June Thomas of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in The Book Reader.
Two fine new novels ask us to decide if the women at their centers are loved and appreciated or if they're being taken advantage of by the men in their lives.
"The Actress," by Amy Sohn, tells the story of Maddy Freed, a talented 26-year-old actress who, after a fairy-tale romance, finds herself married to Steven Weller, a handsome Hollywood A-lister 20 years her senior, who has long been rumored to have a secret gay life.
It's a testament to Sohn's ability to craft a thoughtful, funny page-turner that she's able to keep the suspense going for nearly 350 pages. But the question isn't just whether Steven is lying to Maddy. We also wonder how much she's willing to deceive herself to find success, fame and, yes, love.
In "The Rise and Fall of Great Powers," Tom Rachman tells the story of how the unconventional childhood of Tooly Zylberberg shaped her into an unusual young woman.
In 1988, when we first meet Tooly, she's a globetrotting 10-year-old just arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. In 1999, she's drifting somewhat aimlessly around New York, and by 2011, she's the owner of a hilariously unprofitable used bookstore in the wilds of Wales.
Rachman is a confident, witty writer, but here, as in his earlier novel "The Imperfectionists," his female characters too often tend to be besotted fools needing to be rescued by male heroes or selfish manipulators, who are themselves outwitted by cleverer men.
For more books about heroes, villains and everything in between, visit the Slate Book Review at slate.com/books.