BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
Death Comes to Pemberly, by P.D. James, reviewed by Anna Mundow (B&N Review)
P.D. James, who turned 91 this year, has written just 19 novels in her lifetime, which is a lot for a normal person, but barely a year’s work for the modern, superhumanly prolific mystery novelist. In other words, P.D. James still actually writes her own books. This latest has gotten mixed reviews. Mundow, for one, did not like it, but Michael Dirda did. Both agree that Pemberley (a mannered mystery that coopts the characters and setting of Pride and Prejudice) is “stately,” but Mundow calls it “plodding,” and Dirda “witty.” If you’re not a Jane Austen fan, this one probably won’t hit home. But if you are, perhaps it will. (And if you have a mystery fan on your shopping list, take a look at this.)
1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, reviewed by Christopher Tayler (London Review of Books)
This is not the first time we’ve mentioned Murakami’s recent epic novel (this is), but Tayler’s essay deserves a look because it’s quite a bit less positive than the average 1Q84 review, and because it ranges into the real-life weirdness of Murakami and his cultish appeal.
Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, reviewed by Carloyn Kellogg (L.A. Times)
We did not see this one coming. Few did, before it won the National Book Award a couple weeks ago. This review reads like a rush job, likely commissioned on the night of the awards ceremony, and its effusiveness has a tendency to obscure its authority. But since the award conveys authority enough, it should give you an idea of what Salvage is about. Go here for a pretty interesting profile of Jesmyn Ward.
Look, I Made a Hat, by Stephen Sondheim, reviewed by Charles Isherwood (New York Times)
Sondheim’s new book is evidently the second half of a set, something of an artistic memoir, about working with a new writing partner and experiencing a “vital artistic renewal.” It’s always interesting to watch a genius investigate himself.
In brief: This is completely mind-blowing: after author Lenore Hart got caught having plagiarized an entire novel, she claimed, stunningly, that copying the words and exact plot of another book isn’t actually plagiarism. The kicker? Her publisher agrees. RIP St. Martin’s Press. … For comic book fans, 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die. … Abraham Verghese describes his writing process. … And a pretty amazing list of the year’s worst nonfiction books.