January 1 & 15, 2017 Booklist 49 www.booklistonline.com
novel about a young woman’s emotional and
cultural awakening. Jessica “Jesse” Malloy, who
narrates in a vibrant voice, feels awkward growing up as the daughter of a fun-loving Selznick
Studio publicist and a reserved Catholic woman
who resists Hollywood’s sinful influences. Jesse
has always hero-worshipped Ingrid Bergman,
and when the beautiful Swedish actress stars in
The Bells of St. Mary’s, which is filmed at Jesse’s
convent school, Catholics’ admiration for her
seems boundless. However, when Bergman’s affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini is
discovered, the situation horrifies Hollywood’s
morality police and shatters Jesse’s illusions. Alcott uses a fast-paced, efficient writing style and
creates a believable portrait of a teenager navigating high school, potential romances, and her
complicated world during the McCarthy years.
The portions set in 1959, as Jesse returns home
after a long absence, provide emotional closure.
Jesse’s parents, teachers, and Bergman herself
are all sketched with subtlety. Another honest look at the real stories behind Hollywood’s
glamorous veneer. —Sarah Johnson
HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling
Alcott tells another tremendously appealing story.
YA: Teens will appreciate Jesse’s insider’s
perspective as she comes of age amid
Hollywood glitz. SH.
If I Could Tell You.
By Elizabeth Wilhide.
Feb. 2017. 320p. Penguin, paper, $16 (9780143130437).
War threatens at the edges of Julia Compton’s peaceful life at the northern periphery
of London in 1939. The underlying tension
in Wilhide’s (Ashenden, 2013) second novel is
further exacerbated by another interruption: a
film crew appears, and the filmmaker, Dougie,
finds Julia irresistible and takes footage of her.
Through fits and starts, they meet and part,
with Julia vowing to never see Dougie again.
Yet, one day, she leaves her husband and young
son, forsaking all security to be with Dougie,
Julia is not domestic, and
Dougie is poor, ill-mannered,
and a womanizer, and readers soon realize that Julia
has made a terrible mistake.
While comparisons to Anna
Karenina could be made, Julia is made of
stronger stuff, and eventually, she crafts a useful life and is able to discover some measure
of peace. The author’s careful attention to period detail, complemented by clean prose, is
a special strength of this book. The effects of
wartime ruin are vividly rendered, and one can
almost taste the dust falling through the stairs
during bombing raids. —Joan Curbow
Miss Treadway and the Field of Stars.
By Miranda Emmerson.
Feb. 2017. 368p. Harper, $26.99 (9780062676542).
When Iolanthe Green, an American ac-
tress on the London stage, disappears, her
dresser, Anna Treadway, is plunged into an
underworld of nightclubs and illegal solu-
tions to problem pregnancies. She is aided in
her search for Iolanthe by Jamaican Aloysius
Weathers, an accountant at one of the clubs.
The police are also involved, in the person of
Detective Sergeant Barnaby Hayes. To get
ahead on the force, Hayes has worked hard
to erase all traces of his Irishness; nearly every
character in Emmerson’s atmospheric debut
has come to 1960s London to find a new life
and, in some cases, a new version of self. Aloy-
sius, for example, “willed himself to England
and into the life of a middle-class gentleman”
only to find that being black comes with its
own entrapments. Iolanthe has tried to escape
from her past by inventing a new history for
herself. And Anna has secrets of her own. The
hunt for Iolanthe unfolds over a few days, but
backstories are revealed by frequent forays
back in time, a narrative strategy that slows
the momentum but helps to deepen the char-
acters. —Mary Ellen Quinn
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan.
By Ruth Gilligan.
