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    Book Club in a Bag

    Notable Novels of 2010

    by Patti Nouri - 0 Comment(s)

    The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

    Stieg Larsson

    The exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson's Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played With Fire ) finds Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker who was shot in the head in the final pages of Fire, alive, though still the prime suspect in three murders in Stockholm. While she convalesces under armed guard, journalist Mikael Blomkvist works to unravel the decades-old coverup surrounding the man who shot Salander: her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a Soviet intelligence defector and longtime secret asset to Säpo, Sweden's security police. Estranged throughout Fire, Blomkvist and Salander communicate primarily online, but their lack of physical interaction in no way diminishes the intensity of their unconventional relationship. Though Larsson (1954–2004) tends toward narrative excess, his was an undeniably powerful voice in crime fiction that will be sorely missed. From Publishers Weekly

    Freedom

    Jonathan Franzen

    "The awful thing about life is this:" says Octave to the Marquis in Renoir's Rules of the Game. "Everyone has his reasons." That could be a motto for novelists as well, few more so than Jonathan Franzen, who seems less concerned with creating merely likeable characters than ones who are fully alive, in all their self-justifying complexity. Freedom is his fourth novel, and, yes, his first in nine years since The Corrections. Happy to say, it's very much a match for that great book, a wrenching, funny, and forgiving portrait of a Midwestern family (from St. Paul this time, rather than the fictional St. Jude). Patty and Walter Berglund find each other early: a pretty jock, focused on the court and a little lost off it, and a stolid budding lawyer, besotted with her and almost burdened by his integrity. They make a family and a life together, and, over time, slowly lose track of each other. Their stories align at times with Big Issues--among them mountaintop removal, war profiteering, and rock'n'roll--and in some ways can't be separated from them, but what you remember most are the characters, whom you grow to love the way families often love each other: not for their charm or goodness, but because they have their reasons, and you know them. From Amazon

    Beatrice & Virgil

    Yann Martel

    Nearly 10 years in the making, Yann ­Martel’s follow-up to the Man Booker Prize–­winning Life of Pi divided critics, earning some of the most scathing reviews of the year. But the critical drubbing didn’t turn off Canadian readers, who made Beatrice & Virgil one of the best-selling novels of the year. It also proved that, in today’s risk-averse publishing­ climate, a book with ­commercial aspirations – Martel is rumoured to have scored a $3-million advance – can still take risks and challenge readers. Beatrice & ­Virgil is, among other things, a metafictional satire of the publishing industry, a parable about human cruelty and suffering, a meditation on the limits of representation, and a self-reflexive work of fiction that alludes to Beckett, Dante, and Orwell’s Animal Farm. Whether or not it lives up to expectations is for readers to decide, but it deserves to be read, debated, and grappled with. From Quill & Quire

    Wolf Hall

    Hilary Mantel

    Winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction & winner of 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction

    Henry VIII's challenge to the church's power with his desire to divorce his queen and marry Anne Boleyn set off a tidal wave of religious, political and societal turmoil that reverberated throughout 16th-century Europe. Mantel boldly attempts to capture the sweeping internecine machinations of the times from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the lowborn man who became one of Henry's closest advisers. Cromwell's actual beginnings are historically ambiguous, and Mantel admirably fills in the blanks, portraying Cromwell as an oft-beaten son who fled his father's home, fought for the French, studied law and was fluent in French, Latin and Italian. Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players: Henry VIII; his wife, Katherine of Aragon; the bewitching Boleyn sisters; and the difficult Thomas More, who opposes the king. Unfortunately, Mantel also includes a distracting abundance of dizzying detail and Henry's all too voluminous political defeats and triumphs, which overshadows the more winning story of Cromwell and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England. From Publishers weekly

    To the End of the Land

    David Grossman

    A major, internationally bestselling novel of extraordinary power about the costs of war from one of Israel's greatest writers. Set in Israel in recent times, this epic yet intimate novel places side by side the trials of war and the challenges of everyday life. Through a series of powerful, overlapping circles backward in time, it tells the story of Ora's relationship with her husband, from whom she is now separated, as well as the tragedy of their best friend Avram, a former soldier - and her son's biological father. When her son Ofer rejoins the army for a major offensive, Ora is devastated and decides to hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the "notifiers" who might deliver the worst news a parent can hear. She phones Avram, whom she has not seen in 21 years, and convinces him to go with her. As they journey together, Ora unfurls the story of her family, and gives Avram the gift of his son - a telling that keeps the boy alive for both his mother and the reader. Never have we seen so vividly the surreality of daily life in Israel, the consequences of living in a society where the burden of war falls on each generation anew. David Grossman's rich imagining of a family in love and crisis makes for one of the great anti-war novels of our time.

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