Rosalind Faires' Top Reads of 2016
Top Books to Make You Cry on Your Lunch Break
These three novels drew a discreet tear or two with their beautiful, brave, and bittersweet humanity
Reviewed by Rosalind Faires, Fri., Dec. 30, 2016
Now, when I say cry, I don't mean bawl. I'm talking the elegant tear or two that ever so slyly escapes your eye when your heart is full to bursting. To the people who find themselves crying over the overwhelming beauty of a certain piece of music or videos of animals of different species befriending each other or sudden confrontations with minor acts of completely non-obligatory kindness – these are for you.
1) A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (Viking) It's a Russian novel for American audiences – littered with exquisite insights into human behavior but moving at a slightly brisker pace than can be found in Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. It follows the Count Alexander Rostov's life under house arrest in the elegant Moscow hotel, the Metropol. Beginning with his sentencing in 1922, we chart the arc of history through the way it affects the running of a hotel and the life of one deeply kind, erudite gentleman.
Cry about the beautiful minute contradictions that live in people and how fearsome and tender it is to grow old with people you love.
2) The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith (Sarah Crichton Books) Smith has us criss-crossing through time to track the work of the title artist, a Dutch painter of the Golden Age, who paints her most enduring work in the wake of her daughter's death.
Cry about the mysterious way in which art inspires and eludes us, about the compromises we make and how they haunt us, about life lived in the bittersweet.
3) Arcadia by Iain Pears (Alfred A. Knopf) A grand spiderweb that rewards you the more you explore it, Pears' fantasy tracts the intersection of three seemingly disparate realities: 1960s Oxford, England; a pastoral fantasy world in the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkien's the Shire; and a dystopian tech-heavy future.
Cry about the simple bravery of human beings living their lives in spite of futures they know they must face, and the sheer wonder of watching threads knit together so elegantly.