San Francisco Chronicle: Our Editors Recommend:

The Painting by Nina Schuyler (Algonquin Books; 299 pages; $23.95): According to the tenets of Buddhism, life is suffering, and suffering arises inexorably from desire, from the act of wanting. In Nina Schuyler's meditative first novel, "The Painting," the interplay between want and need not only creates the thematic backbone of the book but also drives the story itself -- the tale of the struggles of a young female painter living in Meiji-era Japan, and the life of the illegitimate daughter of a well-heeled Parisian during the Franco-Prussian War. Each of her characters is afflicted with his or her own particular form of suffering, and each, in turn, is likewise afflicted with the hope of bringing that suffering to an end.