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In Susanna Daniel’s novel “Sea Creatures” (Harper, $25.99), a family valiantly struggles to stay together under the looming shadow of a natural, and domestic, disaster. Daniel deftly navigates the reader through a stormy sea of emotions, as she blurs the edges between dreams and reality under the hot Miami sun.
With beautiful prose (“The emptiness of things rose like the sound of a choir making the sky bluer and more vast.”), “All That Is” (Alfred A. Knopf, $26.95), James Salter’s first novel in 34 years, follows the long life of Philip Bowman, from his daunting experiences in the Pacific theater of World War II to his old age on the East Coast after a successful career as an editor for a small literary press. Bowman’s life is filled with difficult authors and difficult lovers, which makes it easy for readers to enjoy this satisfying story by a masterful and lyrical writer.
“TransAtlantic” (Random House, $27), Colum McCann’s luminous triptych of a novel, spanning 150 years, recounts the experiences of iconic non-Irish figures (Frederick Douglass, Alcock and Brown, Sen. George Mitchell), whose achievements in Ireland have become part of the historical canon. Even more than this, though, McCann adds dimension and nuance by introducing Douglass to an impoverished maid fleeing the Famine, and the other famous men to the maid’s female descendants. The prose is beautiful, careful, and probing; it offers the clarity and confidence of an engraving.
“Year Zero: A History of 1945,” by Ian Buruma (Penguin, $29.95). The year 1945 marked not just the end of World War II, but also the end of an entire world. It was a year of euphoria, wild celebration and hope — and devastation, reprisals and despair: a year of transformation on an unprecedented scale. While Buruma’s history is impressively global, chronicling social, cultural and political upheavals in both Asia and Europe, the dramas are played out on a human scale, creating a compelling narrative that helps us make sense of our lives in “the long dark shadow of what came before.”