An ambitious and intelligent thriller about love and war.

LOVE IN THE DAYS OF REBELLION

The second installment in a Godfather-level crime saga set in the Ottoman Empire.

Altan, a prominent Turkish journalist, has been locked up by his authoritarian government since 2016. His prison memoir, I Will Never See the World Again (2019), is a master class in courage in a time of corruption. This novel, published in Turkish in 2001, is the second book in The Ottoman Quartet, a complex story involving authoritarianism, freedom of speech, political philosophy, and sexual politics, taking place during a time of open warfare in the early 20th century. Our guide to the story is Osman, a middle-aged man living in contemporary Turkey who can see and hear the dead, or at least personal versions of his family history from a century ago. He can't really admit that to anyone, so he keeps to himself as much as he can. In Altan's version of his country's history, there are a lot of powerful players. His Majesty the Sultan Abdulhamid II, who has reigned since 1876, always poses a threat. Reşit Pasha, the personal doctor to the sultan, is a fearful but also dangerous character, and there are also a variety of children, relatives, and disciples all working their own angles. That's not to mention a few menacing women, including Mihrişah Sultan, an Ottoman princess. The book is comparable to Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games (2006), not only in terms of its scope, but also in the depths of its characterization and the visceral tensions between characters. Osman’s connection with the dead brings in that little touch of magical realism that makes things cool. The political war games that constantly surround the crown give everything an extra bit of palpable menace. This book is just as piercing as the first in the series, Like a Sword Wound (2018), and readers would be well served by reading that one first.

An ambitious and intelligent thriller about love and war.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60945-619-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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