Book clubs: A doomed journey
Ariel Lawhon’s intriguing novel Flight of Dreams (Anchor, $16.95, 384 pages, ISBN 9781101873922) focuses on the tragic 1937 flight of the Hindenburg. The large airship departed from Frankfurt, Germany, on May 3 and blew up on May 6 in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Was the explosion an accident? A crime? Lawhon plays with the possibilities in this gripping whodunit, which features an unforgettable cast of players. The novel’s chapters are named for separate characters, each based on a real-life Hindenburg passenger. “The Stewardess,” an attractive widow named Emilie Imhoff, is falling for “The Navigator,” Max Zabel. Gertrud Adelt, “The Journalist,” is preoccupied by “The American,” a shady sort who seems to be up to no good. Suspense mounts as the novel unfolds, and the reader begins to wonder who will survive the flight. Lawhon is in perfect command of her material, and she makes wonderful use of the details of the era, creating a lavish portrait of life on the ship and the intimate goings-on between its passengers. There is much to savor in this authentic depiction of the Hindenburg’s disastrous journey.
SPACE AND TIME
Antonia Hayes’ debut novel, Relativity (Gallery, $16, 368 pages, ISBN 9781501105081), is a poignant family story centered on gifted 12-year-old Ethan Forsythe. Brought up by his mother, Claire, in Sydney, Australia, Ethan is fascinated by physics, in part because of his synesthesia, a condition that allows him to visualize scientific marvels such as sound waves. Teased at school, Ethan is a fragile boy with few memories of his dad, Mark, who lives on the other side of the continent. When Mark comes to Sydney to visit his dying father, he bonds with Ethan through their mutual interest in science and tries to make a go of domestic life with Claire. But a troubling secret from the past threatens to keep the family apart. Hayes deftly incorporates elements of science into the narrative, and she develops the delicate but brilliant Ethan into an intriguing character. Her portrayal of a family trying to come together despite a painful past has depth, compassion and just the right dose of drama. This is an assured first novel that offers book clubs many subjects for discussion.
TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS
In her impressive historical novel, Georgia (Random House, $17, 352 pages, ISBN 9780812981865), Dawn Tripp delves into the life of visionary artist Georgia O’Keeffe. In Texas in the early 1900s, O’Keeffe struggles to make ends meet as an art teacher. Her decision to mail her drawings to photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who owns an art gallery in New York, changes her life forever. When the two meet, they feel an unmistakable attraction and eventually fall in love. Stieglitz, who is 23 years older than O’Keeffe, acts as her advisor, while she, in turn, serves as his muse. In Tripp’s hands, the story of how O’Keeffe transcends his influence and forges a name for herself as a painter makes for a fascinating narrative. The author drew on the couple’s real-life correspondence to create a riveting account of their turbulent relationship. This acclaimed novel is a must-read for art fans and lovers of historical fiction.