The injustice here has an immediacy; the tale itself feels part of legend.


An Italian family goes from poverty to prosperity and then to infamy in this brisk account of the persecution the Mafia brought to 1920s Italy, based on a true story.

Luigi Sacco is a day laborer in rural Raffadali who, by dint of his brains, hard work, and wish to make a family with the woman he loves, becomes a prosperous landowner with a large family. The Saccos are socialists, so all their advancements are done with an eye toward bettering the lots of those around them. When his son, Giovanni, sees a way to make a profit by replacing the horse-drawn cart that provides the only transportation to the provincial capital with a bus, he goes into partnership with the driver of the cart so as not to put him out of a job. It's not the Saccos' politics that the local Mafia can't abide so much as the money the family is making. Luigi's refusal to accede to extortion results in a decadeslong war, with family members dying, sons having to live as outlaws, and the dissipation of the Saccos' fortune. The local law is of no help, as the Mafia controls the police, judges, and the outcomes of most trials. The story reads like a researched version of a folk legend handed down over generations. The people are not fully developed characters as much as figures standing in for their fates—which is not a criticism but exactly what is to be expected when a story is told in this way. That doesn't keep the reader from longing for a bit more dramatization or, at least, the audiobook, where the right narrator could give this appalling and tragic story the fabulist element it needs.

The injustice here has an immediacy; the tale itself feels part of legend.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60945-423-4

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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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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