Here's everything I've read this month:
All Other Nights, Dara Horn: I might have read this in hardcover had someone pointed out it was about the Jewish experience of the Civil War, as I'm all for slants-I've-never-thought-of on familiar events.
The Origin of Species, Nino Ricci: Set in mid-80s Canada, this novel about the suffocating life of a sad-sack graduate student who learns he has a son in Sweden was just pretty good until Ricci drops in a 100-page, self-contained novella about an ill-fated, life-changing trip to the Galapagos two-thirds of the way through the book. Then: amazing.
The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde: Sad to say, I didn't love this alternate-reality homage to the power of literature. The wordplay and rife allusions were great, but the love story was lackluster, and the writing shifted from first to third person in a distracting and not narratively coherent way.
The Cat in the Coffin, Mariko Koike: Speaking of Jane Eyre, this is a lovely, taut Japanese take on the governess-and-dark-secret genre.
Poisonville, Massimo Carlotto: A modern Italian noir, set in the dying industrial Northeast. Decent, if standard.
The Braindead Megaphone, George Saunders: I'll admit to skipping some of the political essays in this collection, as a skimming of proper names revealed the same old tiresome partisan myopia. But the satirical pieces were well-honed, and the literary essays were top-notch, especially his loving introduction to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson: I've been a huge fan of Anderson as a mother since I started working with her eldest almost six months ago. Having gotten around to reading her most famous novel--brutal, intense, somehow often funny--I can join the chorus for her as a writer.
The Chill, Romano Bilenchi: Another Italian novel, this one coming-of-age. Again, good without reinventing the wheel.
For Grace Received, Valeria Parrella: Ah, finally an above-average Italian entry! Four sad, stark slices of Naples.
Elegies for the Brokenhearted, Christie Hodgen: This was my favorite read of the month. It's a first-person novel told in second-person looks back at five significant people she's lost: a life told in deaths.Hodgen's writing spins out dependent clauses like carefully controlled ripples of language.
Right now I've started Joyce Hinnefeld's In Hovering Flight; I'm wondering if it'll manage to sustain my interest despite my being deeply unsettled by birds.