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Chicago Review of Books

Review of The Address by Fiona Davis, Dutton (August 2017)

Canadian-born, New York City-based novelist Fiona Davis has discovered a winning formula for her fiction: pair the history of a real-life landmark building with the imagined lives of those who might have lived or worked there, and structure the story as a dual narrative with alternating time periods. As a technique for making interesting socio-historical comparisons, this approach worked well for her debut novel, The Dollhouse (2016), a story about New York City’s Barbizon Hotel and its fictional inhabitants. And, happily, it works reasonably well again in her second novel, The Address, a thoroughly engaging read with elements of romance, mystery, and tragedy.

Read the full review here.

 

 

The Place of Stones, by Ali Hosseini, Northwestern University Press (September 2017)

The second novel of Iranian-American writer Ali Hosseini is actually his first: The Place of Stones was originally published in Persian in Iran in 1997 with the title Sangriz, the name of the small rural village where most of the novel takes place. Twenty years later, and following the publication of his second novel, The Lemon Grove (Curbstone Books / Northwestern University Press, 2012), the story has been revised for publication in English.

In the preface, Hosseini describes the challenges he encountered from the Iranian Censorship Bureau of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance when he attempted to publish the Persian version of the novel — challenges that Iranian writers continue to experience today. Included at the end of the novel is the letter Hosseini’s publisher received from the Ministry of Culture, detailing the aspects of the book deemed unacceptable for publication. These historical details remind us that many writers in the world work under less-than-ideal circumstances and that freedom of expression in many places is far from a given.

Read the full review here.

 

Strangers in Budapest, by Jessica Keener, Algonquin Books (November 2017)

The decision to pack up and move abroad to escape a troubled past is a familiar one in fiction, and it’s how Jessica Keener’s second novel opens: American sibling expats, Annie and Will Gordon, are eight months into the new life they started in mid-1990s Budapest.

Keener’s author essay, “Hidden Among Us,” published in the fall 2017 edition of The Algonquin Reader, reveals that Strangers in Budapest is closely based on the author’s own experience of moving to Budapest in 1993. She moved there with her husband and adopted son in order to fulfill a desire to live overseas and be close to the geography of her family’s Jewish history. Keener’s attempt to bring together her unsettling year-long experience living in Budapest with a fictional mystery surrounding the death of a WWII veteran’s daughter is a promising—if not entirely successful—framework for this rather slow-moving novel.

Read the full review here.

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