Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or high-demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from January 4–8 below, so you can revisit the best of the week.
Monday January 4
The High Mountains of Portugal, by Yann Martel
“Not even the gods can defend a man, not even one they love, that day when fate takes hold and lays him out at last.” These memorable lines from the Odyssey ring entirely true over the course of the three disparate sections that bind loosely together to form Martel’s (Beatrice and Virgil, 2011) latest novel, which emphasizes the cruel hand of destiny in shaping our unpredictable lives. Tomás, Maria Dores Passos Castros, and Peter Tovy might be separated by time and circumstance, but they are connected by their shared family history, which can be traced to the high mountains of Portugal.
Tuesday January 5
Shallow Graves, by Kali Wallace
Breezy Lin has been dead and buried for a year—murdered and tossed into a shallow grave. So when she wakes up and claws her way out, no one is more surprised than she. She may not remember the last year, but she does remember the events leading to her murder. Worse, she suddenly finds herself possessing creepy powers: she can sense when someone has killed, and she can use that darkness to kill them. Also, she can’t die (again), and it’s not for lack of trying. Confused and alone, Breezy soon finds herself caught in a dangerous web of monsters and monster hunters, and she’s not sure where she fits into that equation or if she has any chance of being redeemed.
Wednesday January 6
The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O’Brien
While O’Brien retains every element of her gorgeous writing—significantly, a mastery of relevant detail, expressed with eloquence, precision, and passion as she limns individual struggles to safeguard personal dignity in the face of uncertain love, romantic and familial—her new novel nevertheless expands her domain beyond the usual Irish and English contexts of her previous fiction. It places the theme of community outcast, which certainly is not new to her, in a more geopolitical situation than she has explored before.
Thursday January 7
We Will Not Be Silent, by Russell Freedman
Freedman’s latest paradigmatic work of narrative nonfiction truly is a profile in courage, as it records the lives of Hans and Sophie Scholl, courageous siblings who helped found the White Rose, a student resistance movement that targeted Hitler’s regime in WWII Germany. University students by day, the two—along with other young people—produced freedom-extolling anti-government leaflets, of which thousands of copies were distributed. The Scholls’ actions were considered treasonous, and when they were ultimately discovered, the two young people were sentenced to death and executed.
Friday January 8
City of Secrets, by Stewart O’Nan
Imaginative and nimble, best-selling historical fiction writer O’Nan (West of Sunset, 2015) is a master of narrative distillation, and in his latest taut novel, set in British-ruled Jerusalem immediately after WWII, he achieves thriller-like suspense. Brand, a Latvian Jew and a mechanic, lost his entire family in the Holocaust and endured internment in Russian and German camps.