Annal: 1997 National Book Award for Fiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1997.

Book:Cold Mountain: A Novel

Cold Mountain: A Novel

Charles Frazier

One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain is a masterpiece that is at once an enthralling adventure, a stirring love story, and a luminous evocation of a vanished American in all its savagery, solitude, and splendor.

Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, Inman, a Confederate soldier, decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains and to Ada, the woman he loved there years before. His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal converse with slaves and marauders, bounty hunters and witches, both helpful and malign. At the same time, Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learn to survive in a world where the old certainties have been swept away. As it interweaves their stories, Cold Mountain asserts itself as an authentic American Odyssey—hugely powerful, majestically lovely, and keenly moving.

Book:Echo House

Echo House

Ward S. Just

This is a novel about the will to power of one American family, the Behls of Washington, D.C. Their world turns on secrets—family secrets, state secrets, secrets divulged, secrets misunderstood, secrets denied. At the center of the story stands Echo House, the family mansion, exerting its own field of force. Three generations of men in the Behl family Adolph—his son Axel, and his grandson Alec—as well as the women they marry and sleep with, pursue power and influence from before the New Deal through the Cold War and far past the Gulf War. They live off-the-record lives and love off-the-record women. And the women tell their story. Echo House is populated not only by actual and fictional presidents and candidates but by White House staffers, by fortune-tellers and adventuresses, by powerful journalists male and female, by lawyers and bankers young and old, honest and dishonest, by researchers and diplomats. Nearly all the characters are Beltway insiders: rumor spreaders, power brokers, secret keepers, senators, investigators, spies, would-be ambassadors, and the canniest survivor of them all, a women who in the 1950s declared her intentions to become first lady and finally succeeded.

Book:Le Divorce

Le Divorce

Diane Johnson

Diane Johnson, two-time finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, a noted observer of our times, has written a sparkling contemporary novel on Americans abroad that is hilariously insightful.

When California girl Isabel Walker, film school dropout, comes to visit her stepsister Roxy in Paris, she arrives on the day that Roxy’s French husband, Charles-Henri de Persand, has left her for another woman. Roxy is distraught and pregnant. Charles-Henri’s powerful and prestigious French family is counseling patience and acceptance, Isabel is soon caught up in the romantic intrigue: and Roxy’s parents are just as soon on their way to France to lend their daughter support. Add to all of this a contretemps over a painting belonging to the Walkers but given by Roxy as a wedding gift to her husband, which turns out to be extremely valuable. It is, as the French say, a situation. …[more]

Book:The Puttermesser Papers

The Puttermesser Papers: A Novel

Cynthia Ozick

With dashing originality and in prose that sings like an entire choir of sirens, Cynthia Ozick relates the life and times of her most compelling fictional creation. Ruth Puttermesser lives in New York City. Her learning is monumental. Her love life is minimal (she prefers pouring through Plato to romping with married Morris Rappoport). And her fantasies have a disconcerting tendency to come true—with disastrous consequences for what we laughably call “reality.”

Puttermesser yearns for a daughter and promptly creates one, unassisted, in the form of the first recorded female golem. Laboring in the dusty crevices of the civil service, she dreams of reforming the city - and manages to get herself elected mayor. Puttermesser contemplates the afterlife and is hurtled into it headlong, only to discover that a paradise found is also paradise lost. Overflowing with ideas, lambent with wit, The Puttermesser Papers is a tour de force by one of our most visionary novelists.

Book:Underworld: A Novel

Underworld: A Novel

Don DeLillo

Our lives, our half century.

Nick Shay and Klara Sax knew each other once, intimately, and they meet again in the American desert. He is trying to outdistance the crucial events of his early life, haunted by the hard logic of loss and by the echo of a gunshot in a basement room. She is an artist who has made a blood struggle for independence.

Don DeLillo’s mesmerizing novel opens with a legendary baseball game played in New York in 1951. The glorious outcome—the home run that wins the game is called the Shot Heard Round the World—shades into the grim news that the Soviet Union has just tested an atomic bomb.

The baseball itself, fought over and scuffed, generates the narrative that follows. It takes the reader deeply into the…[more]

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