A compelling character study and a thoroughly unconventional prequel.

NICK

A dark and often gripping story that imagines the narrator of The Great Gatsby in the years before that book began.

Nick grows up in a Minnesota “neighborhood of sidewalks and shade trees” and goes to Yale and then to war. On leave in Paris, he’s with a woman he loves for too short a time and loses her. He survives the trenches, the scuttling over no man’s land, the tunnels where a man alone listens for the sound of the enemy setting explosives. On his way home, he makes a detour to New Orleans and finds himself “privy to the secret griefs” (as he says in Gatsby) of a brothel owner and her estranged husband, a war veteran scarred by mustard gas and stifled love. Smith is a talented writer known mainly for his gritty evocations of violence, struggle, and loss in the U.S. South, such as those in Blackwood (2020). Here he creates, in the war and New Orleans, nightmarish worlds where Nick reckons with demons and maybe redemption. These are places far from the staid tension and off-stage deaths of Gatsby. Smith inevitably goes well beyond the sparse biographical details—Yale, the Midwest, the family hardware business, World War I, and bond trading—that F. Scott Fitzgerald provided for his narrator, who exists to bring other lives into view, not expose his own. The new Nick is a man fully realized, with a mind tormented by the war and by a first love that waned too fast to a fingernail moon of bitter memory. Whatever Smith had in mind when he began this project, he could have many readers wondering in some meta-anachronism how Fitzgerald’s Nick could fail to allude to any of the hell Smith puts him through.

A compelling character study and a thoroughly unconventional prequel.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-52976-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 14

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more