Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Briefly Noted Book Reviews | The New Yorker

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The Coast Road, by Alan Murrin (HarperVia). Set in a small town in northwestern Ireland in 1994, this finely wrought début novel depicts the limited options that were available to unhappily married women in that country prior to the referendum that legalized divorce there, the following year. It centers on the friendship between a poet who has returned to town as a pariah after a scandalous affair in Dublin and the discontented wife of a local politician. Murrin powerfully renders the ways that women’s freedom, individuality, and self-expression are stifled by religion, custom, and gossip, and, as one character reflects, how “bitterness could poison a life, could make you lousy with exhaustion.”

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Housemates, by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hogarth). The events of this novel are set off by the death of a brilliant but disgraced photography professor, who leaves his negatives, his cameras, and an immovable installation to a former student. The student, Bernie, and her friend Leah, who live in a queer collective in Philadelphia, embark on a road trip together to collect the inheritance. During the journey, the two take photographs and write, respectively, eventually assembling the results in a project titled “Changing Pennsylvania.” (The characters are loosely inspired by the modernist artists Berenice Abbott and Elizabeth McCausland, who, more than eighty years earlier, planned a similar work, “Changing New York.”) Throughout, Copley Eisenberg meditates on art-making, community-building, and how the two are entwined.



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