I started listing adjectives to describe My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante: visceral; violent; passionate. This is the first in a series of four Neapolitan Novels by an elusive Italian author who writes under a pseudonym. Elena and Lila’s friendship is full of envy and love as they claw their way out childhood into adolescence in a poverty-stricken quarter of Naples in the 1950s.
Her sister’s young twins came to Luce after a hard patch. Which is to say, having their mother meet her end most violently at the hands of their stepfather. They were odd children, quiet to the point of not speaking and not looking people in the eye. Ever. They had some disturbing habits, too, which spoke of far more having been done to their small selves than they would fess to. Not that they were fessing to anything, encased as they were in their eerie, shared silence. In Charles Frazier’s Nightwoods, their eccentric Aunt Luce and the North Carolina mountain she calls home promise nothing to them, yet they do provide a haven—for a while.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: "Shifting among multiple viewpoints but focusing mostly on blind French teenager Marie-Laure and Werner, a brilliant German soldier just a few years older than she, this novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece. The main protagonists are brave, sensitive, and intellectually curious, and in another time they might have been a couple. But they are on opposite sides of the horrors of World War II, and their fates ultimately collide in connection with the radio-a means of resistance for the Allies and just one more avenue of annihilation for the Nazis. Set mostly in the final year of the war but moving back to the 1930s and forward to the present, the novel presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending." (Library Journal)
If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, you may also like these titles:
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
"In 1943, a British fighter plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France and the survivor tells a tale of friendship, war, espionage, and great courage as she relates what she must do to survive while keeping secret all that she can." (Book Description)
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
"Set in the ethnic neighborhoods of Seattle during World War II and Japanese American internment camps of the era, this debut novel tells the heartwarming story of widower Henry Lee, his father, and his first love Keiko Okabe." (Book Description)
Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel, Child 44, kicks off an addicting trilogy that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
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Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: "Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life in the village of St. Mary, England, until his brother's death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Ali a foreigner?" (Book summary)
If you liked Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, you may also like these titles for the wit, beauty of the language, and the great characters:
An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer
A sixty-ish widower misses the companionship of a wife, but has absolutely no desire for dating.
Cutting For Stone by A. Verghese
An Indian nun has an affair with a British surgeon. Their twin sons grow up in Ethiopia, and fall in love with the same woman.
Boynton, Oklahoma: 1917. A stranger comes to town. A nondescript, little man in a bowler hat. Says his name is Nick. Old Nick. He seems drawn to the flaring tempers and anti-foreigner rants that are bubbling up as the United States enters WWI. He can smell the murderous rages and incendiary fear wafting off some of the citizens. For the scared and the angry, he might sidle up behind them and whisper in their ears, "Tell me. Tell me what you want." And then, somehow, their ugly thoughts . . . become reality.
He: likes foxhunting on his fine stallion Mephistopheles, whiskey & soda, but above all else, cricket. His form is handsome and athletic. His mind uncluttered with much in the way of philosophy or common sense.
She: enjoys fashion, researching/knowing everything, and breaking men’s hearts. Well, she doesn’t really like it. Simply an occupational hazard when one is such a beautiful breath-sapper. But what this to-the-manor-born brother and sister like most is solving murders. To catch the “coffinators” is their aim.
“Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country”
If you care for your Austen/Regency romances with a difference—but not necessarily zombies, Sorcery and Cecelia might be your cup of tea.