Monday, July 26, 2010

Lauren Belfer

Lauren Belfer's debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a #1 Book Sense pick, a Barnes & Noble Discover Award nominee, a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into seven languages.

Her new novel is A Fierce Radiance.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Belfer what she was reading. Her reply:
I just finished What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt. On the surface, this novel is a portrait of two families involved in art world in New York’s SoHo neighborhood, beginning in 1975 and continuing for over two decades. I lived in New York during that time, and I was fascinated to see the evolution of the neighborhood as the lives of these two families, the closest of friends, played out. But What I Loved is much more than a novel about the art world and about New York City. Beneath the surface, it’s a riveting suspense story that accumulates tiny, precise clues one by one by one, to reach an overpowering and tragic conclusion.

Recently I read Embers, by Sandor Marai. Embers was originally published in Hungary in 1942. It takes place on a vast estate in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The mystery unfolds with one mundane detail after another, until a terrible betrayal becomes clear. The narration begins on the eve of the Second World War, then goes back in time to reveal secrets from forty years before. While the story plays out, the reader knows that the immense tragedy of World War II awaits the characters and their way of life, and this knowledge adds to the novel another layer of insight and power.

And I’ve just reread The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. This novel, which begins in Canada after World War II, is an astonishing achievement. The first time I read it, I didn’t understand what was actually taking place until I reached the final pages. Then was I so surprised that I immediately reread the novel from the beginning. In The Blind Assassin, nothing is wasted, and everything contributes to the whole. The science fiction story-within-the story has shocking parallels to the “real” story unraveling through the book. In fact, this novel is so consistently fascinating that I think I’ll start rereading it again now…
Visit Lauren Belfer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue