Habits of the House
by Fay Weldon (St. Martin’s, $26)
Fay Weldon’s planned new trilogy of novels is well positioned to capitalize on the success of TV’s Downton Abbey, said Katherine Bailey in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Years ago, Weldon wrote the first episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, and with Habits, she’s again delivered “a delightful delineation of Britain’s rigid class system.” As our attention moves upstairs and down in an 1899 London home, the author’s “mischievous sense of humor” enlivens every page.
by Jim Crace (Nan A. Talese, $25)
Jim Crace’s 11th novel turns back the clock to a rustic village about to be transformed by England’s Industrial Revolution, said Randy Boyagoda in The Wall Street Journal. The appearance of four strangers and a fire in the master’s stables unsettle the villagers, and as they struggle to make sense of these disruptions, the story becomes a “combination of pastoral fable and whodunit.” Crace sometimes overwrites, but this novel at its finest is both “morally engaging” and “exciting to read.”
by Peter Ackroyd (Thomas Dunne, $30)
It’s easy to understand why British historian Peter Ackroyd enjoys “a large, loyal readership in his native land,” said Walter Olson in The New York Times. Ackroyd’s latest launches a six-volume history of England and showcases his feel for scenes and stories that create a strong sense of place. In a book that moves from the Stone Age to the Tudor era in 500 pages, even Thomas Becket “must be hustled quickly on and off the stage.” But ancient tribes and commoners frequently come alive.
How to Live Like a Lord Without Really Trying
by Shepherd Mead (Bodleian, $25)
This reissued 1964 book resurrects an England that lives on mostly in our imaginations, said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. Written by the adman author of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, it humorously recounts an American family’s struggle to adapt to the customs of postwar British life. Count it part of a near-extinct genre: books whose sole aim is “to provide civilized amusement for an idle hour or two.”