Though almost everything may seem a matter of life or death during high school, teenagers really can be cruel, and in Tana French’s new novel, The Secret Place (Viking, $27.95), actions have serious consequences. As the Dublin rookie Stephen Moran investigates a murder, he has to cope with not just teenagers but a harsh partner and the delicate matter of his superior’s daughter being named a prime suspect. As she has in the previous volumes of her excellent Dublin Murder Squad series, French brings past crimes and characters into the present case, unfolding everything with exquisite timing and crisp dialogue. Continue your Tana French collection or dive into her realistic mysteries with this latest work
In The New Yorker writer John Lahr’s stunning biography, Williams comes across as a more dramatic figure than the characters he created for the stage. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh (W.W. Norton, $39.95) is the story of a man haunted by his sexuality, by his bruised but not-yet-broken family, and by the raucous decades that inspired what are arguably the greatest works in American theater. Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh doesn’t just present the scintillating details of Williams’s many affairs and lifelong heartbreaks, Lahr also conveys how physically taxing it was on the playwright to be ignored for the first half of his career. From the groundbreaking The Glass Menagerie to the filming of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Lahr diligently and eloquently chronicles Williams’s struggles to create, to gain recognition, and to find personal happiness.
Joan of Arc is a historical figure often treated as a mythical hero. Her latest biographer, Kathryn Harrison, a versatile writer of fiction and nonfiction, has undertaken the gargantuan task of narrating the saint’s life with both research and imagination. In Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured (Doubleday, $28.95), Harrison paints the fullest, most realistic portrait of Joan yet. With a nod to those who have presented Joan’s story before (the list includes Shakespeare and Shaw), Harrison retraces the incredible tale of a young woman who manages to move an entire nation. Her account features an excellent timeline of Joan’s life and the events of her era, putting her subject in a wider context and illuminating how Joan must have been viewed by her contemporaries. How did they see her—as a madwoman? A sociopath? A prophet? Read this eye-opening biography and find out.