The novel sets out to take Daniel Boone from myth to man—but in the process, it transplants him into another sort of...

ALL TRUE NOT A LIE IN IT

A thoroughly researched historical novel reimagines the life of 18th-century frontiersman Daniel Boone, transforming him into a brooding observer of the fall of a country he’d like to consider Paradise.

The first novel by short story writer Hawley (The Old Familiar, 2008) uses as a framework what is known of Boone’s life, beginning with his impoverished childhood in a Quaker community in Pennsylvania and ending, rather abruptly, as the Indians who have either, depending on one’s perspective, captured or adopted him prepare to attack the fort Boone and others have built in Kentucky. (A sequel is evidently in the works.) In between, Boone witnesses—and causes—many a death, marries, fathers a bunch of children, moves his family several times, sets off on hunts that last months or years, is captured by Indians, escapes, and is captured again. The close adherence to chronology makes for an episodic novel in which the only consistent character is Boone himself. The frontiersman tells his story, presumably from the point of view of old age but in the present tense. The world he describes, full of squalor and natural beauty and blood, is richly detailed, and the dialogue sharp and well-trimmed. Boone himself, however, often seems more literary device than believable character. Depressive and romantic, he is continually haunted by an increasingly crowded swarm of ghosts, beginning with the brother who died when Boone was an adolescent and the horse he had to kill when it broke its leg. While not much is known of Boone’s inner life, since he left few written records, his actions don’t necessarily jibe with the introspective, language-besotted dreamer Hawley creates, the one who often feels that he is living in “a long half-dream.”

The novel sets out to take Daniel Boone from myth to man—but in the process, it transplants him into another sort of literary myth.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-247009-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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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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