Author: Jo Baker
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Readers: Production coordinator Joanna, entrepreneur Julie J., social worker Erin Go Bragh and writer Nan.
Summary: In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice,the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threatens to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
Our Take: It’s a split decision. Half our readers loved this “downstairs” story but the other half were underwhelmed.
Title: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things
Author: Paula Byrne. She has written other biographies, including one on novelist Evelyn Waugh.
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Readers: Reading teacher Emry, stay at home mom Julie J., production coordinator Joanna and art history professor JoLee.
Summary: Literary scholarship has revealed that letters and tokens in Austen’s novel’s often signal key turning points in the unfolding narrative. This groundbreaking biography explores Jane’s own story following the same principle. As Byrne reveals, small things in the writer’s world-a scrap of paper, a simple gold chain, an ivory miniature, a bathing machine-hold significance in her emotional and artistic development. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things introduces us to a woman deeply immersed in the world around her, yet far ahead of her time in her independence and ambition; to an author who was an astute commentator on human nature and the foibles of her own age. Rich and compelling, it is a fresh, insightful, and often surprising portrait of an artist and a vivid evocation of the complex world that shaped her.
Title: The Aviator’s Wife
Author: Melanie Benjamin. This is her 3rd novel after Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. All of her novels are historical and shine a light on well-known but little-understood women.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Readers: Stay at home moms Colleen B. and Julie J., research administrator Ann, librarian Zoë and art history professor JoLee.
Publisher Summary: For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong.
Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness.