*In the Garden of the Beast: Love Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Lawson focuses on 1933, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. Dodd tries to acclimate to an increasingly violent city where he has to associate with the Nazis while his daughter pursues relationships with Gestapo and Communist officials (among others). Larson is an excellent researcher/writer and the story has disturbing reminders of how evil triumphs.
Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell, author of the Kurt Wallander series, is the story of a lonely old man living alone on an isolated Swedish island. After a self-imposed exile of 30 years, the “winter of discontent” for a disgraced surgeon begins to thaw as he encounters three women whom he has wronged—the lover he abandoned, the daughter he didn’t know about, and the patient he mutilated. “Intense and precisely detailed. . . . A hopeful account of a man released from self-imposed withdrawal.”—The Independent, London
*The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is a worthy follow-up to her Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (or Downton Abby), deftly recounts the effect of war on Edwardian sensibilities about gender, money and class. Freethinking Beatrice Nash has been hired to teach Latin at the local grammar school but must cope with provincial, misogynistic laws, mores, and people. “A delightful story about nontraditional romantic relationships, class snobbery and the…complications of living in a small community.” Wash Post)
-The Last Mile is David Baldachi’s second novel about extraordinary detective Amos Decker who can forget nothing. Baldachi is a great writer, but you wouldn’t know it from this book. The characters, coincidences, and conversations are unbelievable. Various chapters appear to be written by different authors and made me wonder how much Baldachi actually wrote. Yet, it was a NYTimes best seller and the Washington Post wrote, "It's big, bold and almost impossible to put down.” Go figure.
**Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice from the author of Prep and American Wife. The Cincinnati Bennett’s have fallen on hard times, thanks to exorbitant medical bills, reckless spending, and the perpetual underemployment of four of the five Bennett daughters. Liz is the novel’s central character, voice of reason, and the only one holding down a regular job. Yes, after much travail, she does get her Darcy. “Eligible sparkles with Austen-esque wit and intelligence and is a pure pleasure to read.”