Two Recommended March Releases

The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont

[Coming from Random House (USA) and Virago (UK) on the 6th]

Like A Glorious Freedom, this is a celebration of women’s achievements, especially those that have been overlooked. Each “matron saint,” presented in chronological order by birthday, gets a two-page spread, with a full-color portrait on the left (by Manjitt Thapp, a young British artist), often featuring a halo, and a very short biographical essay on the right that highlights the person’s background and contributions towards greater opportunities for women. The first two subjects give you a sense of the range covered: Artemisia Gentileschi and Michelle Obama. There are about 90 profiles here, and while I recognized many of the figures, a lot of the mathematical/scientific pioneers and civil rights activists were new to me. This is the perfect little coffee table book to gift to the women in your life this year.

My rating:

E-ARC from Edelweiss.

 

 

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

[Coming from Viking on the 20th]

Charles “Pinch” Bavinsky is just an Italian teacher, though as a boy in Rome in the 1950s–60s he believed he would follow in the footsteps of his sculptor mother and his moderately famous father, Bear Bavinsky, who paints close-ups of body parts. When his father shattered his dream, though, he turned to criticism, getting art history degrees and planning to preserve his father’s reputation by writing his authorized biography. But along the way something went wrong. We follow Pinch through the rest of his life, a sad one of estrangement, loss and misunderstandings – but ultimately there’s a sly triumph in store for the boy who was told that he’d never make it as an artist.

Like his previous book, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Rachman’s new one jets between lots of different places – Rome, New York City, Toronto, rural France, London – and ropes in quirky characters in the search for an identity and a place to belong. Although I preferred the early chapters when Pinch is a child – these have some of the free-wheeling energy of The Imperfectionists, Rachman’s first novel – this is a rewarding story about the desperation to please, or perhaps exceed, one’s parents, and the legacy of artists in a fickle market. Existing Rachman fans will certainly want to read this, but for those who are new to his work I’d particularly recommend it to fans of Daniel Kehlmann’s F and Dominic Smith’s The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.

My rating:

E-ARC from Edelweiss.

 


Plus one I’m a bit less enthusiastic in recommending, alas.

Anatomy of a Miracle by Jonathan Miles

[Coming from Hogarth on the 13th]

On August 23, 2014, wheelchair-bound veteran Cameron Harris stands up and walks outside the Biz-E-Bee convenience store in Biloxi, Mississippi. In the rest of the novel we find out how he got to this point and what others – ranging from his doctor to representatives of the Roman Catholic Church – will make of his recovery. Was it a miracle, or an explainable medical phenomenon? Miles has been rather sly in how he’s packaged this. On the title page he calls it a “True Story,” but an asterisk qualifies that with the phrase “a novel.” The style, reminiscent of journalistic reportage, is like what Dave Eggers uses in Zeitoun. He keeps up the pretense of the whole thing being based on interviews with the key players, all the way through to the acknowledgements. But early on I searched for information on a war veteran named Cameron Harris and found nothing. Miles made it all up.

It’s hard to reconcile the style with the fictional contents. That’s a shame, because there are interesting questions here that would be rewarding for a book club to discuss. What is the relationship between science and storytelling? How can we determine what “God’s will” is? Miles’s previous novel, Want Not, is one of the books I most wish I’d written, so it was perhaps inevitable this one would suffer in comparison. (Full review at The Bookbag.)

My rating:

 

Other March releases I’m planning to read:

  • Happiness by Aminatta Forna (Grove Atlantic, 16th)
  • The Friendship Cure, by Kate Leaver (Duckworth, 22nd) – for blog review
  • The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse (Picador, 22nd) – for blog tour
  • The Parentations by Kate Mayfield (Oneworld, 29th)for Shiny New Books review

 

 


What March books do you have on the docket?

Have you already read any that you can recommend?

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14 thoughts on “Two Recommended March Releases

  1. I’m currently reading Aminatta Forna’s Happiness and enjoying it, as you know I really enjoyed the historical novel Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira, out now in the US. I recently bought Joanna Cannon’s Three Things About Elsie which I may read this month, because of all the great reviews I’ve read and I have the two latest books by Elizabeth Strout to read. I’ll probably also be reading Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, as it relates to a course I’m starting in April. And then there’s the new Granta magazine volume 42 Animalia for a bit of distraction from the lengthier tomes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That all sounds excellent! I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying Happiness. It will be my first read by Forna, but I couldn’t resist the synopsis (and the cover). I liked My Name Is Lucy Barton very much but have been unsure about reading the sequel/companion book.

      I read The Hero with a Thousand Faces in college for a class on Myth, Symbol and Ritual. I remember it being fascinating. What course are you taking?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In preparation I read The Hero’s Journey which is kind of biographical and more about Campbell himself, whereas this one I have still to read is I think the masterpiece. It’s incredible given my interest in literature, but as may know I am a qualified and practicing Aromatherapist and the course I’m doing is ‘Spiritual Phytoessencing’, basically creating essential oil blends to bring about equilibrium, a kind of homeopathic treatment for the soul. I already make blends using knowledge from western clinical medicine and traditional chinese medicine, so this is taking things one step further to learn how to create a ‘Soul-ar ‘Hero’s Journey Blend inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell. 🙂 And yes, I’m intrigued too!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The U.S. publicist sent me an e-galley of Sea Beast a while back, but I am simply terrible about hoarding short story collections and then not reading them. (I’ve read a number of HoZ’s Apollo Classics reprints, but not so many of their other publications.)

      Like

      1. HoZ does some really cool stuff – they published False Lights, which I adored, and their nonfiction/history is always good (The Medici; Grant; The Templars). They’ve got a new book coming out in May(?) that I’ve already asked for a copy of – a crime novel set in Scotland in a world exactly like ours, except for the fact that Scotland has always been independent. Can’t wait.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The Feminist Saints look great! I’ve got Lucy Mangan’s “Bookworm”, Sophie Green’s “The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies’ Club” and Rolf Potts’ “Souvenir” coming up published this month.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ack! I am so far behind on your posts!
    I’m so glad you liked the Rachman – I will keep my library hold for that one. But, unfortunately, I think I’ll let it go for Miles’s new book. Feminist Saints sounds like a great book to have around, though!
    The Red Word by Sarah Henstra comes out in March, and it’s definitely worth reading. A review will hopefully be coming soon!

    Like

    1. Sorry, I’ve been too prolific in the last week and a half! A lot of my posts tend to bunch together at the end or beginning of a month, and then I struggle to find things to post in the middle 🙂

      Yes, I’ve read all of Miles’s novels, but I’m afraid Want Not was a one-off work of genius for me.

      I’ll look forward to your review of The Red Word!

      Liked by 1 person

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