Hut's Place
bookcase
 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

November 29, 2020

Feel-Good Animal Fable Set In Paris and Moving English Family Memoir From a Mystery Maven

Perestroika in Paris
by Jane Smiley. From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author (for
A Thousand Acres) comes what BookPage has called "a remarkable novel that splits the difference between Charlotte's Web and Animal Farm." It's an imaginative and heartwarming story of three extraordinary animals - and a young boy - whose lives intersect in Paris. The lead protagonist is Paras, short for Perestroika, a spirited racehorse housed at a racetrack west of Paris. One day, she finds the door of her stall open and wanders all the way to the City of Light. Soon she meets an elegant dog named Frida, who knows how to get by without attracting the attention of suspicious Parisians. Paras and Frida live for a time in the city's lush green spaces, fortified by Frida's forays to the vegetable market, and meet up with an opinionated raven. But then Paras meets Etienne, an 8-year old orphan who lives in a secluded house with his nearly 100-year-old great-grandmother. An unlikely friendships blooms, but how long can a runaway horse stay undiscovered in Paris? How long can a boy keep her hidden and all to himself?

Perestroika in Paris may not be vintage Smiley but her feel-good tale will hit the spot for many in these turbulent times. In its review, The Economist described  it thusly: "A comforting read at the end of a difficult year -- a winter's tale full of wit, warmth, and charm . . . Immersive . . . Beguiling."


This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing by Jacqueline Winspear. The author of the hugely popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series has written an engaging memoir about her childhood growing up in the English countryside of Kent in the mid-1950s and 1960s. She also recounts her parents' history as a young married couple during World War II, describing the hardships they faced and the cultural changes that impacted their lives and their daughter's upbringing. Among Winspear's reminiscences are her mother's evacuation from London during the Blitz; her soft-spoken father's torturous assignment to an explosives team during WWII; her parents' years living with Gypsies; and Winspear's own childhood picking hops and fruit on farms in rural Kent, capturing her ties to the land and her dream of being a writer at its very inception.

In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews said, "[Winspear] draws distinctive portraits of postwar England, altogether different from the U.S., where she has since settled, and her unsettling struggles within the rigid British class system. An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author's parents."
Character-Driven Big City Thriller Now in Paperback 
 
Long Bright River by Liz Moore. Author Moore
delivers a suspense novel that also examines the anatomy of a Philadelphia family rocked by the opioid crisis and the relationship between two sisters.
Alternating its present-day mystery with the story of the sisters' childhood and adolescence, Long Bright River is both a gripping suspense novel and a moving story of siblings and the formidable ties that persist between family and place. Here's a brief description: 
 
In a Philadelphia neighborhood rocked by the opioid crisis, two once-inseparable sisters find themselves at odds. One, Kacey, lives on the streets in the vise of addiction. The other, Mickey, walks those same blocks on her police beat. They don't speak anymore, but Mickey never stops worrying about her sibling. Then Kacey disappears, suddenly, at the same time that a mysterious string of murders begins in Mickey's district, and Mickey becomes dangerously obsessed with finding the culprit - and her sister - before it's too late.
 
In it's review of the book, Forbes wrote, "Pulsating with breathtaking suspense and boundless compassion, Long Bright River is the kind of genre-defying novel that, once the final chapters close, you instantly implore people to read. Topical yet timeless, its page-turning narrative wrestles with the fissures and wreckage that addiction can inflict on a family - and a city."

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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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