We’re always on the lookout for books that strike a chord with our readers. This week in New & Notable we focus on a Pulitzer Prize–winning author’s “seductive” account of our nation’s birth; the “vivid and moving” true story of the French courtesan who inspired the opera La Traviata; and a “darkly funny” novel that has just been awarded England’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

 

United States—History—Revolution, 1776–1783

Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American IndependenceRevolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, by Joseph J. Ellis

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. [Ellis] meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment . . . . He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.
Revolutionary Summer tells an old story in a new way, with a freshness at once colorful and compelling. (Excerpted from the publisher, Knopf.)

Review

“The definitive book on the revolutionary events of the summer of 1776. Ellis’s prose is characteristically seductive, his insights frequent, his sketches of people and events captivating, and his critical facility always alive . . . . Another brilliantly told story, carried along on solid interpretive grounds, by one of our best historians of the early nation.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review 

 

 

Courtesans—France—Paris—Biography

The Girl Who Loved Camellias: the Life and Legend of Marie DuplessisThe Girl Who Loved Camellias: the Life and Legend of Marie Duplessis, by Julia Kavanagh 

Drawing on new research, Julie Kavanagh brilliantly re-creates the short, intense, and passionate life of the tall, pale, slender girl who at thirteen fled her brute of a father and Normandy to go to Paris, where she would become one of the grand courtesans of the 1840s. France’s national treasure, Alexandre Dumas père, was intrigued by her, his son became her lover, and Franz Liszt, too, fell under her spell. Fascinating to both men and women, Marie, with her stylish outfits and signature camellias, was always a subject of great interest at the opera or at the Café de Paris . . . . Her early death at age twenty-three from tuberculosis created an outpouring of sympathy, noted by Charles Dickens. (Excerpted from the publisher, Knopf.)

Review

“Marie Duplessis—the tragic inspiration for La Dame aux Camélias and La Traviata—crammed more drama into her short life than either of her fictionalised personas. Her true story has been crying out to be told. Now, at last, the enigmatic Duplessis has found a brilliant biographer in Kavanagh. The Girl Who Loved Camellias is not only a wonderful read: vivid and moving, but full of fascinating discoveries.” —Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War

 

 

Life Change Events—Fiction

May We Be ForgivenMay We Be Forgiven, by A.M. Homes 

Last month, in London, A.M. Homes was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction, which “celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world,” for May We Be Forgiven.

Harold Silver has spent a lifetime watching his younger brother, George, a taller, smarter, and more successful high-flying TV executive, acquire a covetable wife, two kids, and a beautiful home in the suburbs of New York City. But Harry, a historian and Nixon scholar, also knows George has a murderous temper, and when George loses control the result is an act of violence so shocking that both brothers are hurled into entirely new lives in which they both must seek absolution. (Excerpted from the publisher, Viking Penguin.)

Review

“Darkly funny . . . the moments shared between this ad hoc family are the novel’s most endearing . . . Homes’ signature trait is a fearless inclination to torment her characters and render their failures, believing that the reader is sophisticated enough—and forgiving enough—to tag along.”  —Katie Arnold-Ratliff, Time Magazine