Posted on May 19, 2020 at 11:40 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Two fairly high-profile novels hit bookshelves today, and the reviewers are already weighing in.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins 

This prequel to the smash hit Hunger Games trilogy looks at series villain President Snow’s roots and shows (or attempts to show) his more human side.

  • From the Guardian: “Collins’s themes of friendship, betrayal, authority and oppression, as well as the extra layers of lore about mockingjays and Capitol’s history, will please and thrill.”

  • From the New York Times: “People who love finding out the back stories in fictional universes — why Sherlock Holmes wears a deerstalker hat; where Indiana Jones got his scar — will relish the chance to learn these details.”

  • From NPR: “So, are we selfish animals or rational beings, capable of altruism and self-governance? The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes tells us what we should think. But The Hunger Games allowed for both.”

  • From TIME: “But where Katniss was a heroine whose flaws were laid bare as she came into her own, Coriolanus sometimes feels reverse-engineered to fit his older mold, and the novel doesn’t fully explain the roots of his at-any-costs ambition.”

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

This novel imagines what would have happened to Hillary Rodham if she had turned down all of Bill Clinton’s marriage proposals.

  • From the Guardian: “The problem is that this ‘more true’ Hillary, as voiced in the book, is not as interesting as the challenged, proud and private human being we wonder about when we see her on our television screens.”

  • From the New York Times: “Magicians know never to perform the same trick twice, an aphorism that might have saved Curtis Sittenfeld from attempting a second roman à clef about a famous American first lady.”

  • From NPR: “A nauseating, moving, morally suggestive, technically brilliant book that made me think more than any other in recent memory about the aims and limits of fiction.”

  • From the Washington Post: “It’s devoted to exonerating a politician who has been maligned for decades. But that motive doesn’t crimp the book’s energy or its suspense because there are other larger themes at work besides Hillary’s basic goodness.”

Categories: Today in Books

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