NS Recommends: New books from Daniel Mendelsohn, Donatella Di Pietrantonio and Naomi Wood

Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Bad Boy of Athens, Di Pietrantonio’s A Girl Returned and Naomi Wood’s The Hiding Game.

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The Bad Boy of Athens
Daniel Mendelsohn

Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey, an account of how he and his father bonded over Homer, won the American critic and memoirist both admirers and prizes. In his latest collection of essays, The Bad Boy of Athens, he persuasively shows how traces of the Greek classics can be found in the most unlikely places. The AI robot of the film Ex Machina I is prefigured in The Iliad, Cersei in Game of Thrones has more than a passing resemblance to Clytemnestra, the Titanic disaster is a parable about hubris, and so on. Mendelsohn makes his links with ingenuity, erudition and wit.

William Collins, 368pp, £20

A Girl Returned
Donatella Di Pietrantonio
Translated by Ann Goldstein

“I was a child of separations, false or unspoken kinships, distances,” says Arminuta (the “girl returned”) in Donatella Di Pietrantonio’s novel, her first published in English. Returned by the mother who raised her to the mother she didn’t know conceived her, Arminuta inhabits a world where sounds, smells and objects are more present than the adults behind them. Set against the rugged landscape of Abruzzo, Italy, A Girl Returned explores the arbitrariness of origin and family relationships, and questions whether we really belong anywhere.

Europa Editions, 170pp, £12.99

The Hiding Game
Naomi Wood

A devastating secret haunts Naomi Wood’s third novel. It’s 1922 at the Bauhaus school of art in Weimar, Germany and Paul Beckermann is enchanted by his circle of ambitious, liberal friends and their eccentric tutors. Fans of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life will be carried away by the similarly fraught friendships and loving betrayals in Wood’s book, which also offers insight into the Bauhaus movement and an alternative way of examining the tensions that foresaw one of the darkest times in European history.

Picador, 352pp, £14.99

This article appears in the 05 July 2019 issue of the New Statesman, The Corbyn delusion