Grove Press / Ecco / Publisher G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Getty
So many of this spring’s big literary releases are historical, including Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash (March 21). It’s a moving debut about a young English girl, Beatrix, who is sent by her working-class London parents across the Atlantic to live with the Gregorys, a wealthy family in New England to keep her safe during World War II. Beatrix grows up between these two worlds, her relationships — including with her surrogate brothers — and identity evolving through the years.
And The House Is on Fire by Rachel Beanland (April 4), begins with the 1911 burning of a Richmond, Virginia, theater (which actually occurred; 72 people died), and tracks the drama that follows different characters in attendance.
In Homecoming by Kate Morton (April 4), a reporter in Sydney explores a decades-old cold-case murder — based on a real-life 1959 killing of an Australian family, the Turners — and uncovers some shocking truths.
The Trackers by Charles Frazier (April 11), author of Cold Mountain, is about a New Deal-funded painter, Val Welch, hired to paint a mural in rural Wyoming, where he’s hosted by a wealthy couple, Eve and John Long. He ends up on a cross-country hunt for the enigmatic Eve, who’s stolen a Renoir painting and is on the run.
Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati has had a dramatic beginning: It was meant to be published in March, but its release was pushed to May 2 because the initial truckload of books was burned in a fire. The “blazing novel,” as the publisher had billed it, offers a feminist spin on the story of Ancient Greece’s legendary Queen of Sparta: the matriarch of an epically dysfunctional (and cursed) family who murdered her husband Agamemnon, and later was killed herself, by her children Electra and Orestes.
If you’ve got ample reading time, you won’t regret diving into the weighty The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese (May 2), known for his 2009 bestseller Cutting for Stone. I’m only halfway through its 715 pages after many, many hours of reading, but it’s absolutely absorbing, with multiple storylines woven throughout — including that of a family in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, with what appears to be a kind of curse: Someone from every generation dies by drowning.
And there’s lots of buzz for Yellowface by R.F. Kuang (May 16), a darkly comic tale about a young writer so desperate for attention she steals a manuscript written by a more successful literary darling, and Asian woman, and submits it as her own, using the ethnically ambiguous pseudonym Juniper Song.
Other notable novels: Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls (March 28), a Prohibition-era story by the author of the blockbuster memoir The Glass Castle; Loyalty by Lisa Scottoline (March 28), an epic set in Sicily in the 1800s, during the rise of the mafia; and Only the Beautiful by Susan Meissner (April 18), about two very different women during World War II.