Elisabeth Egan, an editor at the Book Review, curates our Group Text column — a monthly choice of a book that she feels is particularly well suited to book clubs and their discussions. On this week’s podcast, she talks about her latest pick: “Jackie & Me,” by Louis Bayard, which imagines the friendship between Jacqueline Bouvier and Lem Billings, a close friend of the Kennedys.
“This is rooted in reality,” Egan says, “but Bayard runs with it and imagines conversations between Lem and Jackie, and just shows this, on one hand, fabulous life of parties and museums and fun they had together, but also sets up this ticking clock where you come to understand what Jackie really has at stake, and has to lose by committing to this life with the Kennedys.”
Matthew Schneier visits the podcast to discuss Paula Byrne’s new biography, “The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym.” Pym, a British writer, began publishing novels in the 1950s.
“She published six novels in pretty quick succession, and they’re great,” Schneier says of the first decade or so of her career. “Very clever, very witty, she was often compared to Jane Austen — which was a writer that she loved and appreciated, but also a kind of very easy comparison, whereas Pym’s ironies can be a little bit darker than some of Austen’s. And there’s a sense in her work that she is spotlighting characters who are not the Emma Woodhouses, who are beautiful and rich and effervescent. They’re what she ended up calling ‘excellent women,’ which is the title of I think her best starter novel. These women who are well brought up and very proper, a little bit pious, but can also be a little dowdy, a little dreary, a little bit easier to overlook.”
Also on this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter talks about the filmmaker Werner Herzog and his first novel, “The Twilight World”; and Jennifer Szalai and Molly Young talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. John Williams is the host.
Here are the books discussed by The Times’s critics this week:
“The Facemaker” by Lindsey Fitzharris
“Meet Me by the Fountain” by Alexandra Lange