A CLOSE RUN THING

Pompous oafs, a sly heiress, and a beguiling nun prove just as challenging as battlefield perils to a British cornet who plays a decisive role in Wellington’s defeat of Napoleon. Mallinson, a British cavalry officer with an impressive knowledge of spontoons, snaffles, and other minor arcana of 19th- century combat, offers an extremely detailed, alternatively violent and romantic first novel in a land-based, sword-and-horseflesh companion to Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring Aubrey-Maturin series. Hero Matthew Hervey is 23 when we meet him in 1814, one year before Waterloo, on the battlefield in southern France. The highly educated, polyglot son of a parson with vague connections to royalty has just bravely slaughtered a French gunnery patrol, yet has made the mistake of embarrassing a superior officer, General “Black Jack” Slade. Sister Maria, a gorgeous Carmelite nun who’s the daughter of a French count, rebandages Hervey’s wounded leg, then entrusts him with her father’s ring and a pack of letters to deliver to her ancestral home. With Napoleon abdicating, and the delivery accomplished, Hervey returns to England, where Lady Henrietta Lindsay, an old childhood friend, teases him about matrimony with obscure references to Jane Austen novels. He moves with his regiment to Ireland, where he gets in trouble by defending kindly peasants against corrupt British land agents. Lady Henrietta uses her titled connections to save Hervey from Slade’s wrath just in time for the regiment to rush back to the Continent, where Hervey finds himself included in strategy-planning sessions with the stalwart Duke of Wellington, who sends him on a secret mission to contact Prussian forces. After this somewhat wooden, overly chatty adventure, Wellington appoints Hervey as his aide-de-camp, with another mission in store. Some saddle sores from Mallinson’s affection for 19th-century turns of phrase, but, on the whole, a rousing, chastely nostalgic tale of valiant heroism and dashing derring-do.

Pub Date: June 8, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-11114-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1999

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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