Autumnal weather has finally arrived here in Philly, and it’s the perfect time to grab a cup of tea and a new book. This month’s new releases feature historical fiction, Southern charm, the London jazz scene and a chick lit romp in San Francisco, along with a new novel by “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert.
“The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert: The bestselling author of “Eat, Pray, Love” has written her first novel in 13 years, a sweeping story that travels around the world through the 18th and 19th centuries following the Whittaker family. Born in 1800 to the richest man in Philadelphia, Alma Whittaker is a talented botanist in a time when women in science were rare. When she falls in love with a painter who encourages her to look at things in a more spiritual, less clinical way, they begin traveling the globe. Impressively researched and beautifully written, the book is one of Amazon’s top picks for October.
“Southern as a Second Language” by Lisa Patton: Fan favorite Leelee Satterfield returns in the third book by Patton about this sassy Southern belle. Leelee is living back in Memphis after running a Vermont inn, and is finally dating Peter, her Yankee chef from the inn, along with opening a restaurant with him. But she didn’t expect the culture clash between North and South to be so great with him on her home turf, and the addition of her ex-husband returning doesn’t make things much better. Leelee’s friends add plenty of laughs to this charming story.
“Take a Look at Me Now” by Miranda Dickinson: You’ll want to hop on the first flight to San Francisco after reading chick lit fave Dickinson’s latest. Nell Sullivan dreams of leaving her boring job at the London Borough Council to open an American-style diner, and making things official with her on-again, off-again boyfriend at work would be the icing on the cake. But when she ends up unemployed and single on the same day, she decides to blow her severance pay on a two-month trip to visit her cousin in San Francisco. Soon she falls in love with her adopted city, and with a local spot called Annie’s Diner. She even meets Max, who seems like the guy of her dreams. But Nell wonders if she’ll leave her heart in San Francisco, and the new version of herself, too.
“The Last Runaway” by Tracy Chevalier: The author of “Girl With a Pearl Earring” explores the Underground Railroad in her latest novel, now in paperback. Honor Bright, an English Quaker, accompanies her sister to America, only to end up scared and friendless in Ohio when her sister passes away. She has a difficult time adjusting to life in her new country, but when she’s drawn into helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad, Honor finds a purpose. The Fugitive Slave act forbids people like Honor from helping runaways, and the consequences of being found out are dire. Eventually she must decide if she’s willing to risk everything to take a stand for what’s right.
Pick of the month:
“Before I Met You” by Lisa Jewell: The stories of a grandmother and granddaughter and their search for reinvention in London’s Soho are revealed in Jewell’s newest novel. It’s 1995, and 22-year-old Betty has given up the fun and parties of her college years to look after her ailing step-grandmother, Arlette, on the English island of Guernsey. While she loves her eccentric grandmother fiercely, when Arlette passes away, Betty can’t help but feel like a new life is beginning. She jumps at the chance to leave the island and travel to London to find a mysterious woman named Clara Pickle who was a beneficiary in Arlette’s will. Finding herself on her own for the first time, Betty lands the unlikely job of nanny for an infamous pop star and strikes up a possibly-more-than-friends relationship with the standoffish guy who sells records at the market across from her flat. While she hunts for Clara, Betty uncovers clues about Arlette’s past and through Arlette’s narrative, we find that she was part of the Bright Young Things in London’s postwar jazz scene. Her love affair with a famous black jazz musician caused a stir and ultimately ended in tragedy, sending Arlette back to Guernsey for the rest of her life. Eventually what Betty learns about her grandmother’s past inspires her to reshape her future in this unputdownable story.