Also of interest…
In Central European intrigue
by Sarah Perry (Custom House, $28)
Sarah Perry’s third novel teeters “right on the edge of being too much,” said Constance Grady in Vox.com. In contemporary Prague, a meek translator is handed a transcript about a female figure who has been witness to humanity’s worst crimes, and she comes to fear that Melmoth has returned to judge her for her own transgressions. Good for Perry, the author of The Essex Serpent: “Restrained novels are a dime a dozen, but weirdo over-the-top quasi-Victorian gothic fantasies about sin are rarer birds.”
The Last Palace
by Norman Eisen (Crown, $28)
In this “deft and fascinating” work, a single grand home in Prague becomes “a frame on which to hang the history of Czechoslovakia itself,” said Caroline Moorehead in The Wall Street Journal. Norman Eisen, who lived at Petschek Villa during his recent stint as a U.S. ambassador, tells how the neo-Baroque palace was built by a Jewish banker, then passed from the Nazis to the Soviets to the U.S., whose Shirley Temple Black turned the villa into a meeting place for 1989 dissidents.
Kafka’s Last Trial
by Benjamin Balint (Norton, $27)
To fully capture the battle over Franz Kafka’s unpublished papers, Benjamin Balint “must tell three stories at once,” said Rebecca Schuman in Slate.com. Balint’s “riveting” account uses a lengthy recent trial to revisit how a friend of Kafka’s spirited the cache out of 1939 Czechoslovakia and bequeathed it to a woman in Israel whose daughter grew old guarding it. In this telling, physical and legal struggles “morph into questions of identity, self, and existential belonging.” Kafka would have approved.
The Order of the Day
by Éric Vuillard (Other Press, $22)
Germany’s 1938 annexation of Austria was not the friendly uniting of sister nations it was presented as, said Malcolm Forbes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The novel that last year won France’s Prix Goncourt chronicles the unfolding of a catastrophe “in tiny yet well-paced steps.” Author Éric Vuillard tells the story through a series of narrators and vignettes, illuminating the bribery, coercion, and fakery that provided Hitler an early triumph in his campaign to remake Europe.