A New York Times Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year: San Francisco Chronicle , Seattle Times
Cambridge student Serena Frome's beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5.
A New York Times Notable Book
One of the Best Books of the Year: San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Times
Cambridge student Serena Frome's beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England's legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named "Sweet Tooth." Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves the stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one.
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A CRACK IN TIME
The title says it all: Some Kind of Fairy Tale, Graham Joyce’s spellbinding new novel, is a genre-bending book built around a provocative proposal—that there are other realms of existence besides the one we inhabit. Tara Martin went missing 20 years ago during a walk in the woods. Her parents, Dell and Mary, and her brother, Peter, continue to mourn her. When she materializes on their doorstep on Christmas Day looking like the teenager she was when she disappeared, the family is sent reeling. Tara explains that she’s been living in another world where time is perceived differently, and that she was led there by a stranger on a white horse. Joyce moves skillfully between these two worlds, contrasting Tara’s story with that of her family and her boyfriend, a would-be musician named Richie. Joyce is a master conjurer, and the tale that he spins here feels wonderfully authentic. This is a magical book that serves as a rich exploration of family and memory even as it questions the nature of reality.
THE NOSE KNOWS
In her beguiling memoir, Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride, Alyssa Harad reveals how an improbable obsession with perfume altered the course of her life. Harad isn’t a perfume-y kind of girl; she’s a feminist who hates shopping and loves her comfy Birkenstocks. At 36, she has earned a Ph.D. in English and is set in her ways—until a perfume blog introduces her to the enchanting world of scent. Taken with the concept of perfume, Harad soon finds herself collecting samples, honing her sense of smell and embracing life in new ways. Whether she’s visiting a perfume lab in Austin, Texas, or touring exclusive perfume hotspots in New York City, Harad exhibits an infectious curiosity about and love for her elusive topic. As her fascination with perfume grows, so does her passion for life and her new sense of femininity. A gifted writer, Harad brings a richness of language to the narrative—a lavishness that matches her subject matter. Filled with intriguing trivia about the history, production and culture of perfume, this memoir is a charmer.
Sweet Tooth, Ian McEwan’s 12th novel, is a smart, suspenseful tale of romance and Cold War espionage set in 1970s London. Serena Frome, the book’s beautiful Cambridge-graduate heroine, is recruited by a former lover to join the intelligence agency MI5 and participate in a secret operation called Sweet Tooth. The agency, which provides financial support to anti-Communist writers and teachers, tasks Serena with getting close to up-and-coming author Thomas Haley. An avid reader, Serena discovers that she loves Haley’s work, and when she meets him in person, romance blossoms between them. But obstacles abound: Haley’s bleak, anti-capitalist debut novel upsets MI5, and when the press discovers his entanglement with Serena, the Sweet Tooth operation is in danger of being compromised. A complex, amusing and richly textured story that revisits a fascinating era, McEwan’s latest is a shrewd piece of work—expertly constructed and vastly entertaining.