Saturday, April 20, 2024

Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

Must Read

The Limits, by Nell Freudenberger (Knopf). Set partly in New York City and partly in French Polynesia, this novel follows a family through the distress of 2020. Stephen, an overworked cardiologist, resides in New York with his new wife, who is pregnant. His ex-wife, Nathalie, a scientist, lives in Tahiti, where she studies deepwater-coral bleaching. Moving between these two worlds is their teen-age daughter, Pia, who has become attached to a Tahitian expert diver who works with her mother, and to his mission: to prevent mining companies from destroying the reefs, even if it might require violence. The novel’s evocation of contemporary troubles—Trump, Covid, ecological devastation—endows it with a sense of chaos that is at once limiting and liberating.

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The Tower, by Flora Carr (Doubleday). Based on true events, this richly detailed novel takes place over the course of a year, in the late fifteen-sixties, on an island in Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, has been imprisoned by rebels and forced to leave her son, the future King James, with her enemies. She is pregnant with twins, having been raped by the man who became her third husband. After a miscarriage, she directs her remaining energy toward escape. Schemes ensue: could she jump from a tower window, seduce a visiting lord, or pose as a laundress? Her attending ladies, who are also imprisoned, are devoted to helping her reclaim the throne. Through her tale, Carr depicts the ways in which women can care for and exert power over one another.

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