BOOKS: HANNIBAL'S LAST HURRAH

POLITICAL SHENANIGANS IN A FICTIONAL ISLAND NATION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC

Why the globe should need another umbrous island, anchored by one man's imagination halfway between Iceland and Greenland, is not something novelist (and former TIME contributor) Brad Leithauser bothers to explain. If you don't like Freeland, the gray and chilly outpost of which he is the sole curator of history, customs and current events, then chase your moonbeams in Lake Wobegon or your copperheads in Yoknapatawpha County.

The advice here, however, is to stick with The Friends of Freeland (Knopf; 508 pages; $26), an amiable and decidedly quirky novel. Its narrator, Eggert Oddason, is chief speechwriter and grand vizier to Freeland's...

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