Vintage Books has put together six of its finest titles in one handy gift set, comprising Memoirs of a Geisha, Snow Falling on Cedars, A Lesson Before Dying, Cold Mountain, The Reader, and Midwives. To capture the geisha experience in the art of fiction, Arthur Golden trained as long and hard as any geisha who must master the arts of music, dance, clever conversation, crafty battle with rival beauties, and cunning seduction of wealthy patrons. Only after 10 years of researching every aspect of the culture did he begin Memoirs of a Geisha, a novel with Charles Dickens's broad social canvas (and love of coincidence) and Jane Austen's intense attention to the nuances of erotic maneuvering. In Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson explores the Japanese American experience. Fighting the distrust and prejudice of his neighbors on a remote island in Puget Sound, a Japanese American man who spent time in an internment camp during World War II finds himself on trial for murder. The histories of the accused and the victim, both fishermen and residents of the small town of San Piedro, unfold as newspaperman Ishmael Chambers embarks on a quest for the truth. In a small Cajun community in 1940s Louisiana, a young black man is about to go to the electric chair for murder--the murder of a white man. If Jefferson is confined by the law to an iron-barred cell, Grant Wiggins, the narrator of Ernest Gaines's powerful A Lesson Before Dying, is no less a prisoner of social convention. Trapped in a career he doesn't enjoy, eaten up by resentment at his station in life, and angered by the injustice he sees all around him, he dreams of taking his girlfriend Vivian and leaving Louisiana forever. But when Jefferson is convicted and sentenced to die, his grandmother, Miss Emma, begs Grant for one last favor: to teach her grandson to die like a man. Charles Frazier's debut novel, Cold Mountain, is the story of a very long walk. In the waning months of the Civil War, a wounded Confederate veteran named Inman gets up from his hospital bed and begins the long journey back to his home in the remote hills of North Carolina. Along the way he meets rogues and outlaws, Good Samaritans and vigilantes, people who help and others who hinder. But through it all, Inman's aim is true: his one goal is to return to Cold Mountain and to Ada, the woman he left behind. Originally published in Switzerland, and gracefully translated into English by Carol Brown Janeway, The Reader is a brief tale about sex, love, reading, and shame in postwar Germany. Michael Berg is 15 when he begins a long, obsessive affair with Hanna, an enigmatic older woman. He never learns very much about her, and when she disappears one day, he expects never to see her again. But, to his horror, he does. Hanna is a defendant in a trial related to Germany's Nazi past, and it soon becomes clear that she is guilty of an unspeakable crime. As Michael follows the trial, he struggles with an overwhelming question: What should his generation do with its knowledge of the Holocaust? In Midwives, Chris Bohjalian chronicles the events leading up to the trial of Sibyl Danforth, a respected midwife in the small Vermont town of Reddington, on charges of manslaughter. The author takes readers through the intricacies of both childbirth and the law, and by the end it's difficult to decide which was more harrowing--the tragic delivery or its legal aftermath. These six novels are not only popular reads but critical darlings as well--and welcome additions to every bookshelf.
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