Lauren Belfer

Bestselling Historical Novelist
National Jewish Book Award
Travels from: New York, NY

“Lauren Belfer shepherds us through a centuries-old mystery and into a modern-day introspection on motherhood, marriage, and love.”—Georgia Hunter,  bestselling author

Lauren Belfer was born in Rochester, New York, and raised in Buffalo. She decided to become a writer when she was six years old. She spent her early years crayoning short stories about heroic pets. By high school, she was writing poetry, and her extraordinary English teachers urged her to send her poems to literary magazines. She collected rejection letters from all the best places. Sometimes the rejection letters included a handwritten “thank you” at the end, which she interpreted as a sign of great encouragement. Her first published short story was rejected forty-two times before it found an editor who loved it. Her second published story was rejected only twenty-seven times. From this she learned never to give up.

Her debut novel, City of Light, was a New York Times bestseller, as well as a New York Times Notable Book, a Library Journal Best Book, and a Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. City of Light was a bestseller in Great Britain and has been translated into six languages. Her second novel, A Fierce Radiance, was named a Washington Post Best Novel of 2010 and an NPR Best Mystery of 2010. Her third novel, And After the Fire, received a 2016 National Jewish Book Award. And her fourth novel, Ashton Hall, will be published on June 7, 2022.

Belfer’s fiction has also been published in the Michigan Quarterly ReviewShenandoah, and Henfield Prize Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book World, the Christian Science Monitor, and as well as the anthologies Greenwich Village Stories: A Collection of Memories and Right Here, Right Now: the Buffalo Anthology.

Lauren attended Swarthmore College, where she majored in Medieval Studies and Art History. After graduation, she worked as a file clerk at an art gallery, a paralegal at a law firm, an assistant photo editor at a newspaper, a fact checker at magazines, and as a researcher and associate producer on documentary films. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University, and she lives in the historic Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.

Lauren has done speaking engagements around the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. She’s spoken at libraries, universities, museums, community centers, and book clubs, in front of audiences ranging from several hundred in an auditorium to intimate gatherings of ten or twelve in a living room. She always hopes that participants will leave her events feeling that the time was well spent and they’ve learned something new about family, history, and how books can bring us together.

Prepare an Invitation for:

Ashton Hall

Ballantine Books |
Novel

An American woman and her son stumble upon the dark history of a rambling English manor house in this “masterful, riveting, and atmospheric” (Alka Joshi, author of The Henna Artist) novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Belfer.

“With vibrant prose, Lauren Belfer shepherds us through a centuries-old mystery and into a modern-day introspection on motherhood, marriage, and love.”—Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones

When a close relative falls ill, Hannah Larson and her young son, Nicky, join him for the summer at Ashton Hall, a historic manor house outside Cambridge, England. A frustrated academic whose ambitions have been subsumed by the challenges of raising her beloved child, Hannah longs to escape her life in New York City, where her marriage has been upended by a recently discovered and devastating betrayal.

Soon after their arrival, ever-curious Nicky finds the skeletal remains of a woman walled into a forgotten part of the manor, and Hannah is pulled into an all-consuming quest for answers, Nicky close by her side. Working from clues in centuries-old ledgers showing what the woman’s household spent on everything from music to medicine; lists of books checked out of the library; and the troubling personal papers of the long-departed family, Hannah begins to recreate the Ashton Hall of the Elizabethan era in all its color and conflict. As the multilayered secrets of her own life begin to unravel, Hannah comes to realize that Ashton Hall’s women before her had lives not so different from her own, and she confronts what mothers throughout history have had to do to secure their independence and protect their children.

“Infused with the brooding, gothic atmosphere of Jane Eyre or Rebecca” (Melanie Benjamin, author of The Children’s Blizzard) and rich with female passion, strength, and ferocity across the ages, Ashton Hall is a novel that reveals how the most profound hauntings are within ourselves.

And After the Light

Harper |
Novel

National Jewish Book Award Winner!

The New York Times-bestselling author of A Fierce Radiance and City of Light returns with a new powerful and passionate novel—inspired by historical events—about two women, one European and one American, and the mysterious choral masterpiece by Johann Sebastian Bach that changes both their lives.

In the ruins of Germany in 1945, at the end of World War II, American soldier Henry Sachs takes a souvenir, an old music manuscript, from a seemingly deserted mansion and mistakenly kills the girl who tries to stop him.

In America in 2010, Henry’s niece, Susanna Kessler, struggles to rebuild her life after she experiences a devastating act of violence on the streets of New York City. When Henry dies soon after, she uncovers the long-hidden music manuscript. She becomes determined to discover what it is and to return it to its rightful owner, a journey that will challenge her preconceptions about herself and her family’s history—and also offer her an opportunity to finally make peace with the past.

In Berlin, Germany, in 1783, amid the city’s glittering salons where aristocrats and commoners, Christians and Jews, mingle freely despite simmering anti-Semitism, Sara Itzig Levy, a renowned musician, conceals the manuscript of an anti-Jewish cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach, an unsettling gift to her from Bach’s son, her teacher. This work and its disturbing message will haunt Sara and her family for generations to come.

Interweaving the stories of Susanna and Sara, and their families, And After the Fire traverses over two hundred years of history, from the eighteenth century through the Holocaust and into today, seamlessly melding past and present, real and imagined. Lauren Belfer’s deeply researched, evocative, and compelling narrative resonates with emotion and immediacy.

