9 new books we recommend this week
Associate Editor, Books
LUCKY BREAKS, by Yevgenia Belorusets. Translated by Eugene Ostashevsky. (New Directions, paper, $14.95.) These offbeat stories – about the effects of war on poor women in Ukraine’s industrial east – are coming to the English-speaking world amid media coverage of that region. But when the book was first published in 2018, it highlighted an overlooked conflict. Some of the characters in Belorusets are internal refugees who have resettled in a kyiv that views them with apathy or suspicion. Others live in contested territories, living a life against the backdrop of active war or its devastating consequences. “In these haunting stories, Belorusets is more concerned with effect than cause,” Jennifer Wilson writes in her review. “What’s the point of finding out how we got here when we know we’ll be back?” »
EVERY GOOD BOY DOES WELL: A Love Story, in Music Lessons, by Jeremy Denk. (Random house, $28.99.) The concert pianist’s lucid memoirs have their share of heartbreak and private conflict, but linger longest and happily inside the studio, where a succession of teachers guide him to musical maturity. Denk also traces his erotic awakening as a gay man with insight and humor. Denk “finds memorable ways to illuminate music theory”, writes Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in her review. “Most importantly, he explains abstract concepts with empathy and precision.”
LAST APPOINTMENT AT THE IMPERIAL HOTEL: The Reporters Who Take On a World at War, by Deborah Cohen. (Random house, $30.) In the years leading up to World War II, four foreign correspondents – John Gunther, HR Knickerbocker, Jimmy Sheean and Dorothy Thompson – tried to sound the alarm, as Cohen details in this group portrait. “It would be hard to overstate the collective power and visibility of these journalists at their peak,” writes Lesley MM Blume in her review. And yet, in the face of increasingly desperate conditions, correspondents were desperate for the continued denial and complacency of their American readers. “Dark reminders abound of the cyclical nature of history: how racial and economic resentments can lead to monstrous movements; and, above all, how human beings remain oblivious to the harshest warnings. On a more cynical note, ‘Hotel Imperial’ also reminds readers that the news industry was, and remains, a business.
PORTRAIT OF AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, by Maria Gainza. Translated by Thomas Bunstead. (Catapult, $24.) This winding, dreamy mystery takes place in the underworld of Buenos Aires’ art forgery. Shady characters abound, along with secret stories, unsubstantiated rumors and the occasional crocodile. As one character thinks: “Can’t a fake give as much pleasure as an original? Angus Trumble writes in his review, “The naughty fun of this novel is bound up with our fascination with forgeries, especially when executed in the cavalier fashion of Robin Hood.”
THE TRIALS OF HARRY S. TRUMAN: The Extraordinary Presidency of an Ordinary Man, 1945-1953, by Jeffrey Frank. (Simon & Schuster, $32.50.) As this alluring new biography explains, Harry Truman seemed like an ordinary man, but he had the native self-confidence that marks a person as a leader. Frank gives us this exuberant, bookish and often cantankerous man in his entirety. “Frank doesn’t so much puncture the Truman mythos as let out just enough air to bring the man back down to earth,” James Traub wrote in his review.