Jan. 2017. 352p. Tin House, paper, $15.95
Persecuted and barred from advancement
in their Russian hometown, a Jewish girl and
her family board a ship bound for turn-of-the-twentieth-century America, the promised
land. When they find themselves in Ireland
instead, they struggle to adjust, some embracing, others spurning their new home. Decades
later, a young man becomes mute following a
traumatic event and is committed to a mental
hospital. There he finds a friend in his roommate, a Jewish war hero who needs someone
to help him write down his story. And during a modern-day Christmas season, a young
woman, the Catholic daughter of an Irish politician, goes home for the holidays to consider
an ultimatum she was just given by her Jewish boyfriend. Each of these characters seeks
to reconcile religious and national identities
in a world that is formidable and sometimes
hostile. In her American debut, London-based Irish writer Gilligan pieces together the
largely untold story of Ireland’s Jewish community, plucking at the heartstrings with this
revelatory saga about hope, homeland, and
perseverance. —Cortney Ophoff
A Piece of the World.
By Christina Baker Kline.
Feb. 2017. 320p. Morrow, $27.99 (9780062356260).
Kline (Orphan Train, 2013) takes Andrew
Wyeth’s iconic and enigmatic painting Chris-
tina’s World as the inspiration for her new
novel. The story knits together the period in
the 1940s when Wyeth sets up a studio in an
old farmhouse on Hathorne Point in Cushing,
Maine, where 46-year-old Christina Olson
lives with her brother Alvaro, and where, at
age three, she was struck by an illness that
seems to mark the onset of her lifelong infir-
mities. She grows up smart and tenacious but
circumscribed by duty and disability, never
moving away from the house that appears
in Wyeth’s picture and is full of her family’s
past. Her education is cut short because of
work to be done at home. A romance with a
Harvard student ends in crushing disappoint-
ment. There is not much in the way of plot,
but readers will savor the quotidian details
that compose Christina’s “quiet country life.”
Orphan Train was a best-seller and popular
book-discussion choice, so expect demand.
—Mary Ellen Quinn
By Jill Eileen Smith.
Feb. 2017. 368p. Revell, paper, $15.99 (9780800720360).
The familiar quote “Whither thou goest, I
will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people, and thy God
my God” (Ruth 1: 16 KJV) comes from one of
the great love stories in the Bible. But it’s not
about a romance but rather the unbreakable
bond between Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Although the Book of Ruth
consists of only four short chapters, Smith has
brought the story to life in this richly descriptive and dramatic novel, enhancing it with
colorful details about life in ancient Moab
and Israel, including the political and religious climates of the time. Readers who enjoy
historical biblical fiction will find this book,
as well as the other titles in Smith’s Daughters of the Promised Land series, The Crimson
Cord (2015) and The Prophetess (2016), fascinating. —Shelley Mosley
YA: YAs who enjoy biblical fiction and
historical novels about women’s lives will
find Smith highly engaging. SM.
Robert B. Parker’s Revelation.
By Robert Knott.
Feb. 2017. 336p. Putnam, $27 (9780399575341).
Things are quiet in Appaloosa for Virgil
Cole and Everett Hitch, the two U.S. mar-
shals who make their base in the growing
southwestern town. When word of an es-
cape from Cibola prison, 300 miles away,
comes by telegraph, the
pair hit the trail. The war-
den’s wife, it appears, has
fallen for Augustus Noble
Driggs, one of the pris-
oners, and concocted the
escape with Driggs. The
escapees split up. Driggs
and the warden’s wife settle
in Appaloosa where Driggs lays low. Mean-
while, Cole and Hitch are on the trail of Ed
Degraw, another of the escapees. Degraw is
a uniquely vicious sexual predator who does
not differentiate between men and women;
Kill ‘em all, rape and humiliate them if you
can. It’s a bloody, disheartening pursuit for
Cole and Hitch. When it seems Degraw’s
next stop could be Appaloosa, the boys head
home, hoping to intercept him and unaware
of Driggs’ dark presence. This is Knott’s fifth
run at the late Parker’s western series and is
easily the best. After a difficult debut, Knott
has improved immensely, nailing the terse,