Amy Bloom is very much at the height of her storytelling powers with her latest novel, Lucky Us (Random House, $26). Bloom deftly spins the tale of two half-sisters, Eva and Iris, in the 1940s who are introduced to each other in less-than-ideal circumstances. After her mother drops her off on her father’s doorstep like a package, the thirteen-going-on-thirty Eva meets her older sister, Iris, who takes one look at her and sets out to make the most of an unwanted younger sibling. When Iris decides it’s time to leave their less-than-moral father behind, she and Eva embark on a series of misadventures that take them from Hollywood to London. With clean, clear prose, Bloom unfolds the sisters’ off-kilter bond and conveys a deep empathy for these two determined and complicated young ladies, who continually redefine what family could and should be. It’s a delightful read that goes by far too fast
The original Who’s Who of Vanity Fair literati is on resplendent display in Bohemians, Bootleggers, Flappers & Swells: The Best of Early Vanity Fair (Penguin Press, $29.95), edited by Graydon Carter. Anyone who was anyone wrote for the magazine between 1913 and 1936, including well-known, beloved wits such as P.G. Wodehouse, Dorothy Parker (whose tongue-in-cheek satirical poem “Our Office: A Hate Song,” deftly gives Vanity Fair its own back) and Noël Coward. The collection also includes pieces by Colette, A.A. Milne, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Jean Cocteau; even the estimable T.S. Eliot consented to have the magazine publish his poems. Each piece is a particular joy on its own and, taken together, the collection is a literary journey through the culture of what would become modern America; it tackles everything from art to women’s rights to breakfast (a strangely and amusingly consistent theme throughout). This is a book for anyone who loves the writing of the early 20th century and for anyone who loves to both laugh and wince at Americans’ fabulous ridiculousness.