A Fierce Radiance

Harper Perennial |
Novel

A Washington Post Best Novel of the Year

An NPR Best Mystery of the Year

This suspenseful novel from the New York Times bestselling author of City of Light follows a photojournalist as she takes on an assignment that will involve blackmail, espionage, and murder—all in the early days of America’s involvement in World War II.

 

In the anxious and uncertain days after Pearl Harbor, beautiful, talented Life magazine photojournalist Claire Shipley is assigned to cover the clinical testing of a new medication at the renowned Rockefeller Institute in New York. Still grieving the death of her young daughter from an infection, Claire is shocked by what she finds there: the doctors and researchers are attempting to cure fatal infections with a little-known, temperamental medicine made from green mold, which they’re calling penicillin—and that may be just the beginning of their breakthroughs.

As the nation plunges into war, Claire begins an intense love affair with James Stanton, an Institute physician given the difficult, top-secret task of coordinating penicillin research for the military. Meanwhile Claire’s long-estranged father, a self-made millionaire entrepreneur, is realizing the potential of the new mold-derived medications to transform the very nature of human existence.

When James’s sister and colleague dies under suspicious circumstances, the stakes involved in the antibiotic breakthrough become starkly clear. Caught between the extremes of war and greed, Claire finds her new relationship challenged in ways she could never have predicted.

At once a thriller, a love story, a family saga, and a window into the tumultuous home front during World War II, A FIERCE RADIANCE will captivate readers.

City of Light

Dial Press Trade Paperback |
Novel

NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • “Breathtaking . . . a remarkable blend of murder mystery, love story, political intrigue, and tragedy of manners.”—USA Today

The year is 1901. Buffalo, New York, is poised for glory. With its booming industry and newly electrified streets, Buffalo is a model for the century just beginning.

Louisa Barrett has made this dazzling city her home. Headmistress of Buffalo’s most prestigious school, Louisa is at ease in a world of men, protected by the titans of her city. But nothing prepares her for a startling discovery: evidence of a murder tied to the city’s cathedral-like power plant at nearby Niagara Falls. This shocking crime—followed by another mysterious death—will ignite an explosive chain of events. For in this city of seething intrigue and dazzling progress, a battle rages among politicians, power brokers, and industrialists for control of Niagara. And one extraordinary woman in their midst must protect a dark secret that implicates them all. . . .

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Transforming Fact Into Fiction in Four Historical Novels

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Recreating the Past: The Process for Writing Novels

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Transforming Science and Technology Into Fiction

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Jewish Women and Their Salons in 19th Century Berlin: Focus on Composer Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel

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A Change in the Nature of Life: Portraying the Development of Antibiotics During WWII

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Portraying a City and Its History in Fiction: Buffalo, NY in 1901

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The Virtues of Rejection: A Semi-Humorous Commencement Address

Lauren Belfer discusses And After the Fire

Get Signed Copies of Lauren’s Books!

Ashton Hall – Pictures of Inspiration

And After the Fire – Reading Group Guide

Honors, Awards & Recognition

New York Times Bestseller
New York Times, 100 Notable Books of the Year
National Jewish Book Award Winner
International Bestseller
Barnes & Noble New Writers Pick

Media clips

And After The Fire received a 2016 National Jewish Book Award.

And After The Fire was selected for the 2017-2018 National Jewish Book Club.

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has named A Fierce Radiance to its list of “Twelve Essential Reads About Greenwich Village and the East Village.”

BookBub readers included A Fierce Radiance on their list of historical novels to read.

BookRiot included A Fierce Radiance on their list of 100 Must-Read Books of U.S. Historical Fiction.

Lauren joined Leslie Zemsky of Buffalo’s Larkin Square for a virtual book event to discuss her second novel A Fierce Radiance and the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Lauren was interviewed by The Buffalo News about her creative process. She was honored to find herself in the company of so many Buffalo-raised writers.

Lauren was thrilled to speak with Lilith Magazine’s fiction editor, Yona Zeldis McDonough, about And After The Fire. Ms. McDonough called the novel a “highly original and haunting story.”

Bas Bleu Booksellers included A Fierce Radiance on their list of Back-to-School Reading for Autumn, 2018.

Christopher Purdy of WOSU Radio wrote a terrific review of And After The Fire, calling itcompelling and entertaining.”

Marissa Stern of the Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia called And After The Fire “stunning.”

Lauren was honored to speak with Carrie Allen Tipton for her podcast “Notes on Bach,” sponsored by Bach Society Houston.

Lauren was thrilled that theSkimm recommended And After The Fire in their Daily Skimm for March 17, 2017.

Lauren and her husband, Michael Marissen, discussed bigotry in the arts with Tom Hall of WYPR in Baltimore.

Lauren and her husband, Michael Marissen, were interviewed by Michael Enright on the CBC radio program Sunday Edition.

Lauren was thrilled to talk Bach, the working process, and writing a novel with musical accuracy in The New York Times.

The Canadian Jewish News gave a terrific review to And After The Fire.

The New Yorker called And After The Fire “provocative.”

Lauren is honored that USA Today gave And After The Fire a 4 star review.

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, called And After The Fire “absorbing” and included it on her summer suspense reading list.

And After The Fire was included in USA Today’s “Weekend Picks for Book Lovers.”

And After The Fire was named to the journal Aeqai’s list of Best Fiction of 2016.

Media Kit

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