cover image The Book of Goose

The Book of Goose

Yiyun Li. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-60634-3

Li follows Must I Go with an intriguing novel of two devious teenage friends who are coping with the aftermath of WWII. Fabienne helps her drunken father, a widower, on their Saint Rèmy farm, and her friend Agnès lives with her parents and attends the village school. One of their “games” involves Fabienne dictating a series of stories about little children who die in various ghastly ways, which Agnès records in a notebook that they share with the recently widowed postmaster, M. Devaux, whose friendship they pursue on a lark. Devaux, an author himself, helps get them published, and Agnès, whom Fabienne decides should get sole credit, becomes famous. Her rise from peasant girl to author becomes a big story, and she is given free education at a finishing school in England. Then, on a whim, Fabienne lies and frames Devaux for a drunken sexual assault on her, forcing him to leave town in disgrace. As the story unfolds, Agnès reckons with a frightening series of episodes in which she takes on Fabienne’s mischievous traits. Bringing to mind Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, by way of Anita Brookner’s quietly dramatic prose, this makes for a powerful Cinderella fable with memorable characters. It’s an accomplished new turn for Li. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)