Sorties VO • Mars 2021

The Ladies of the Secret Circus • Constance Sayers • RedHooks • 23 mars • 469 pages

Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder-a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family’s strange and magical circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows-until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate love affair that could cost her everything.

Virginia, 2005: Lara Barnes is on top of the world-until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Desperate, her search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals and sweeps her into the story of a dark circus and a generational curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations.

In the Quick • Kate Hope Day • Random House • 2 mars • 272 pages

June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention, who leaves home to begin a grueling astronaut training program. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station, but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world has forgotten them, June alone has evidence that makes her believe the crew is still alive.

She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégée, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the love that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create–and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.

Under the light of the Italian Moon • Jennifer Anton • Amsterdam Publishers • 8 mars • 396 pages

Fonzaso Italy, between two wars

Nina Argenta doesn’t want the traditional life of a rural Italian woman. The daughter of a strong-willed midwife, she is determined to define her own destiny. But when her brother emigrates to America, she promises her mother to never leave.

When childhood friend Pietro Pante briefly returns to their mountain town, passion between them ignites while Mussolini forces political tensions to rise. Just as their romance deepens, Pietro must leave again for work in the coal mines of America. Nina is torn between joining him and her commitment to Italy and her mother.

As Mussolini’s fascists throw the country into chaos and Hitler’s Nazis terrorise their town, each day becomes a struggle to survive greater atrocities. A future with Pietro seems impossible when they lose contact and Nina’s dreams of a life together are threatened by Nazi occupation and an enemy she must face alone…

The phone booth at the edge of the world • Laura Imai Messina • The Overlook Press • 9 mars 416 pages

When Yui loses both her mother and her daughter in the tsunami, she begins to mark the passage of time from that date onward: Everything is relative to March 11, 2011, the day the tsunami tore Japan apart, and when grief took hold of her life. Yui struggles to continue on, alone with her pain.

Then, one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone booth in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone booth spreads, people travel to it from miles around.

Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone booth, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Instead she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of her mother’s death. Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is the signpost pointing to the healing that can come after.

The Girl in the painting • Tea Cooper • Thomas Nelson • 9 mars • 384 pages

Australia, 1906 

Orphan Jane Piper is nine years old when philanthropist siblings Michael and Elizabeth Quinn take her into their home to further her schooling. The Quinns are no strangers to hardship— having arrived in Australia as penniless immigrants, they now care for others as lost as they once were.

Despite Jane’s mysterious past, her remarkable aptitude for mathematics takes her far over the next seven years, and her relationship with Elizabeth and Michael flourishes as she plays an increasingly prominent part in their business.

But when Elizabeth reacts in terror to an exhibition at the local gallery, Jane realizes no one knows Elizabeth after all—not even Elizabeth herself. As the past and the present converge and Elizabeth’s grasp on reality loosens, Jane sets out to unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late.

From the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, this compelling novel takes us on a mystery across continents and decades as both women finally discover a place to call home.

The Vietri Project • Nicola DeRobertis-Theye • Harper • 23 mars • 240 pages

Working at a bookstore in Berkeley in the years after college, Gabriele becomes intrigued by the orders of signor Vietri, a customer from Rome whose numerous purchases grow increasingly mystical and esoteric. Restless and uncertain of her future, Gabriele quits her job and, landing in Rome, decides to look up Vietri. Unable to locate him, she begins a quest to unearth the well-concealed facts of his life.

Following a trail of obituaries and military records, a memoir of life in a village forgotten by modernity, and the court records of a communist murder trial, Gabriele meets an eclectic assortment of the city’s inhabitants, from the widow of an Italian prisoner of war to members of a generation set adrift by the financial crisis. Each encounter draws her unexpectedly closer to her own painful past and complicated family history—an Italian mother diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized during her childhood, and an extended family in Rome still recovering from the losses and betrayals in their past. Through these voices and histories, Gabriele will discover what it means to be a person in the world; a member of a family and a citizen of a country—and how reconciling these stories may be the key to understanding her own. 

Murder & Magic, The Conductors • Nicole Glover • Del Rey • 4 mars • 432 pages

As an escaped slave, Hetty Rhodes helped dozens of people find their own freedom north using her wits and her magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband, Benjy, still fight for their people by solving the murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. 

When they discover one of their friends brutally murdered in an alley, Hetty and Benjy mourn his loss by setting off to find answers. But the mystery of his death soon brings up more questions, more secrets, more hurt. To solve his death, they will have to not only face the ugly truths about the world but the ones about each other. 

After Alice fell • Kim Taylor Blakemore • Lake Union Publishing • 1 mars • 288 pages

New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is summoned to Brawders House asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice. She’d been found dead after falling four stories from a steep-pitched roof. Officially: an accident. Confidentially: suicide. But Marion believes a third option: murder.

Returning to her family home to stay with her brother and his second wife, the recently widowed Marion is expected to quiet her feelings of guilt and grief—to let go of the dead and embrace the living. But that’s not easy in this house full of haunting memories. Just when the search for the truth seems hopeless, a stranger approaches Marion with chilling words: I saw her fall.

