The Prospector is the story of a young man’s quest for his personal identity. Having grown up the privileged son of colonists in Africa, he turns to a life of traveling and adventure after his father dies and a hurricane destroys his plantation. In turns, he becomes a sailor, a treasure hunter, and a soldier in the trenches of France during World War I. A sweeping tale of the beginning of the century, The Prospector is also a highly recommended introduction to Nobel Laureate Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio’s work.
Over the last thirty years, Steven Millhauser has become one of my favorite stealth storytellers. His writing gained a wider audience when Martin Dressler won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize and in 2008 when Dangerous Laughter was selected as one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the year. In his latest gathering of short fiction, We Others: New and Selected Stories (Knopf, $27.95), Millhauser has assembled his favorites, saying, “I chose stories that seized my attention as if they’d been written by someone whose work I had never seen before.” These fictions straddle the edge of imagination and realism. Millhauser writes about complex human passions, both dark and pure; in his tales even the smallest details carry critical import. Fantastic, magical things happen to his characters, and yet the stories evoke life so realistically that even illusions, phantoms, and supernatural occurrences are completely believable because they are integrated so skillfully into lives that are passionate, intelligent, philosophical, and thoughtful. When such a writer can be surprised by his own writing, you know you’re reading the best.
The Night Circus (Doubleday, $26.95) has received rave reviews both nationwide and from P&P booksellers. Inspired by the interactive dramatic magic of the Punchdrunk Theatre Company, Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel imagines the world’s most extraordinary traveling circus. Celia and Marco have been raised from childhood as adversaries, though they’re unaware of their contest; Le Cirque des Rêves is the arena in which they compete by performing ever more imaginative, beautiful, and complex illusions. At their most thrilling, the enchantments generate a mystical conversation; however, the sorcery of the pair’s rival mentors has bound the couple to play out their beautiful task to a deadly conclusion. You will be transfixed by this intricately conceived drama, which blends magic and intrigue with the loves, longings, ambitions, and, ultimately, loss of these unique conjurors.