The first part of David Levenson’s Newton And The Counterfeiter (Mariner, $14.95) is worth the price of the book by itself. Newton, known for his larger-than-life discoveries, is revealed by Levenson as simply human: brilliant, driven, reclusive, and strange. The second part of the book is a bonus, pitting an older Newton, now Warden of His Majesty’s Mint, against William Chaloner, London’s greatest counterfeiter. From the dirty streets of London, where secrets are betrayed, to the Tower of London, where information is sometimes obtained by torture, Newton always gets his man.
Elinor Lipman's FAMILY MAN (Mariner, $14.95) gives Henry Archer a second chance at happiness. Still scarred by his divorce from Denise and separation from his adopted daughter Thalia two decades ago, Henry finds them both back in his life—for better and worse. By opening himself up to the possibility of joy and family, he gets both—experiencing a torrent of anxiety, protectiveness, and unexpected romance. Lipman creates characters who are imperfect but lovable, devises scenes of wit and honesty, and delivers a story that makes you care and smile.
The latest Booker Prize-winner opens in 1527, as Henry VIII is trying to get rid of his wife of sixteen years, Katherine. He is interested in Anne Boleyn, a well-connected young woman at court who has kept him interested by refusing to consummate their relationship until they are married. Thomas Cromwell is the King’s man to move things along. Cromwell’s eye is on the main chance. “You don’t get on by being original. You don’t get on by being bright. You don’t get on by being strong. You get on by being a subtle crook.” Although society no longer burns people at the stake or beheads them, jockeying for political position and religious hysteria endure. The book’s appeal is not only in its oft-told story, but Mantel’s particular telling of the story. Humor and horror are close together—that is a characteristic of Mantel’s writing and what gives her narrative so much power.