Assured, sensuous and brilliantly colored.

WHITE GHOST GIRLS

An auspicious debut sensitively and impressionistically evokes adolescent turmoil in Vietnam War–era Hong Kong.

Short, overlapping chapters give voice to Kate, the younger and more fearful of two sisters whose father, a photographer for Time magazine, is on assignment in Vietnam. His regular trips back to the family in Hong Kong cause a rivalry to develop among the girls and their mother for his attention. While he’s away, Kate and Frankie run wild, exploring, swimming and absorbing the local culture under the cool gaze of their amah, a combination of nanny and housekeeper. Ah Bing, a tough survivor of communist China, calls her charges gwaimui—white ghost girls—with affectionate mockery. One day they are caught up in a pro–Red Guard demonstration, and Frankie is kidnapped; her captors force Kate to carry a bag they claim is “full of lychees” to a nearby police boat. It contains a bomb that kills a woman and burns a child. Kate’s complicated emotions involving her family are additionally burdened by these events, which blossom in her imagination. She feels guilty about a possible sexual assault on Frankie and complicit in something akin to the guerilla missions of the Viet Cong. The story harbors multiple layers of violence and fatalism. An early vision of a bloated body surfacing in Hong Kong waters suggests the encroaching menace of the communists. Kate’s father is in constant peril as he works, photographing horrors in a country he loves. Eventually, danger bursts into the foreground as Frankie’s behavior grows ever wilder. Her intensity has already become too much for Kate, whose need to break free is fulfilled at a price that will haunt her memories. Greenway vividly conjures up the fears, passions and fantasies of a teenager against a heart-rending political background.

Assured, sensuous and brilliantly colored.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-7018-8

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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