Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather J. R. R. Tolkien during World War I, Simon Tolkien delivers a perfectly rendered novel rife with class tension, period detail, and stirring action. No Man’s Land centers on Adam Raine, a boy whose impoverished childhood in turn-of-the-century London comes to a tragic end when his mother is killed. His grief-stricken father moves the family to a coal mining town to pursue a job, but tensions between the miners and their employer explode with terrible consequences. Adam finds consolation in the company of a beautiful young woman with whom he falls in love. When they become engaged and Adam wins a scholarship to Oxford, he starts to feel like his life is finally coming together—until the outbreak of war threatens to tear everything apart.
Also steeped in early 20th-century history, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles features wealthy Count Alexander Rostov, who has been sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a famed Moscow hotel, as punishment for writing a poem deemed incendiary by the Bolsheviks. Despite his confinement, the count lives an adventurous life. In a starred review, Kirkus says, “Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. . . . The cruelties of the age can’t begin to erase the glories of real human connection. . . . This book more than fulfills the promise of Towles’ stylish debut, Rules of Civility.”