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Microreview: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is one of the most innovative books I’ve read. The problem it creates for him is that it sets a pretty high bar in the minds of many readers, myself included. So, let’s start with the fact that his latest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, isn’t another Cloud […]

Book Review: Wolf Among Wolves by Hans Fallada

In his Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire distinguished between history and fable. The former, he said, is “the recital of facts represented as true” whereas fable is “the recital of facts of facts represented as fiction.” In terms of historiography, that is a fair distinction. In terms of grasping history, though, fiction may be as effective as […]

Book Review: Looking for the Summer by Robert W. Norris

Sociologists may debate the question but popular belief certainly holds that baby boomers, for whatever reason, were preoccupied with a search for enlightenment. While much of it was domestic exploration of Eastern culture and religions, so many Americans and Europeans journeyed from Europe through places like Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan on their way to India […]

Microreview: Brodeck by Philippe Claudel

“I had nothing to do with it.”

That’s what the title character says in the opening sentence of Philippe Claudel’s novel Brodeck. And while Brodeck is right, he has been given the task of detailing how the small village in which he lives felt it had no choice but to kill an outsider.

There are […]

Microreview: The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

A 975-page novel probably isn’t the best for the first “microreview,” especially one as widely praised and condemned as Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones.

The book won two of France’s highest literary awards before being translated into English — although it is written by an American. It is the fictional, but exceptionally well researched, memoir […]

Book Review: Sashenka by Simon Montefiore

Most professional historians who write books tend to write nonfiction works in their particular field of study. Simon Sebag Montefiore has not only done that with his studies in Russian history, his biographies of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin were both award-winning bestsellers. Montefiore has since decided to apply his knowledge to the world of historical […]