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Her Turn: A Conversation With Katherine Ashenburg

Katherine Ashenburg's second novel, Her Turn, is out this week, a complex, funny and poignant portrayal of a woman at midlife. 

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49th Shelf: I loved this smart, funny and very sly novel. I have a few theories about its literary foremothers, but I’d love to know your take. Who are the authors who inspired you to write a book like Her Turn?
   
Katherine Ashenburg: In the 1990s, I had Liz’s job at The Globe and Mail, editing the Facts & Arguments page, which gave pride of place at the top of the page to a personal essay. As happens with Liz, no one outside the Globe except my close friends and family knew who edited the page, and I would receive submissions from acquaintances and out-of-touch friends who had no idea they were submitting pieces to me. That, and the fact that strangers all over the country were writing to me about their hopes and fears, their love lives and more mundane things, made me think at the time that a woman with my job would be a perfect Carol Shields heroine. Shields would have done something brilliant with such a character. Little did I dream that I would go on to write novels, including one inspired by that very job.

I think as I wrote Her Turn I wanted to combine Shields’ dry wit and a certain ironic distance from her character …

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The Recommend: Masterpieces, Celebrities, Survival, and Magic

Research shows that most of the books we read are the result of one thing: someone we know, trust, and/or admire tells us it's great. That's why we run this series, The Recommend, where readers, writers, reviewers, bloggers, and others tell us about a book they'd recommend to a good friend ... and why.

This week we're pleased to present the picks of book blogger Laura Frey (reading-in-bed.com), Melanie Fishbane (whose debut YA novel is Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery), Katherine Ashenburg (whose debut fiction novel—following many nonfiction works—is Sofie and Cecilia), Karen Hofmann (whose forthcoming short story collection is Echolocation), and Bruce Cinnamon (whose debut novel is The Melting Queen).

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Laura Frey recommends Éric Dupont's Songs for the Cold of Heart

I am a blurb skeptic. Blurbs are, at best, the most biased form of literary criticism. Just check how often a blurber’s name appears on the acknowledgements page. At worst, blurbs are clichéd, or taken out of out of context, or of dubious veracity (did Gary Shteyngart really read all those books?).

The blurb on Songs for the Cold of Heart got all my skeptic senses tingling:

“If the Americans have John Irving and the Colombians Gabriel García Márquez, we have Eric Dupont. A …

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