Downton Abbey, ABBA's Greatest Hits, Lena Dunham's Girls, and More

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There's nothing like a great hook or review, in which a book is compared to a popular movie or bestselling novel, to instantly make readers know that that they've found their next read. Here are some of the best comparisons we've seen for a while.

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ABBA'S GREATEST HITS:

Songs for the Cold of Heart, by Eric Dupont

Nuns that appear out of thin air, a dinner party at the Goebbels’, Quebec’s very own Margaret Thatcher, a grandma that just won’t die (not until the archangel comes back) ... Songs For the Cold Of Heart is a yarn to rival the best of them, a big fat whopper of a tall tale that bounces around from provincial Rivière-du-Loup in 1919 to Nagasaki, 1990s Berlin, Rome, and beyond. This is the novel of a century—long and glorious, stuffed full of parallels, repeating motifs, and unforgettable characters—with the passion and plotting of a modern-day Tosca.

Check the shelves in just about every household in Quebec with any inclination toward literary fiction and you will find a copy of Dupont’s novel. It’s the Thriller or ABBA’s Greatest Hits of its world, with a popular reach most serious writers stopped dreaming of decades ago.—Ian McGillis, Montreal Review of Books

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LOUISE PENNY'S THREE PINES:

The Birds that Stay, by Ann Lambert

In a small village in the Laurentians, north of Montreal, a reclusive older woman is found strangled outside her home. Roméo Leduc, Chief Inspector for Homicide, is one day away from his first vacation in years but reluctantly answers the call on the case. Marie Russell lives in the same small community. She did not know her elderly neighbour, and she does not expect to become embroiled in solving her murder. But when a startling new clue emerges, Marie becomes an inadvertent detective. As Marie and Roméo combine wits to find the killer, they are forced to face demons from their own pasts as they confront a case where no one and nothing is really as it seems.

The setting is the Laurentians, north of Montreal. That leads one to inevitably think of Louise Penny’s Three Pines, but let the comparison stop there. Yes, both are rural and very Quebec, but Lambert is telling a very different story in a very different way.—The Globe and Mail

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE:

Ayesha at Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin

Soon to be a major motion picture by Warner Brothers Entertainment and Pascal Pictures

Ayesha Shamsi has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts to her wealthy uncle. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. 

When a surprise engagement between Khalid and Hafsa is announced, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and his family, and the truth she realizes about herself. But Khalid is also wrestling with what he believes and what he wants. And he just can’t get this beautiful, outspoken woman out of his mind.  

Pride and Prejudice with a modern twist—a feel-good, laugh-out-loud comedy of love where you least expect it.

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THE VEGETARIAN MEETS HEATHERS:

Bunny, by Mona Awad

"One of the most pristine, delightful attacks on popular girls since Clueless. Made me cackle and nod in terrified recognition."—Lena Dunham

Samantha Heather Mackey couldn't be more different from the other members of her master's program at New England's elite Warren University. A self-conscious scholarship student who prefers the company of her imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort—a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other "Bunny," and are often found entangled in a group hug so tight it seems their bodies might become permanently fused.

But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies' exclusive monthly "Smut Salon," and finds herself drawn as if by magic to their front door—ditching her only friend, Ava, an audacious art school dropout, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into Bunny world, and starts to take part in the off-campus "Workshop" where they devise their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur, and her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies are brought into deadly collision.

A spellbinding, down-the-rabbit-hole tale about loneliness and belonging, creativity and agency, and female friendship and desire, Bunny is the dazzlingly original second book from an author with tremendous "insight into the often-baffling complexities of being a woman" (The Atlantic).

The Vegetarian meets Heathers in this darkly funny, seductively strange novel about a lonely graduate student drawn into a clique of rich girls who seem to move and speak as one.

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DOWNTON ABBEY:

Paper Lions, by Sohan Koonar

Paper Lions is Sohan Koonar's new novel. Told from three distinct points of view, Paper Lions is an epic multi-generational novel of India from just before the Second World War to the 1960s. Its characters—Bikram, Basanti, and Ajit and their families and children—endure heartbreaks, despair, and insurmountable challenges often leading to poignant, tragic, or exhilarating moments and rare wins. Yet they find a way to continue.

The novel also recounts the story of two tribes of nomads—Bajigars—of which very little remains in modern Indian culture. Vast in its scope, range and emotion, Paper Lions brings historical India itself to life in the voices of its characters.

"It's like a Downton Abbey for India, complete with the family secrets, class struggles, and great drama for all of the characters."

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DEXTER AND THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY:

Find You in the Dark, by Nathan Ripley

For years, Martin has been illegally buying police files on serial killers and using them to locate long-lost victims. After he uncovers the bodies, he calls the police anonymously and taunts them with his finds. He sees his work as a public service, a righting of all the mistakes cops have made for years. On his latest dig, he searches in a graveyard for the first kill of Jason Shurn, the murderer also thought to be responsible for the disappearance years before of Martin’s sister-in-law. But at the site, he is shocked to discover a fresh body lying among decades-old remains.

Detective Sandra Whittal is a case-closer on a meteoric rise through the police ranks. She’s suspicious of the mysterious caller—the Finder, she names him. Even if the Finder isn’t the killer, who’s to say that he won’t start killing soon?

Then the call about the latest find comes in.

Whittal’s fears deepen. And Martin wonders what’s going on—because whoever made the call, it wasn’t him ...

In this bestselling debut thriller, reminiscent of Dexter and The Talented Mr. Ripley, a family man obsessed with digging up the undiscovered remains of serial killer victims catches the attention of a murderer prowling the streets of Seattle.

