by Jo Baker (Knopf, $26)
“Jane Austen is a very tough act to follow”—unless your name is Jo Baker, said Diane Johnson in The New York Times. In this “delightfully audacious” return to Pride and Prejudice’s 19th-century household, the servants shift to center stage in an “absorbing, moving” story that moves in parallel to the familiar dramas occupying the bourgeois Bennet family. Many staffers were needed to cook the meals and empty the chamber pots, and Baker makes several of them memorable.
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Jeeves and the Wedding Bells
by Sebastian Faulks (St. Martin’s, $26)
What ho!—could it be that “the greatest comic characters of 20th-century English literature” live once more? said Michael D. Schaffer in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Both the “bumbling” Bertie Wooster and his “unflappable” valet Jeeves sound a lot like their old selves in this lively tribute: If it’s not vintage P.G. Wodehouse, it’s “very good imitation Wodehouse”—a tale about a weekend at a country house that features a lot of shinnying up drain pipes and plenty of pitch-perfect badinage.
by Ronald Frame (Picador, $26)
It’s hard to argue that readers needed to be told how Dickens’s Miss Havisham became the crazed crone she is, said Sharon Peters in USA Today. But Ronald Frame’s attempt to riff off Great Expectations proves to be a “pleasant enough” excursion through an era when a bright woman had few choices but to marry and when ideas of honor could easily mangle a life. Frame’s young Catherine Havisham also endures a “perfect Dr. Phil storm of deceit and dashed hopes”: That’s the fun part.
A True Novel
by Minae Mizumura (Other Press, $30)
Here’s “a fascinating example of cross-cultural adaptation,” said Sam Sacks in The Wall Street Journal. Inspired by both Wuthering Heights and The Great Gatsby, Minae Mizumura’s narrative follows an orphan in postwar Japan who falls for a fickle girl above his station and pines for her even after he hits it big in America. While Mizumura’s prose “doesn’t have anything close to the pitched intensity of Emily Brontë’s,” she makes the story work as a parable of Japan’s changing fortunes.
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