Now Marion is more determined than ever to find out what happened that night at Brawders, and why. With no one she can trust, Marion may risk her own life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice in the family plot. 

The Women of Chateau Lafayette • Stephanie Dray • Berkley • 30 Mars • 576 pages

A founding mother…
1774. Gently-bred noblewoman Adrienne Lafayette becomes her husband’s political partner in the fight for American independence. But when their idealism sparks revolution in France and the guillotine threatens everything she holds dear, Adrienne must choose to renounce the complicated man she loves, or risk her life for a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

A daring visionary…
1914. Glittering New York socialite Beatrice Astor Chanler is a force of nature, daunted by nothing–not her humble beginnings, her crumbling marriage, or the outbreak of war. But after witnessing the devastation in France and delivering war-relief over dangerous seas, Beatrice takes on the challenge of a lifetime: convincing America to fight for what’s right.

A reluctant resistor…
1940. French school-teacher and aspiring artist Marthe Simone has an orphan’s self-reliance and wants nothing to do with war. But as the realities of Nazi occupation transform her life in the isolated castle where she came of age, she makes a discovery that calls into question who she is, and more importantly, who she is willing to become. 

Red Island House • Andrea Lee • Scribner • 23 mars • 288 pages

Shay is surprised when her husband Senna declares his intention to build her a spectacular dream house on an idyllic beach in the tropical island nation of Madagascar.

But the Red Island House casts a spell from the moment she sees it, and before she knows it Shay has become the somewhat reluctant mistress of a sprawling household, caught between her privileged American upbringing and education, and her connection to the continent of her ancestors.

At first, she’s content to be an observer of the passionate affairs and fierce ambitions and rivalries around her. But as she and her husband raise children and establish their own rituals on the island, Shay finds herself drawn ever deeper into an extraordinary place with its own laws and logic, a provocative paradise full of magic and myth whose fraught colonial legacy continues to reverberate. Soon the collision of cultures comes right to Shay’s door, forcing her to make a life-altering decision.

Vera • Carol Edgarian • Scribner • 2 mars • 336 pages

Meet Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.

On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the shattered city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Vera disregards societal norms and prejudices and begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors. Together they navigate their way beyond disaster.

The Vines • Shelley Nolden • Freiling Publishing • 23 mars • 391 pages

In the shadows of New York City lies forbidden North Brother Island, where the remains of a shuttered hospital hide the haunting memories of century-old quarantines and human experiments. The ruins conceal the scarred and beautiful Cora, imprisoned by contagions and the doctors who torment her. When Finn, a young urban explorer, arrives on the island and glimpses an enigmatic beauty through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past—and his own family’s dark secrets. By unraveling these mysteries, will he be able to save Cora? Will Cora meet the same tragic ending as the thousands who’ve already perished on the island?

The lost village • Camilla Sten • Minotaur Books • 23 mars • 352 pages

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

But there will be no turning back.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone. They’re looking for the truth… But what if it finds them first?

The Rose Code • Kate Quinn • William Morrow • 9 mars • 656 pages

1940. As England prepares to fight the Nazis, three very different women answer the call to mysterious country estate Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes. Vivacious debutante Osla is the girl who has everything—beauty, wealth, and the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses—but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, and puts her fluent German to use as a translator of decoded enemy secrets. Imperious self-made Mab, product of east-end London poverty, works the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and looks for a socially advantageous husband. Both Osla and Mab are quick to see the potential in local village spinster Beth, whose shyness conceals a brilliant facility with puzzles, and soon Beth spreads her wings as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts. But war, loss, and the impossible pressure of secrecy will tear the three apart. 

1947. As the royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip whips post-war Britain into a fever, three friends-turned-enemies are reunited by a mysterious encrypted letter–the key to which lies buried in the long-ago betrayal that destroyed their friendship and left one of them confined to an asylum. A mysterious traitor has emerged from the shadows of their Bletchley Park past, and now Osla, Mab, and Beth must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together. But each petal they remove from the rose code brings danger–and their true enemy–closer…

The lost apothecary • Sarah Penner • Park Row • 2 mars • 320 pages

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Anne de Rochas • La femme qui reste (2020)

La femme qui reste • Anne de Rochas • Août 2020 • Les Escales • 400 pages

« Que cherchez-vous, mademoiselle ? » À la question posée par Walter Gropius, Clara répond : « Une vie. »

Dans l’Allemagne exsangue et tumultueuse des années 1920, le Bauhaus est plus qu’une école d’art. C’est une promesse. Une communauté dont le but est de mettre en forme l’idée de l’Homme nouveau. En 1926, l’école s’installe à Dessau. Dans le grand bâtiment de verre et d’acier, Clara, Holger et Théo se rencontrent, créant une sorte de Jules et Jim. À Berlin, toute proche, le temps s’assombrit. Les convictions artistiques ou politiques ne sont pas les seuls facteurs qui décident du cours d’une vie. Ce sont aussi, entre rêves d’Amérique et désirs de Russie, d’autres raisons et déraisons. Lorsque l’école sera prise dans les vents contraires de l’Histoire, les étudiants feront leurs propres choix. À qui, à quoi rester fidèle, lorsqu’il faut continuer ?

