Two Noteworthy Debuts

In the midst of all the big fall books, don’t overlook these two first novels, which have been gathering strong reviews of their own.

The Calligrapher’s Daughter by Eugenia Kim has up to 30 holds in the libraries we checked, all of which have eight or fewer copies.

In the Washington Post, veteran critic Sybil Steinberg praises the book for its sensitive portrayal of Korea from 1915 to 1945, during the country’s collision with modernity under Japanese occupation, and of a woman’s experience “from idyllic childhood through harrowing adulthood,” which is based on Kim’s mother’s life. Though Steinberg finds the ending “somewhat rushed,” she says that “overall this is a satisfying excursion into empathetically rendered lives.”

The Dallas Morning News adds, “because Korean history is not well-known in the United States, Eugenia Kim’s debut novel feels particularly fresh.”

Up-and-coming book blogger S. Krishna especially enjoyed getting to know the protagonist.

“I loved how strong she was, yet how flexible she had to be in order to deal with whatever was thrown at her… I also sympathized with her plight, especially when she was at the house of her in-laws. Kim really makes the reader emotionally involved in Najin’s life.

Publisher’s Weekly‘s “Fall Firsts” feature offers some insights into author Kim’s influences and background.

The Calligrapher’s Daughter: A Novel
Eugenia Kim
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. – (2009-08-04)
ISBN / EAN: 0805089128 / 9780805089127

Also available from Tantor Media

  • CD: $79.99; ISBN 9781400143542

Downloadable audio from OverDrive


Swimming by Nicola Keegan has up to 50 holds on 20 or fewer copies in libraries we checked.

Influential Washington Post critic Ron Charles loved this novel about a Kansas girl who swims her way to the Seoul Olympics.

“Keegan has a keen sense of how different it is to be a female athletic prodigy, particularly in the 1970s. Any boy who swam like this would be courted by coaches, adored by peers. But at 6 feet — and growing! — Pip is a middle-school freak, a “universally unpopular . . . sloppy-shouldered, small-breasted, strong-jawed, tall girl” whose strict Catholic school can’t begin to nurture her.”

The New York Times Book Review also covered Swimming in a roundup, adding that Keegan is “less interested in anatomizing championship swimming than in surveying the emotional landscape of her singular participant, which she maps with gorgeous technique and a life-giving quotient of snark.”

On, it got an average rating of 3.3 and 31 reviews.

Nicola Keegan
Retail Price: $25.95
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2009-07-14)
ISBN / EAN: 0307269973 / 9780307269973

Unabridged audio available from Simon & Schuster Audio

  • CD: $39.99; ISBN 9780743597579

Downloadable eBook from OverDrive

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