A vivid re-creation of a Tudor tragedy.

KATHERYN HOWARD, THE SCANDALOUS QUEEN

A lusty teenager caught the roving eye of Henry VIII.

Continuing a fictional chronicle of the Six Tudor Queens, Weir brings thorough research and spirited storytelling to her portrayal of Katheryn Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife. Katheryn was 19 when her manipulative, ambitious uncle, the Duke of Norfolk, and her stepgrandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, summoned her with a proposal: Henry VIII had tired of his German wife, Anne of Cleves, and, rumor had it, had not yet consummated their marriage. He sought an annulment; soon he would need a new wife. The Howards saw Katheryn, one of Anne’s many maids of honor, as a means to elevate their position and wealth as well as to bring a Catholic into the court. Of course, Katheryn had to be—or pretend to be—a virgin. “Chastity is to be prized,” Katheryn knew. “But what was wrong with taking your pleasure where you found it?” She easily and ardently fell in love: with her music teacher; with a distant cousin, a rakish courtier who “rode her like a stallion, gasping and moaning” and insisted they were married; and with the handsome Tom Culpeper, whom she had known as a child. Now a good-looking man “with a strong jaw and high cheekbones,” he was an esteemed member of the king’s Privy Chamber. Weir sees Katheryn as an impetuous, superficial young woman—far less sympathetic than Jane Seymour or Katherine of Aragon—dazzled by wealth and glamour. As maid of honor, she exulted, “she would live in palaces, have beautiful gowns, dance and make merry.” To her great delight, seducing Henry involved many luxurious new vestments and jewels. After their marriage, “dizzy with elation,” she exclaimed to herself, “She really was queen!” But not for long: Betrayals, plots, subterfuge, and her unbridled passion caused “the whole glittering edifice” of her life to implode.

A vivid re-creation of a Tudor tragedy.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-101-96660-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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