Also of interest…
In island lives
The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See (Scribner, $27)
Lisa See’s compelling, “heartstrings-tugging” new novel has a fascinating backdrop, said John Rogers in the Associated Press. On Jeju, a Korean island where female free divers are the traditional breadwinners, two young trainees happily compete with each other for fish—and then as wives and mothers. Events, including World War II, conspire to separate them, before a 2008 reunion occurs and allows See to pull off “a plot twist worthy of Raymond Chandler.”
The Dragonfly Sea
by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Knopf, $29)
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, a rising star in her native Kenya, “continues to break new ground,” said Anderson Tepper in VanityFair.com. In Owuor’s second novel, a teenage misfit runs wild along the shores of Pate, an island off the Kenyan coast. But when she learns that she’s descended from Zhang He, a Chinese mariner who explored the Indian Ocean in the 3rd century, the novel’s scope broadens—and Owuor’s “great gift” is that she’s able to keep the various storylines afloat.
by Christina Thompson (Harper, $30)
The Polynesians, with little but the stars to guide them, managed by the 13th century to colonize the largest ocean on the planet, said Richard Conniff in The Wall Street Journal. Theirs remains “one of the great achievements in all of human exploration,” and Christina Thompson’s book explores the mystery of how they did it. The absence of a written record complicates her task, but she writes evocatively, and she’s “at her best” re-creating scenes when cultures collided.
by Elsa Morante (Norton, $28)
Elsa Morante’s novels were huge in postwar Italy, but “her prose is so operatic,” you have to brace for it, said Dwight Garner in The New York Times. Even in an adroit new translation, this 1957 novel set on a cloistered island near Naples is “a sledgehammer performance.” But there’s something mythic about Morante’s tale of a semi-orphaned boy who scorns and lusts after his father’s teenage bride, and the prose, “once you acclimate to its gargoyle extravagance, has the power of malediction.” ■