All Grown Up, by Jami Attenberg. Attenberg's 2012 novel, The Middlesteins, was a New York Times bestseller, so when I heard her latest was generating some buzz in early reviews, I knew I had to share. Andrea Bern is two different people. She's who she says she is: a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. And then there are the things she never admits to anyone, like that she's a lonely former artist who drinks too much. Everyone seems to have different definitions of what it means to be an adult: getting married, having kids, concentrating on a career. But when tragedy strikes the tumultuous Bern family, it may ultimately be the final thing that drives them apart, or brings them together.
In the Name of the Family, by Sarah Dunant. I'm a big fan of Dunant's historical fiction (her debut, 2004's The Birth of Venus, was particularly good), so this latest novel set in Renaissance Italy is a no-brainer for me. Here, she explores the final days of the house of Borgia, in the company of young diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli. It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womanizer and master of political corruption, is now on the papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged twenty-two—already three times married and a pawn in her father’s plans—is discovering her own power. And then there is his son Cesare Borgia, brilliant, ruthless, and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with Machiavelli that gives the Florentine diplomat a master class in the dark arts of power and politics. What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince. This is a must for fans of historical fiction.
The Devil & Webster, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Korelitz is the author of bestsellers like You Should Have Known and Admission, both of which have addressed hot-button issues, so I would be remiss if I didn't share her latest outing, which does the same. Naomi Roth is the first female president of Webster College, a once conservative school now known for producing fired-up, progressive graduates. So Naomi isn't surprised or unduly alarmed when Webster students begin the fall semester with an outdoor encampment around "The Stump"-a traditional campus gathering place for generations of student activists-to protest a popular professor's denial of tenure. A former student radical herself, Naomi admires the protestors' passion, especially when her own daughter, Hannah, joins their ranks. Then Omar Khayal, a charismatic Palestinian student with a devastating personal history, emerges as the group's leader, and the demonstration begins to consume Naomi's life, destabilizing Webster College from the inside out. As the crisis slips beyond her control, Naomi must take increasingly desperate measures to protect her friends, colleagues, and family from an unknowable adversary.