a couple of weeks ago

Russian history through indirection in “A Gentleman in Moscow”

When historians look back at the twentieth century, they invariably designate the Russian Revolution of 1917-20 as one of the seminal events of the period. And it’s hard to dispute that judgment. Arguably, the Bolshevik takeover in Russia set in motion other world-shaking episodes, including the Nazi defeat in World War II, the arms race […]

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last month

Ken Follett sets up the Kingsbridge Trilogy in a prequel

For decades Welsh novelist Ken Follett was best known for his bestselling thrillers, beginning with Eye of the Needle (1978), which established his reputation as a master of the craft. A decade later he indulged his longstanding passion for the architecture of classic European cathedrals when he published Pillars of the Earth (1989), the inaugural […]

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a few months ago

Unforgettable characters in this delightful new novel

Why did Sportcoat, a deacon in the Five Ends Baptist Church, shoot Deems Clemens in broad daylight, right in front of his crew and the church ladies? Where does all that white-people’s cheese come from like clockwork every year for Hot Sausage to deal it out to all the folks of the Causeway Housing Projects? […]

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a few months ago

Hillary Mantel won the Booker Prize for this sprawling historical novel

Five hundred years ago England was taking its first, tentative steps into modernity. At a time of religious and political conflict, the middle class was growing, literacy spreading, and the country’s government was staggering toward parliamentary democracy as the king came to depend more and more on tax revenues that only Parliament could levy. In […]

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a few months ago

The classic African novel about colonization

It’s difficult to understand the world’s colonial past without reading this classic African novel. In barely more than 200 pages, this moving tale dramatizes the disruption Europeans inflicted on the people of the Global South during the five-century era of colonization (the 16th through the 20th centuries). Chinua Achebe‘s (1930-2013) masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, is […]

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6 months ago

This Pulitzer winner falls flat

If you enjoy reading fantasy, you may appreciate Martin Dressler. Its Pulitzer Prize notwithstanding, I don’t, and I didn’t. This is a peculiar sort of historical novel, set in a time and place shorn of history. It’s a story anchored on an unfamiliar plane of existence, as though set in Gilded Age New York in […]

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7 months ago

Dramatizing anti-Nazi resistance in Germany during World War II

In June 1942 a group of students at the University of Munich led by brother and sister Hans and Sophie Scholl formed the nonviolent White Rose resistance to Nazi terror. Theirs is the best-known of many anti-Nazi resistance groups that sprung up in Germany during the war. However, their heroic effort ended just eight months […]

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7 months ago

A novelist’s sympathetic portrait of George W. Bush

George W. Bush served in the Oval Office from 2001 to 2009. His two terms in office encompassed 9/11, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and the global financial collapse that set off the Great Recession—surely, the most consequential sequence of events in any eight years in all of American history to that […]

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8 months ago

Rampant political corruption in 18th century England

At a time when Americans have grown increasingly concerned about corruption in our political system, it’s useful to review the origins of electoral democracy in England. After all, our own representative democracy honored the same historical roots as the British parliamentary system. And the novelist David Liss opens a window on the sorry state of […]

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