What to Read

Spring's first crop of fiction brings eccentric characters -- from poetic alcoholics to compassionate neo-Nazis -- and takes us to the remote mountain terrain of western Iceland and the genteel English countryside.

By Salon's critics
Published March 30, 2005 9:00PM (EST)

Spring is here! Sure, for many of us it's still too cold to go out without a coat, but at least the crocuses are poking their heads out and the daffodils are crowding out the evergreens at our local greenmarket. Soon it will be time to shed the scarves, dust off the hiking boots, unpack the picnic basket. Change is a-coming, and it's in the air. It's all we can do to wait out the rest of winter.

Thankfully, besides the rain and occasional dust of snow, March has also brought with it a handful of absorbing novels. We've already written about the three accomplished, much-discussed 9/11-themed novels that came out this month; here are four more we liked, all offering truly eccentric narratives and new perspectives. From an off-kilter Icelandic saga to an alcoholic's ode to the drink, to a hilarious English comedy of social climbing gone awry, and an unlikely neo-Nazi romance, these four books are sure to keep you absorbed. And if the weather clears up this weekend, they'll also travel well with a picnic.

Our first pick: In a throwback to the 19th century social novel, the drama centers on an improbable romance between a skinhead and a soccer mom who works for a Holocaust survivor

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