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       Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead, Simon & Schuster, US $25.00, Pp 352, March 2018,      ISBN 978-1501156601

The Italian Party: A Novel by Christina Lynch, St. Martin’s Press, US $25.99, Pp 336, March 2018, ISBN 978-1250147837

The Female Persuasion:  A Novel by Meg Wolitzer,  Riverhead Books,  US  $28.00,  Pp 456, April 2018, ISBN 978-1594488405

   The Balcony  by  Jane Delury,  Little, Brown & Company,  US $26.00,  Pp 244,  March 2018,   ISBN 978-0316554671

Set in the early 1980s, Laura & Emma is the story of a single mother raising her daughter in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Laura was born into a rich and liberal family in New York. As she enters her early thirties, she meets and sleeps with Jefferson. When they learn that Laura is pregnant, Jefferson disappears. Laura decides not to abort. She names her daughter Emma. Laura raises Emma in the same luxurious world of private schools and summer homes she herself grew in. Laura’s mother has told Laura that she was fathered by a Swedish sperm donor. She is surrounded by close relatives and friends. One of them is her brother who suffers from stutter since childhood in the presence of their father. Another person is her best friend whose life is shaped by the Park Avenue society. Emma is not ready to conform and asks questions about the society around her. Laura meditates on everything from life, to death, to sex in her struggle to understand herself, her daughter and the changing society. Laura & Emma explores New York’s high society and their values. It is a relentlessly compelling psychological debut that weaves the stories of two women into one, showing how two generations behave in the same social milieu. Kate Greathead is a powerful new voice in fiction.

Kate Greathead is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. Her writing has appeared in The New YorkerThe New York Times, and Vanity Fair, and on NPR’s Moth Radio Hour. She was a subject in the American version of the British Up documentary series. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the writer Teddy Wayne. Laura & Emma is her first novel.

*****

Set in the spring of 1956, The Italian Party is an extraordinarily entertaining and captivating novel. Scottie and Michael Messina are a newly-wed American couple who move to Siena, Italy, in the spring of 1956. Scottie believes that Michael wants to open a Ford Office to sell tractors in Italy. Both of them fall in love with the ancient city of Tuscany soon after their arrival. Michael’s true reason for moving to Italy is his desire to save the world from Communism. Both Scottie and Michael keep secrets from each other. Scottie has a lot of time to fill and she decides to learn Italian from a local teenage boy. But the boy soon goes missing and Scottie embarks on a massive search to find him. During her search for her teacher, she learns dark truths about herself, her husband and her teacher, as well as her country. Michael also becomes disillusioned with his dream of saving the world from Communism. He realizes that he was no more than a pawn in a great game. Scottie and Michael’s struggle now is to find and reconcile with a new kind of truth. In The Italian Party, Christina Lynch explores America’s role in the world and how innocent and naïve people play pawns in America’s game. It may be about the 1950s but the dirty political reality has not changed. Although the story is weaved around a semi-political theme, it is a light and fun read.

Christina Lynch teaches at College of the Sequoias. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily. In Los Angeles, she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She went to live in Tuscany for four years where she was inspired to write her debut The Italian Party.

*****

The Female Persuasion is the story a young feminist who is looking for her calling as a feminist. Greer Kadetsky is a shy freshman and takes part in feminist activities but she is looking for a bigger role. This is when she happens to meet Faith Frank, a sixty-three old elegant feminist icon. Faith Frank is an inspiring personality. After listening to her, Greer Kadetsky believes that she has found who she was looking for. It is like a dream come true when Faith Frank asks Greer Kadetsky to realize her dream of changing the world. Faith Frank leads Greer Kadetsky on the path she dreams of. Faith Frank mentors and grooms Greer Kadetsky throughout the novel. The Female Persuasion is a story about womanhood and ambition. It is a story of a woman who struggles and sacrifices to realize her dream. Meg Wolitzer explores the life of an ambitious woman growing up in a man’s world and how gender and power interact. It tells us how we can be who we want to be. It is a very persuasive feminist novel.

Meg Wolitzer is The New York Times bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife. The Female Persuasion has been named a most-anticipated book of the year by Time Magazine, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, and more. She was the guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 2017 and lives in New York City.

*****

In The Balcony, Jane Delury tells ten tales of people living in an estate — including a manor and a servants’ cottage — in a small village with the name Bonneville outside Paris. These tales continue over the course of several generations, starting from the Belle Époque to present day. The story starts with Brigitte — a young American with her master’s degree in French — who is headed to France to be an au pair for Ésloide, the daughter of Hugo and Olga Boyer. In France, she has a crush on her smart employer. In another tales, an ex-courtesan shocks her servants. There is one tale in which a Jewish couple fleeing Nazi Germany has to escape their neighbors’ prying eyes. In yet another tale, a housewife is having an extramarital affair. There is little in common among the characters. They range from rich to poor, from young to old, or from powerful to weak. But they all are seeking meaning in life, love, or escape from present life. The estate’s spaces like the rose garden and the third-floor balcony of the manor house witness cross-generational connections or troubled legacies. The Balcony explores issues we all face at some point in life. They are related to growing up and growing old, marriage, betrayal, love, motherhood. These ten tales spread over the twentieth century show that human issues are constant over long periods of time. Each tale may be read as a standalone story or together they make a magnificent novel. The Balcony is an extraordinarily mesmerizing and entertaining novel.

Jane Delury’s fiction has appeared in publications including The Southern Review, The Yale Review, and Glimmer Train. She holds a BA in English and French literature from UC Santa Cruz, an MA from the University of Grenoble, France, and an MA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. She grew up in Sacramento, California, taught English in Grenoble, France, and currently lives in Maryland, where she teaches creative writing and English at the University of Baltimore.

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