Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
Many of you have already read one or both of Robert Olmstead's earlier novels of the Childs family of West Virgina: Cold Black Horse, which takes place in the 1860s, and Far Bright Star, which is set in 1916. The Coldest Night, just released, focuses on young Henry Childs, whose mother takes him out of the back country of the West Virginia mountains into the city.
Here's the publisher's summary:
Henry Childs is just seventeen when he falls into a love affair so intense it nearly consumes him. But when young Mercy’s disapproving father threatens Henry’s life, Henry runs as far as he can—to the other side of the world.I haven't yet started Olmstead's The Coldest Night, but I'm drawn to it for a number of reasons. First, I am intrigued with the set up of the novel, which has been mentioned in a couple of the reviews I've read. Henry Childs's story is told in three parts, and each phase of his young life seems to be completely different, starting at a high, descending into a cold hell, and rising to an uncomfortable limbo.
The time is 1950, and the Korean War hangs in the balance. Descended from a long line of soldiers, Henry enlists in the marines and arrives in Korea on the eve of the brutal seventeen-day battle of the Chosin Reservoir—the turning point of the war—completely unprepared for the forbidding Korean landscape and the unimaginable circumstances of a war well beyond the scope of anything his ancestors ever faced. But the challenges he meets upon his return home, scarred and haunted, are greater by far.
Robert Olmstead’s riveting new novel is not only a passionate story of love and war, it is a timeless story of soldiers coming home to a country with little regard for, and even less knowledge of, what they’ve confronted. Through his hero, Olmstead reveals an unspoken truth about combat: that for many men, the experience of war is the most enlivening, electric, and extraordinary experience of their lives.
Another draw is the dichotomies Olmstead sets up: The contrast between Henry's backwoods infancy and big-city youth, between rich and poor, between the bliss of first love and the horrors of war, and between comrades in arms and the folks back home. Which of these gaps, if any, will Henry be able to close?
I'm also interested in The Coldest Night because I don't know many of the details of the Korean War. It's my understanding that Henry finds himself in one of the worst battles of the entire campaign; like him, we are thrown right into the thick of it. Finally, although this novel can stand alone, I like family sagas and plan to start my reading with Coal Black Horse.
Have a look at some of the early reviews of The Coldest Night (click the links for the full reviews):
- The Kirkus review concludes: "An exceptionally fine study of love, war and the double-edged role of memory, which can both sustain and destroy. Prize-winning material."
- Publisher's Weekly calls the book a "powerful, desolate, and well-crafted novel."
- Seth at the Book Catapult says "It packs a wallop, no doubt--emotionally, philosophically--and it left me stunned, sad, and in utter awe of a writer who may just finally get his due."
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.