There’s those appetizer sampler platters at restaurants, then there’s a book of samples from various books. I just finished a book, Fall 2015 Debut Fiction Sampler, that has a couple chapters of nine different books. These books took me through a variety of emotions and scenarios. Let me share a little of each, hopefully enough to entice you to check out one or two, or more.
The Dressmaker’s War: A Novel by Mary Chamberlain
Ada Vaughan is a young dressmaker disguising herself as a mannequin for Mr Stanislaus von Lieben, originally from Germany. This story takes place in the 1930s when Ada is a young woman, from a poor family with a big family in a small space. She works very hard to get to where she is as a dressmaker. A fast learner, Ada adapts quickly and soaks in all the information she can learn about various fabrics and takes in the new French and German language that gets thrown her way. Her parents worry about her getting into mischief with Mr von Leiben, but she doesn’t worry one bit and carries on with caution. Descriptions of the naïveté of Ada and her innocence is explicitly shared and it makes me as the reader wonder what type of trouble she could possibly get herself into.
Is Stanislaus von Lieben hiding something? What is his motive? What steps will he take to get to his end goal and once he’s there, what’s next?
This a very intriguing sample and I am encouraged to read the full story someday.
The Courtesan by Alexandra Curry
Little Jinhua, about 7, is the daughter of a concubine, who died during childbirth. Her father, Baba, loves to tell stories with Jinhua and is often required to leave their home by orders of the Emporer. One day, Baba suffers from the sharp blade that beheads him. Baba’s First Wife, Timu, is aware of this event and does not want to care for Jinhua, instead plans to sell her. Jinhua is unaware of what will happen next and her entire world is changed in a matter of moments.
I am immediately drawn into this story with the vast detail. It is comforting that a father would spend such precious time with his daughter. I’m curious what will happen to Jinhua. What is she feeling? What will she endure? How will these events affect her future?
The death of a parent is not easy to cope with, especially one as sudden as Baba’s. My heart aches for Jinhua.
The Survivors by Robert Palmer
Three brothers, Ron, Alan, and Davie along with a neighbor boy, Scottie, are playing upstairs of their home. It’s windy and there’s a bang that the boys assume is the sound of the door slamming. While playing Hide & Seek, Davie sees his mother, who’s outside and she shoots herself in the head. Fast forward a few decades and Davie is a psychologist. Scottie uses a different name and goes to Davie’s office.
Why did Scottie seek out Davie? What was in his heavy backpack? And why did he run off?What happened to Ron and Alan?
At first the story doesn’t seem like something I would normally read, yet I was drawn into it with curiosity. I want to continue reading just to learn more about what Scottie’s motives are.
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
“Improbability of Love” is the title of a painting that was once worth millions and many gathered to an auction to purchase it. Part of the story is told from the perspective of the painting itself. New owner, Annie lived much less lavishly than the painting has ever witnessed. It expresses her movements while cooking for the man she was dating. The man never shows and she cries all night
I wonder where else this painting has been? What will happen to Annie now that she’s been stood up? Will she ever learn the history of this painting?
If I were to read this book in its entirety, it would be to learn the history of this once sought for painting. What has it been through and how did it end up in a shop collecting dust?
Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack
Secret messages in various languages between Herbert and a dear friend, Anna “The Rat”, who was little, hunch backed and had whiskers coming from a mole near her nose. They loved playing chess and even did so through letters with coordinated positions. One day when they are older, Anna finds Herbert and he keeps her safe. The story goes back in time to a time when Herbert arranged for his family to immigrate to New York from Austria during WWII, it cost him everything he owned, including his young son.
Not a typical story I would read even with the captivating descriptions which make the reader feel a part of the story. But it’s still not likely something I would read or enjoy reading. However, it could be a genre someone else might enjoy thoroughly.
Another Woman’s Daughter by Fiona Sussman
Celia is apparently a slave to the Steiner family, who lives in the south, possibly Florida area. She has a 6 year old daughter, Miriam. The Steiners ask to adopt Miriam and they are relocating to England, where Miriam can go to school an have more opportunity.
It hurts my heart to think a mother would allow a child to make such an adult choice. As the mother of a 6 year old boy, I would never allow anyone to take him from me as what happens to the child when living with someone else in a faraway country I could never get to? How would I know he’s safe and loved and cared for?
This type of story is too harsh and real for my heart. It adds a burden to my soul, especially knowing it could have happened to any mother and young child in that day. As it might be enjoyed by other readers, it is just not for me.
The Visitors by Simon Sylvester
Flora is a teenager living in an area where many have deserted for bigger and better things. She’s been dating an older boy, who’s leaving the area as well for college. The two spot a father and daughter who are moving into Dog Cottage, which has been abandoned as long as they can remember. Flora lives with her Mum, her new husband Ronny, their young son James, and have many visitors.
This is a genre I would likely read. I am curious who these new residents of Dog Cottage are and where they came from, what’s their story.
Whatever happened to the men who have gone missing? What Flo make friends with the new residents? Will she ever get her chance to leave the area?
The Longest Night by Andrea Williams
Paul in Idaho Falls 1961 works in the military, stationed to live among civilians and work at a reactor. Married with two little girls, Paul finds sirens rushing towards the reactor before he realizes it’s where they were headed. Rewind two years, the family took a road trip to arrive in Idaho. His wife, Nat, is an adventurous risk-taker type. Something opposite of Paul’s personality & upbringing. Paul’s parents were both uncontrollable drunks, causing Paul to desire people who can control their thoughts and actions, but soon realize that people are just as dysfunctional as his parents. Interesting personalities in this main character, Paul, creates curiosity to read this story.
What happens when Paul gets home after his Master Sargeant leaves him stranded at the reactor 50 miles from home? How does he explain this delay in getting home to his wife and kids? What happened with the sirens?
This book seems like something I might enjoy, yet at the same time, I am unsure. If it falls on my list of books to review in the future I may consider it.
The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
Charlotte recently lost her little boy Keegen. He had a brain aneurism and she didn’t make it to see him before he passed away. Keegen’s father had an affair a couple years before his passing. Charlotte spends time with her grandmother, who lives a few blocks away. Charlottes friend Rae comes by to help make life easier for Charlotte, and she has a little girl Zoe, who is in a recital and breaks her ankle. Charlotte has dreams that come true, this starts off to be a strange realization for her. She dreams about a little girl, Hannah, who has been missing since school let out. She sees Hannah in her dream and studies the environment.
What does Charlotte do when she awakes from her dream about Hannah? Where are these dreams coming from? What’s causing it? Did she have one of these dreams before Keegen’s passing?
With the death of her child, it places me at a defense. Reading only the couple chapters from the sampler, it made it difficult to sleep that night and caused me to spend more time loving my child. Typically I shy away from books that start off like this. But, being able to see the strength in character that Charlotte has gives me hope that she will get through this a lot better than I would. I would consider reading this one.
In summary, this is a long review, but I wanted to give you an idea about each book that is sampled. This Fall 2015 Debut Fiction Sampler was provided complimentary for an honest review by NetGalley.com.