The author’s love of 19th-century detail almost buries what should be a vivid adventure tale. Like the wines his characters...

HONORABLE COMPANY

The 19th-century adventures of Captain Matthew Hervey continue as our dashing hero, on a spying mission to India, tangles with bloodthirsty Pindaree raiders, conniving agents of the British East India company, a righteous rajah, and a wild, crashing boar.

Introduced in A Close Run Thing (1999) as a land-based rendition of Patrick O’Brian’s British seafaring Aubrey-Maturin series, Mallinson’s Hervey is a handsome, veddy British cavalry officer in his early 20s whose solid education, gift with languages, and sword-flashing fearlessness atop his faithful steed Jessye, is offset only by a youthful clumsiness: in an early episode here, Hervey knocks himself out when he charges valiantly into a French building and bangs his head on a ceiling beam. He is appropriately timid with women (an aristocratic English lass awaits his return) and also has a healthy conscience: it depresses him to see poor peasants brutally disemboweled, or brave soldiers tortured and mutilated because they happened to be on the losing side. Now, having been made aide-to-camp to the Duke of Wellington after running a crucial mission at Waterloo, Hervey is sent to India to observe the famed Bengal lancers, with instructions to spy on operations of the British East India Company and to destroy evidence of the Duke’s ownership of some politically incorrect income-producing estates. The India Hervey encounters is a dangerously exotic refuge for numerous English misfits seeking to plunder and pleasure their way across the subcontinent. Like the elephant that Hervey rescues from quicksand (thereby endearing himself to the wily Rajah of Chintal), Mallinson mires his hero in discursive mealtime dialogue about cultural and military tedium, then pulls him out at the last minute to hunt boar or help the rajah dispose of his enemies. Action scenes, when they arrive, are expertly detailed, with Mallinson describing battlefield tactics and military uniforms down to the button.

The author’s love of 19th-century detail almost buries what should be a vivid adventure tale. Like the wines his characters so frequently quaff, though, this series will improve with age.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2000

ISBN: 0-553-11134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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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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