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The Lady in the Tower ()

New In Paperback: Dec. 20-26

Dec 22, 2010

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Alice I Have Been One Amazing Thing

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The Lady In The Tower

The Fall of Anne Boleyn

by Alison Weir

It was in part the inexorability of the judgment against Anne Boleyn that made historian Alison Weir want to take a closer look at the story of Henry VIII's second wife. A history book written with all the intrigue and tension of a novel, Weir's The Lady in the Tower is what the author calls "a forensic investigation" of the queen's last four months. "I was quite astonished," Weir tells NPR's Guy Raz. "She wasn't executed where people think she was; she wasn't imprisoned where people think she was; she's not buried where people think she was." At times, The Lady in the Tower reads almost like it was written by a private investigator or a lawyer trying to build a case on Boleyn's behalf. "I've made a better case than ever before for Thomas Cromwell — Henry VIII's principal secretary — being the prime mover in the case against Anne Boleyn," Weir says.

464 pages, $17, Ballantine


One Amazing Thing

by Chitra Divakaruni

Poet, short-story writer and novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni cut her teeth listening to her grandfather tell tales from the ancient Indian epics — the Ramayana and Mahabharata — by lantern light in his Bengali village. This storytelling legacy shines brightly in her entrancing new novel, One Amazing Thing, in which nine people in the passport office in the basement of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco are yoked together by fate when an earthquakes hits. Uma, a sharply observant graduate student awaiting a visa to India, notes the sour-faced young Indian woman at the reception desk, and the others in the waiting room: a Caucasian couple in their 60s; a young Muslim-American man; a Chinese woman with her teenage granddaughter. As the quake hits with full force, Divakaruni moves effortlessly from one character to another, and across a spectrum of raw feeling so vividly you feel as if you're with each of them in the room.

240 pages, $13.99, Voice


Alice I Have Been

A Novel

by Melanie Benjamin

Like most preteen heroines of classic children's literature, Alice (of Alice in Wonderland, of course) is a mistress of misrule: bossy, resourceful and a bit of a tomboy. No wonder the first words that Alice utters in the opening lines of Melanie Benjamin's haunting new novel about the "real" Alice — Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the character in the Lewis Carroll novel — are words of soft rebellion: "But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful? It is. Only I do get tired." The year is 1932 and Alice Liddell is 80 years old. Though Alice I Have Been occasionally stumbles into melodrama, most of the time it's a nuanced, moody envisioning of the life of the girl who became the muse for one of the most rollicking children's tales of all time, and who may have also become, to some extent, its prisoner, pressed into the looking glass of its fictions.

400 pages, $15, Bantam


Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag .
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'One Amazing Thing' detail ()

Nine Strangers, 'One Amazing Thing'

Feb 23, 2010

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'One Amazing Thing' cover One Amazing Thing

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Poet, short-story writer and novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni cut her teeth listening to her grandfather tell tales from the ancient Indian epics — the Ramayana and Mahabharata — by lantern light in his Bengali village. This storytelling legacy shines brightly in her entrancing new novel, One Amazing Thing, in which nine people in the passport office in the basement of the Indian Consulate in San Francisco are yoked together by fate when an earthquakes hits.

Uma, a sharply observant graduate student awaiting a visa to visit her retired parents in "shining India," mistakes the quake's first tremor for a cable car. She notes the sour-faced young Indian woman at the reception desk, gatekeeper for the passport officer, and the others in the waiting room: a Caucasian couple in their 60s; a young man, about 25, whom she takes for Indian (Tariq is, in fact, Muslim-American, and unsettled by how he is perceived after Sept. 11); a Chinese women with her teenage granddaughter. Divakaruni writes: "It was not uncommon, in this city, to find persons of different races randomly thrown together. Still, Uma thought, it was like a mini U.N. summit."

As the quake hits with full force, Divakaruni moves effortlessly from one character to another, and across a spectrum of raw feeling: panic; pain; antagonism; selfishness. She reveals intimate details and sensual reactions so vivid you feel as if you're with each of them in the room.

The survivors are held together by the guidance of Cameron, a lanky, African-American Vietnam vet, who times his suggestions — gathering bowls of water from the bathroom sink, sharing the little food they have, keeping their feet above the floor when the place begins to flood — to the intervals between the five remaining doses on his asthma inhaler.

Page after page, tensions escalate. As the group grows desperate, the men begin to tussle. "It was like their very own Lord of the Flies," Uma thinks. To calm them, she challenges each to describe "one amazing thing" that has happened in their lives.

Divakaruni embeds the last two-thirds of her novel with narrative gems that bring the nine survivors back to the bedrock of human connection. Trapped strangers are transformed into a chorus of Scheherazades, offering up tales of loss and love, and betrayal and redemption, to illuminate the gathering darkness.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Missing some content? Check the source: NPR
Copyright(c) 2014, NPR

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