The Battle Of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled Into the Spotlight and Made History by Robin Givhan. (Flatiron) In 1973, to raise the necessary funds for the French government to renovate Versailles, five French and five American designers competed in a runway show at the palace. The Americans – including Bill Blass, Anne Klein and Oscar de la Renta – handily outshone their French counterparts, and Givhan, The Washington Post’s Pulitzer-winning fashion critic, explores the ramifications of their conquest in absorbing detail.
The Poser by Jacob Rubin. (Penguin) Giovanni Bernini, the narrator of this debut novel, is a skilled impressionist who can seamlessly assume the identities of the people around him. His story, which reviewer Kevin Brockmeier said “exists just this side of the border separating our reality from a much odder one,” is divided into sections for the three principal characters Giovanni mimics over the course of this tale: his employer, his psychiatrist and his manager.
The Job: True Tales From The Life Of A New York City Cop by Steve Osborne. (Anchor) After a 20-year career with the police, Osborne has collected a trove of anecdotes ranging from the absurd to the heartbreaking. His material, paired with what reviewer Sarah L. Courteau called a “macabre sense of humor people in adrenaline-jacked jobs often develop,” makes for engaging reading, whether he’s describing his rookie missteps or solemn 9/11 memories.
Paris Red by Maureen Gibbon. (Norton) The heroine of Gibbon’s novel is 17-year-old Victorine Meurent, the real-life muse (and mistress) to Édouard Manet. While sustaining his creativity, Victorine nurtures her own artistic ambition. The novel traces her development into a painter in her own right and lends a voice to a woman who has been seen chiefly through one man’s perspective.
A Chosen Exile: A History Of Racial Passing In American Life by Allyson Hobbs. (Harvard University) People who chose to “pass” were intentionally clandestine and left few clues of their histories, but here, Hobbs, a historian at Stanford, delves into the fraught history of African-Americans who passed as white in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on the black families and identities that were left behind.
The Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa. Translated by Edith Grossman. (Picador) The two men at the heart of this story resist extortion and try to eke out honorable lives in a prosperous, if privileged and stratified, Peru. Vargas Llosa, a Nobel laureate, revisits characters from his earlier novels in this optimistic moral fable.
Roosevelt And Stalin: Portrait Of A Partnership by Susan Butler. (Vintage) Butler presents a history of the unlikely relationship between the two leaders who, despite their sharply divergent political philosophies, forged a mutually beneficial alliance during World War II.
New York Times