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The Book of Esther

What if an empire of Jewish warriors that really existed in the Middle Ages had never fallen—and was the only thing standing between Hitler and his conquest of Russia?

Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

“In this thrillingly inventive novel, Emily Barton has created a whole world worth losing yourself in. She sneaks up on you with a story so original you’ll wonder how she found it, and so vital that it seems amazing no one has ever told it before.”
Mary-Louise Parker 

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith. This novel—simultaneously a steampunk Joan of Arc and a genre-bending tale of a counterfactual Jewish state by a writer who invents worlds “out of Calvino or Borges” (The New Yorker)—is a stunning achievement. Reminiscent of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, The Book of Esther reaffirms Barton’s place as one of her generation’s most gifted storytellers.

Download the Book of Esther Reading Group Guide here.

  • Publication Date: Jun 14, 2016
  • ISBN hardcover: 9781101904091
  • ISBN ebook: 9781101904107

Brookland

Brookland is the remarkable story of a determined and intelligent woman in eighteenth-century Brooklyn, who is consumed by a vision of a bridge, a gargantuan construction of timber and masonry she devises to cross the East River in a single, magnificent span.

Since her girlhood, Prudence Winship has looked across the tidal straits from her home in Brooklyn to Manhattan and yearned to traverse the distance. Now, established as the owner of the enormously successful gin distillery she inherited from her father, she can begin to realize her dream. With the help of the local surveyor, Benjamin Horsfield, and her sisters”“the high-spirited, obstreperous Tem, who works with her in the distillery, and the silent, uncanny Pearl”“she fires the imaginations of the people of Brooklyn and New York, promising them both a bridge to meet their most pressing practical needs and one of the most ambitious public works ever attempted. Prue’s own life and the life of the bridge become inextricably bound together as the costs of the bridge, both financial and human, rise beyond her direst expectations.

“No historical novel in recent memory has amassed such an imposing wealth of rich period detail, and few novels of any genre extend an increasingly absorbing story to such a powerful, sorrowful conclusion. A brilliant book that should be a strong Pulitzer Prize contender.”
Kirkus Reviews on Brookland

Beautifully written and breathtaking in its scope, Brookland confirms Emily Barton’s reputation as one of the finest writers of her generation, whose work, said Thomas Pynchon, is “blessedly post-ironic, engaging and heartfelt.”

  • Publication Date: Jul 2, 2009
  • ISBN paperback: 9780312425807
  • ISBN ebook: 9781429982917

The Testament of Yves Gundron

Here is Yves Gundron’s account of the strange events to befall Mandragora. It is a desperate, primitive place—plowing, candles, even numbers larger than twenty are all considered modern innovations. Nevertheless, there was little conflict before Yves’s invention””the harness”“irrevocably transformed the Mandragorans’ lives.

Yves’s manuscript, which bears witness to these changes, has been prepared for publication by an academic named Ruth Blum—her notations supplement Yves’s story. But what at first seems a historical document proves to be something else entirely. Yves’s brother, Mandrik le Chouchou, the town mystic, regales his fellow villagers with exotic tales of his travels to “Indo-China.“And when Yves recalls the words of a song that is recognizably a blues lyric, we know that either Ruth Blum is up to something or Mandragora is not what it seems. In this sharply witty and adventurous debut novel, Emily Barton explores the two-edged sword of technology, asking what is lost in our fervent pursuit of modernity.

  • Publication Date: Jul 2, 2009
  • ISBN paperback: 9780743411486
  • ISBN ebook: 9781466824096

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