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COLD WAR

A NOVEL OF THE BERLIN AIRLIFT: PART II

A carefully researched and accessible novel about a pivotal operation in postwar Germany.

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Schrader continues her dramatization of the Berlin Airlift in this sequel.

During the 15-month operation from the spring of 1948 to the summer of ’49, Allied aircraft dropped millions of tons of food and fuel into West Germany after the Soviet Union blocked shipping by rail and by sea. British Journalist Virginia Cox-Gordon, one of the many characters in this follow-up to Cold Peace (2023), thinks of the operation as “the Western Allies’ hopeless plan to supply the entire civilian population of Berlin by air” and as the most important news story since Germany’s surrender. Virginia and other characters return from Cold Peace, and new players are introduced as the Berlin operation complicates the lives of members of the Royal Air Force, the U.S. Air Force, Emergency Air Services, the Berlin city government, and Berlin’s civilian population, who are living under a new dictatorship as Josef Stalin’s grip tightens. The novel covers a few months of the operation, and by making use of the large cast, Schrader is able to take readers into virtually every aspect of the drama, including the experiences of ordinary Germans and their representatives, such as city councilor Jakob Liebherr (“a glance at his surroundings reminded him of just how important hope was”), and those of the flyers, who risk their lives in the continuous air missions and also note how the world is changing. Even Soviet personnel feel the same: “All the good men,” one reflects, “the men who fought the war, are being replaced by party hacks, by NKVD stooges.”

The size of Schrader’s cast may be especially daunting for readers coming to this book without having read the first in the series. However, she effectively overcomes this element of intimidation in several well-deployed ways. She peppers her cast with intriguing characters, including Women’s Auxiliary Air Force Cpl. Galyna Borisenko, a Soviet-born Ukrainian who’s now a British citizen but still very much in alien territory, and wing commander and Battle of Britain veteran Robert Priestman, who bravely continues the airlift even in the face of a Soviet takeover of the entire city: “If I can help save 17,000 civilians—the bulk of them children—from Stalin, then I will,” he declares at one point. “It’s the moral equivalent of going down fighting.” Priestman also notes the emergence of a new world in which the British Empire “could no longer shower largesse upon the poor of the world as America could.” The most colorful aspect of the Berlin Airlift—when planes delivered candies to the children of the city—is in many ways the dramatic centerpiece of this novel. The whimsical happiness of these “candy drops” helps to counterbalance the novel’s unfortunate penchant for delivering large blocks of exposition. Also, as in many wartime stories, several members of the cast feel more like familiar types than fully developed characters. Still, the power of the book is in how a true sense of humanity prevails.

A carefully researched and accessible novel about a pivotal operation in postwar Germany.

Pub Date: May 15, 2024

ISBN: 9798987177020

Page Count: 516

Publisher: Cross Seas Press

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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