A Gentleman in Moscow

Eight un-putdown-able novels to choose from to take on vacation or snuggle up with at home.

By MARY MELVIN

 

A Gentleman in MoscowA Gentleman in Moscow

by Amor Towles

 

This treasure of a novel begins in 1922 in a Bolshevik Tribunal where Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to house arrest at the majestic Metropol Hotel. Though confined within the walls of this grand hotel, the Count, refined and honorable, determines that “a man must master his circumstances or otherwise be mastered by them”. Over the next three decades, through an era of turmoil and transformation throughout Europe and Russia, the Count’s life is touched by both the permanent fixtures of the hotel as well as the many guests who come and go. A Gentleman in Moscow is a heartwarming and witty tale of hope, friendship and self-discovery, where “by the smallest of one’s actions one can restore some sense of order in the world”.

 

 

 

The NixThe Nix

by Nathan Hill

 

A brilliant and rich debut novel, The Nix propels into motion from the very start with humor, shock and wit. Samuel Andresen-Anderson, an uninspired college professor and once promising writer, spends his days absorbed in an alternate reality video game attempting to escape the reality of his own life. He is haunted by the loss of those that he loved – his mother who left him when he was 11 years old and Bethany, his childhood love. His life changes when his estranged mother suddenly appears in the news for throwing rocks at a governor – becoming the infamous “Packer Attacker”, a “Radical Hippie Prostitute Teacher”, not the average Midwestern mom he once knew. Suddenly, Samuel is on a mission to uncover the truth of his mother’s past. The truth that enfolds helps Samuel understand and come to terms with his own past and present.

 

 

 

Imagine Me GoneImagine Me Gone

by Adam Haslett

 

Imagine Me Gone is a stunning and deeply compassionate portrayal of a family full of flaws, tragedy and humor. This heart-wrenching story is told through the perspectives of the parents, Margaret and John, and their three children, Alec, Celia and Michael, as they cope with the toll chronic depression and anxiety takes on a family. The characters are raw and real, and the writing is absolute perfection. This difficult subject matter is balanced with hysterically funny and irresistible passages that propel the story forward and provide true depth to the characters. It is a wonderful tale of the unconditional love of family and the ongoing search for the true meaning in life.


 

The Unseen WorldThe Unseen World

by Liz Moore

 

The Unseen World begins in the 1980s before the advent of the Internet and in the early years of artificial intelligence. Ada Sibelius, home schooled by David, her brilliant single father, spends her days in the computer science lab David runs at a leading university in Boston. By the age of 12, Ada works alongside the other scientists as they develop an artificial intelligence program, named ELIXIR, that focuses on creating natural sounding conversation in the same way humans develop language. Ada’s sheltered life revolves around her father and the lab until her father is diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s and quickly declines. Suddenly Ada’s world dissolves and questions arise regarding David’s real identity. Left with only a disk containing seemingly random letters, Ada begins her search for the truth.  

 

 

 

MoonglowMoonglow

by Michael Chabon

 

Moonglow, a “faux memoir novel”, was conceived when Michael Chabon visited his terminally ill grandfather.  Chabon’s once taciturn grandfather, influenced by powerful painkillers, suddenly overflows with memories of his past – of his childhood in the Jewish slums in South Philadelphia; his experiences as a soldier tasked with apprehending the Nazi rocket scientist Wernher von Braun; his incarceration at Wallkill prison; and the intense love he shared with his beautiful yet tormented Holocaust survivor wife. The story is mesmerizing, wickedly funny, fast paced, and full of shocking twists and turns, making the reader wonder what is really true.  

 

 

 

War and TurpentineWar and Turpentine

By Stefan Hertmans

 

In a touching tribute to his grandfather, Urbain Martien, an artist and decorated hero of World War I, the Flemish poet Stefan Hertmans recounts Urbain’s life story through personal reflections, pictures, essays and stories.  Urbain was born in Ghent in 1891 and died in 1981, bequeathing Hertmans 3 notebooks and over 600 pages of memoirs. “It was as if his life were no more than two digits playing leapfrog. Between those two dates lay two world wars, catastrophic genocides, the most ruthless century in all human history…” The story that ensues follows Urbain’s life as the son of a church painter, an iron foundry apprentice, soldier, artist, and finally husband to the sister of his one eternal love.  It recounts of the horrors of war and the miracle of survival; a true testament to the heroics and hardships of many unspoken heroes.

 

 

 

The Underground RailroadThe Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead

 

Colson Whitehead vividly captures the horror, devastation and brutality of slavery in the pre-Civil War South in this beautifully composed and densely packed novel. Cora, a teenage slave whose mother successfully escaped the plantation years earlier, decides to escape with a young slave who had found a way out through the Underground Railroad. The journey that unfolds takes her to South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Indiana. While Cora encounters kind, brave souls who help her along the way, she is also faced with endless struggles and atrocities. Chased by Ridgeway, the determined and ruthless slave hunter, safety always appears out of reach but the hope for freedom never dies.

 

 

 

CommonwealthCommonwealth

By Ann Patchett

 

Commonwealth opens with Beverly and Fix Keating’s Christening party for their young daughter Franny and the arrival of Bert Cousins, an uninvited guest.  An illicit kiss between Bert and Beverly ultimately triggers two divorces and the subsequent merging of four parents and six children. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Cousins and Keating children run free and bond over their mutual distaste for their parents, until tragedy strikes. Two decades later, Franny has an affair with Leon Posen, a famous author desperately searching for inspiration. Her story becomes his successful novel, Commonwealth, and forces her family to confront the past. It is a story of family, love and forgiveness.

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