I just knew the phone would ring in the morning,” she says. “And it did!”