After Claude by Iris Owens
Though I dislike historical fiction, I love fiction that has become historical– that rare novel I'd savor anyway that now acts as a portal into not just another life, but another time. Iris Owen's After Claude– first published in 1974 and now, thankfully, re-released– takes me exactly where I want to go: into the swinging Greenwich Village of the Seventies, where women's lib is burning bright and our narrator Harriet is being unceremoniously dumped by her rakish French boyfriend, Claude. It doesn't take long to realize Harriet is wildly unreliable, egregiously ill-mannered and certifiably clueless– and from then on, we hold the book with one hand and cover our eyes with the other as she offends just about every sensibility we have. Be warned: this read is by no means for the prude. It is, however, for those seeking a no-holds-barred shock-fest of an indulgence, and a vacation from an era that can sometimes seem ho-hum in comparison.
Hector and the Search for Happiness by François Lelord
Sometimes one's budget allows for travel and sometimes it does not. In the latter case, the next best thing is to hitch your wagon to a fictional traveler, provided he'll keep you good and entertained. In the case of François Lelord's novel Hector and the Search for Happiness, a reader gets much more than the sights and sounds of a country-to-country jaunt (though he does get those)– he gets something real and interesting and valuable to chew on, in a deceptively simple package. Our psychiatrist hero– who is aptly disillusioned– takes an extended leave of absence and goes nomadic, making notes along the way in an attempt to crack the happiness code. Like all good road stories, this delightful read features danger, love, sex without love, sad discoveries and surprising twists– but ultimately, its lessons are what stay with us. Don't be fooled by this book's veil of uncomplicatedness: the most revolutionary ideas are usually the simplest.