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ELENA FERRANTE:

Sofie & Cecilia, by Katherine Ashenburg

In Sofie & Cecilia, beloved non-fiction author and journalist Katherine Ashenburg draws upon her formidable skill and maturity as a writer to craft an extraordinary and splendid debut novel.

This is the story of a lifelong female friendship, set in the fascinating art world of Sweden between 1900 and 1940, just as modern art and the beginnings of the Scandinavian mid-century modern design movement were inspiring a creative revolution across northern Europe. Loosely based on the lives of celebrated artists Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn ("Nils Olsson" and "Lars Vogt" in the novel), Ashenburg transports us behind both the public and domestic scenes—and canvasses—of these larger-than-life men to reveal the lesser-known but equally astounding and rich stories of the women who married them: restlessly creative artist-in-her-own-right Sofie Olsson, and fiercely private and intelligent curator Cecilia Vogt.

Here is a gorgeous gem of a book: surprising, unique, layered with insight into the nuances of female friendship as it stretches, changes, and deepens in unexpected ways over a lifetime. Woven effortlessly through this tapestry, like a beautiful motif, is absorbing detail about Scandinavian painting, design, and textile work; European history and sexual politics; the country life, city salons, vibrant art, and folklore of Sweden; and the secrets and challenges of bright, talented women juggling marriage, career, individual aspirations, and family life inside an artist's household in the early twentieth century.

A surprising, rich and beautiful first novel about women's friendship for readers of Paula McLain and Elena Ferrante, by a bestselling non-fiction author who has brilliantly turned her hand to fiction.

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TA-NEHISI COATES AND CHIMAMANDA NGOZI ADICHIE:

I've Been Meaning to Tell You, by David Chariandy

When a moment of quietly ignored bigotry prompted his three-year-old daughter to ask "what happened?" David Chariandy began wondering how to discuss with his children the politics of race. A decade later, in a newly heated era of both struggle and divisions, he writes a letter to his now thirteen-year-old daughter. David is the son of Black and South Asian migrants from Trinidad, and he draws upon his personal and ancestral past, including the legacies of slavery, indenture, and immigration, as well as the experiences of growing up a visible minority within the land of one's birth. In sharing with his daughter his own story, he hopes to help cultivate within her a sense of identity and responsibility that balances the painful truths of the past and present with hopeful possibilities for the future.

In the tradition of Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, acclaimed novelist David Chariandy's latest is an intimate and profoundly beautiful meditation on the politics of race today.

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JODI PICOULT AND ANNA QUINDLEN:

The Summer We Lost Her, by Tish Cohen

It’s been a busy—and expensive—few years for Matt and Elise Sorenson and their young daughter Gracie, whom they affectionately call Little Green. Matt, a Manhattan lawyer, has just been offered a partnership, and Elise’s equestrian ambitions as a competitive dressage rider may finally vault her into the Olympics. But her long absences from home and endless hours of training have strained their relationships nearly to the breaking point.

Now they’re up in the Adirondacks, preparing to sell the valuable lakefront cabin that’s been in Matt’s family for generations. Both he and Elise agree it’s time to let it go. But as they navigate the memories the cabin holds—and come face to face with Matt’s teenage crush, now an unnervingly attractive single mother living right next door—Gracie disappears without a trace.

Faced with the possibility that they’ll never see their daughter again, Elise and Matt struggle to come to terms with what their future may bring. The fate of the family property, the history of this not-so-tiny town, and the limits of Matt and Elise’s love for each other are inextricably bound up with Gracie’s disappearance. Everything for the Sorenson family is about to change—the messy tangle of their past, the harrowing truth of their present, and whether or not their love will survive a parent’s worst nightmare.

For fans of Jodi Picoult and Anna Quindlen, comes an “astonishingly profound ... exquisitely written drama”—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times-bestselling author of Pictures of You) about a husband and a wife, a missing child, and the complicated family secrets that can derail even the best of marriages.

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OLIVE KITTERIDGE MEETS ROOM AND THE LOVELY BONES:

So Much Love, by Rebecca Rosenblum

When Catherine Reindeer mysteriously vanishes from the parking lot outside the restaurant where she works, an entire community is shattered. Her fellow waitress now sees danger all around her. Her mother desperately seeks comfort in saying her name over and over again. Her professor thinks of her obsessively. Her husband refuses to give up hope that she will one day come home. As we move back and forth between those who knew Catherine intimately and those who barely knew her at all, So Much Love reveals how an unexpected disappearance can overturn everything for those left behind.

But at the heart of the novel is Catherine's own surprising journey of resilience and recovery. When, after months of unimaginable horror, a final devastating loss forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows. Woven throughout Catherine's story are glimpses of a local poet who was murdered decades earlier, a woman whose work becomes a lifeline for Catherine during her darkest hours.

A riveting novel that explores the complexity of love and the power of stories to shape our lives, So Much Love confirms Rebecca Rosenblum's reputation as one of the most gifted and distinctive writers of her generation.

Olive Kitteridge meets Room and The Lovely Bones in this stunning first novel about the unexpected reverberations the abduction of a young woman has on a small community.

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LYNN CROSBIE'S LIAR AND LENA DUNHAM'S GIRLS:

For All the Men (and Some of the Women I've Known Before), by Danila Botha

For All The Men (and Some of The Women) I’ve Known explores the complexity of relationships, from love to betrayal.

In the book’s unforgettable stories, Botha creates characters so authentic, readers are convinced that they know the characters personally. Botha excels at blending literary techniques with popular zeitgeist, creating stories that read like a combination of Liar by Lynn Crosbie with Lena Dunham’s "Girls." With her signature honesty, Botha exposes the desire for human connection above all things. The collection is hopeful, fearless and utterly relatable.

Reads like a combination of Liar by Lynn Crosbie with Lena Dunham’s "Girls."

May 16, 2019
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