WHEREABOUTS BY JHUMPA LAHIRI (Knopf). A deeply sad, even despairing, and still lovely short novel by this great American writer—and one from which it may be possible to learn something of language …
WHEREABOUTS BY JHUMPA LAHIRI (Knopf). A deeply sad, even despairing, and still lovely short novel by this great American writer—and one from which it may be possible to learn something of language itself (if, unlike your plodding columnist, you haven't figured it out long since). We can sometimes sense a translation, as we're reading one: an occasional, detectable uncertainty in the rhythms, the flow. But here?…Lahiri decided some years ago to learn Italian—learn it in depth, enough to write literary fiction (even poetry!) in that language as well as her native own (ours). So, she did: moved to Rome, spoke and read only Italian over several years there. Wrote this novel in Italian, and published it to acclaim. She has now translated it (not written it anew, translated). And it reads like a translation; these quite lovely lines, sentences, are not quite those of the American novelist Lahiri. The character, and the book's spare plot, certainly might be hers (they are in no sense alien to her other novels); but the sentences are simpler, at times even imperfect, in…rhythm. Or flow. You have a right to be skeptical; I may be imagining this (I knew going in that it was a translation). Or, it may be no surprise to you, at all; now that this dawn has broken for me, it's perfectly clear—even a forehead-smacker. How could it be other? Of course each language has a mind of its own.
DEATH WITH A DOUBLE EDGE BY ANNE PERRY (Ballantine). Her new Daniel Pitt novel, the fourth of this series, and an especially good one. Daniel's parents, our old friends Sir Thomas and Lady Barbara, who starred in her great earlier series, feature in more than a bit. Historical details are incidental as always, but it's 1911, now, and we feel that (it's more than just motorcars).
OCEAN PREY BY JOHN SANDFORD (Putnam). Not just a new Lucas Davenport thriller (what Prey in the title promises), a full-bore Virgil Flowers novel, too, and the two are not exactly on the same side. It's a real high spot in both series, and even a bit longer than most, and full of action and—no surprise—great, great talk.
ANYWHERE FOR YOU BY ABBY GREAVES (Morrow). Not so much a romance as another of what I've been calling women's friendship novels. There's certainly a romance in it, but one of longing more than fulfillment, of one of the people we come to know best. And it's popular fiction, rather than literary, but of intelligence as well as feeling. Contemporary, set in London, which may raise the tone a little, but warm, not cool, and respectful of and careful with its characters and with the reader, too.
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