Book News & New Books
In his new book The Pioneers, two time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough once again writes thorough and engaging history. Using a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures in the settlement of the Northwest Territory, McCullough tells a prototypically American story. In the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain recognized the new United States of America. America’s foe in the Revolutionary War ceded the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. To open the territory for settlement, the American Confederation Congress enacted the Northwest Ordinance, which contained three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788, under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam, the first band of pioneers, veterans of the war and their families, settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River. Simon & Schuster, 353 pages, May 2019.
A work of art can change the world? Boris Pasternak’s “Dr. Zhivago” did. He wrote it in Russian, but the Soviet government would not allow its publication. Anyone caught with a copy was in trouble, likely a distant Gulag, or worse. Yet, Pasternak managed to get his novel to an Italian publisher. Enter the CIA, which has the book printed in Russian and undertakes to smuggle copies back into the Soviet Union. In Lara Prescott’s debut novel, The Secrets We Kept, the assignment goes to two typing pool secretaries. Glamorous and sophisticated Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world–using her magnetism and charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, and under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how to blend in, make drops, and invisibly ferry classified documents. Knopf, 368 pages, September 2019.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett explores the bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go. Patchett’s novel is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. But what is the past? When Cyril Conroy propels his family from poverty to enormous wealth, he makes his wife a present of a lavish estate in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She hates it and goes to serve the poor, leaving the house and her children. Despite the evil stepmother who eventually comes on the scene, we are not reading a fairy tale. This is story of Danny and Maeve, siblings with an unbreakable bond. Filled with suspense, it is the story of a paradise lost that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love, and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are. Harper, 352 pages, September 2019.
What an interesting idea! Frederick Law Olmstead— who, in 1850, traveled through the Old South and recorded his impressions to understand and seek common ground in the national divide. Update to 2015 and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Tony Horowitz, who followed Olmstead ‘s trail with the same goal. Has much changed in the region W.J. Cash tried to explain in “The Mind of the South,” his 1941 classic examination of the temperament of his fellow white southerners. Spying on the South by Tony Horowitz is from Penguin Press, 496 pages, May 2019.
Editor’s Note: We hope you enjoy this sample from Smoke Signals’ award winning ‘BOOKS’ pages, appearing each month in the News section of the print and digital editions of the newspaper.