cover image Lady of the Snakes

Lady of the Snakes

Rachel Pastan, . . Harcourt, $24 (308pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101369-2

The woes of being a scholarly mom are highlighted in this highbrow chick lit entry from Pastan (This Side of Married ). Jane Levitsky’s research concerns Maria (Masha) Karkova, the fictional, gifted wife of the fictional philandering genius of 19th-century Russian literature, Grigory Karkov. Jane is in her first year of a tenure-track job at the competitive University of Wisconsin–Madison as she struggles to untangle the web of intrigue surrounding Masha and Grigory. Husband Billy has moved with her from California along with toddler daughter Maisie, but Jane doesn’t have much time for either of them, a fact of which live-in nanny Felicia is well aware. Further, Jane’s office is next door to the professor she has been hired to replace, the irascible but charming Otto Sigelman, who was responsible for bringing Karkov’s literary works to light; though he’s meant to be retired, Otto is still very much invested in the reputation of his literary hero, and Jane’s researches may be a threat. Fast-paced, well-written and entertaining, Pastan’s latest has a winning feminist twist and should turn up in more than a few faculty lounges. (Jan.)