A moving portrayal of intense female friendship, identity, and loss.

INSEPARABLE

This previously unpublished novel by towering French existentialist intellectual and feminist icon Beauvoir, written in 1954, is based on her deeply formative relationship with a classmate.

"When I was nine, I was a very good girl." So begins the story of Sylvie Lepage's friendship with vivacious Andrée Gallard. They meet at school, vie for top honors, and become inseparable. Sylvie adores Andrée, the second of seven siblings in a family old, distinguished, and militantly Catholic. Her father chairs the League of Fathers of Large Families. As the girls grow older, the expectations and obligations heaped on Andrée become increasingly onerous, crushing her spirit and threatening her health. Sylvie loses her faith, whereas pious Andrée despairs of pleasing God and comes to fear her own capacity for passion. Bright, sensitive, musical, and artistic, Andrée struggles to be the dutiful daughter her family, church, and society demand. "Behind her, she had this past; around her, this large house, this enormous family: a prison, whose exits were carefully guarded." Sylvie, meeting her friend for coffee, thinks: "All around me, women wearing perfume ate cakes and talked about the cost of living. Since the day she was born, Andrée was destined to be like them: but she wasn’t." A lively introduction by Margaret Atwood gives the history of Beauvoir's friendship with Zaza Lacoin, the Andrée of the story, describing it as "a wellspring" for everything Beauvoir subsequently wrote. The book's dedication to Zaza asks: If I have tears in my eyes tonight, is it because you have died, or rather because I’m the one who is still alive? In a letter to Simone, included in the afterword, Zaza wrote: "There is nothing sweeter in the world than feeling there is someone who can completely understand you." The tragedy of Zaza's death at 21 haunted Beauvoir, yet when she showed the manuscript of this novel to Jean-Paul Sartre, he dismissed it as trivial. It is, after all, only about two young women. As Atwood says, "Mr. 'Hell is other people' Sartre was wrong." It is heartbreaking to think of the author, with her brilliant, incisive mind, absorbing Sartre's casual misogyny the way the tragic heroine of this book absorbs the narrow-minded values that destroy her.

A moving portrayal of intense female friendship, identity, and loss.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307504-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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