•••

Il est rare que je m’intéresse outre mesure à la rentrée littéraire. Je dois noter un ou deux titres chaque année sur la pléthore de livres qui sort à ce moment-là. Cette année, j’en ai noté deux, des romans historiques : La race des orphelins d’Oscar Lalo, que je n’ai pas encore lu, et La femme qui reste d’Anne de Rochas qui retrace l’histoire du Bauhaus. Il ne m’en fallait pas plus, je l’avoue. Malheureusement, je suis passée totalement à côté de ce livre.

Depuis de très longues années, je me passionne pour la période de l’entre-deux-guerres en Allemagne et surtout à Berlin, à la fois d’un point de vue historique, sociétale et, bien entendu, artistique. Les années 20 et 30 sont celles d’Otto Dix, Félix Nussbaum, Georg Grosz, par exemple, mais également du Bauhaus. Ce n’est pas uniquement un courant architectural, car il y avait aussi de la création textile, du design, de la scénographie pour le théâtre… C’est un des points forts du titre, à mon avis, que de remettre le mouvement dans son contexte historique, de rappeler son histoire mouvementée. Quand le roman démarre, Walter Gropius n’est plus à Weimar, la ville ne voulant plus vraiment de son école. Il a fait un court arrêt à Halle, d’où l’héroïne est originaire, pour poursuivre finalement l’aventure à Dessau.

Par ailleurs, je trouve que la position de la société pour la création contemporaine est bien montrée : entre curiosité, approbation et rejet, rejet qui va se faire de plus en plus entendre au fur et à mesure des années, avant d’être considérée comme dégénérée. Le Bauhaus en fera les frais avec le nazisme, puisqu’un certain nombre d’artistes, architectes et autres du mouvement s’exileront à New York. Adorant le Bauhaus, je me suis régalée.

Encore plus quand La femme qui reste me permet de côtoyer des artistes et architectes qui comptent parmi mes préférés comme Wassily Kandinsky, par exemple, ou Walter Gropius. Anne de Rochas s’est parfaitement documentée pour son livre et l’historienne de l’art que je suis à adorer voir la pensée du Bauhaus, sa manière un peu particulière d’enseigner, reprendre vie. C’est vraiment intéressant et passionnant. Toutefois, j’ai trouvé que l’auteur en faisait parfois trop et que cela amenait énormément de longueurs, mais aussi de lourdeurs au roman, au détriment de l’action et de l’évolution des personnages. En effet, elle part dans des envolées lyriques autour du Bauhaus, du processus artistique qui trop souvent n’apportent strictement rien à l’intrigue, ou à la compréhension de ce mouvement. D’autant plus, qu’ils sont également extrêmement redondants.

Un autre point positif est la description de la société allemande de l’entre-deux-guerres. La pauvreté est évoquée, tout comme les conséquences de la crise financière, contrebalancées par les grandes fortunes, souvent mécènes de l’art contemporain. Progressivement, par petites touches, la montée du nazisme et le changement d’attitudes sur l’art prennent le pas sur les Années Folles et celles de gloire du Bauhaus en Allemagne. J’ai vraiment eu l’impression d’y être, de flâner dans les rues de Dessau avec Clara et ses amis, de partager leurs difficultés au quotidien. Cependant, un autre point vient obscurcir le tableau : la temporalité du roman. En effet, Anne de Rochas change parfois d’époque et avance dans le temps. C’est quelque chose avec lequel j’ai souvent du mal, car cela casse le rythme. C’est le cas ici. J’aurais préféré que l’intrigue soit chronologiquement linéaires, sans bonds dans le temps, pour plusieurs raisons.

Premièrement, certains « sauts » dans le temps apportent de la confusion. Deuxièmement, j’aimais beaucoup plus les parties de la jeunesse et formation de Clara et je me demandais quelle allait être son évolution. Or, ces bonds de quelques années après gâchent une bonne partie de l’intrigue, en anticipant trop sur certains points alors que cela aurait pu créer un peu de suspense et d’attente. Le trio de personnages m’a tout de suite plu et, en tant que lectrice, j’ai senti rapidement qu’un drame allait arriver, qu’une cassure allait se produire. C’était inévitable. Malheureusement, le changement de temporalité cassait un peu la construction progressive du drame. C’est vraiment un aspect que j’ai trouvé dommage.

Ce point et les trop nombreuses longueurs et lourdeurs ont eu raison de moi. Pourtant La femme qui reste aurait pu être un coup de coeur absolu, le roman que je n’attendais plus sur le Bauhaus. J’ai abandonné bien avant la fin. La lecture s’est révélée de plus en plus houleuse au fur et à mesure. Grosse déception pour ce roman sur lequel j’avais placé énormément d’espoir.