MARGARET THE FIRST
by Danielle Dutton
Out from Catapult this month, Danielle Dutton’s MARGARET THE FIRST is a unique and ravishing reading experience. The novel is a dramatization of the life of 17th-century Duchess Margaret Cavendish, a woman who wrote and published fantastical fiction and feminist plays well before it was acceptable for women to do so. Her literary ventures (and also perhaps the time that she appeared at the opera topless with painted nipples) earned her the title ‘Mad Madge,’ and she achieved infamy in England. Her reputation, however, did not prevent her from being the first woman invited to the Royal Society of London (and the last for another 200 years).
While a biography of such a character would be fascinating, Dutton’s imaginative portrayal of Margaret’s life is an addictive read. Each sentence is astonishing in its vivid detail and concision. The author’s ability to transcend the setting is a huge achievement—while the novel takes place in the 1600s, the explorations of marriage, ambition, and feminist ideals are timeless. Reading MARGARET THE FIRST is like reading a pretty dream, one that feels like it could have been created by Margaret herself. This is a historical novel done right.
—Katie Eelman, media + events coordinator
THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books to read was GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM by Michelle Magorian. It was the first exposure I had to the concept of the British evacuation of children during WWII. It was also one of the most depressing books I had ever read.
Luckily for the world, although THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE follows a similar plot, it is far from being overall similar to GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has written a book that is a classic middle grade feel-good book about strength and familial love and friendship and growth. I loved it, and think this book is destined to become a classic. It will leave you feeling warmed. In your heart. (I just really wanted to avoid saying heartwarming because it makes me feel oogy.) I love the way that big-picture issues such as economic class, abuse, adoption, and physical disability are treated here. This would make a great parent-child book club pick!
—Jill Saginario, bookseller
HOPE IN THE DARK
by Rebecca Solnit
Originally written and published after the US invaded Iraq in 2003, HOPE IN THE DARK is an essay collection about the power of people to make positive change, even against seemingly insurmountable power. She reminds us that the darkness is uncertainty, which is not necessarily bad, and if you plunge into that darkness to fight for justice and progress, you're making your own light. If you find yourself discouraged by our current political situation and would like to shed some newly-acquired cynicism and exchange it for a little optimism and passion, then read this.
—John Cleary, bookseller