WHITE SMOKE

The pomp, circumstance, and ungodly intrigue attendant on the election of a new Pope provide a dramatic setting for this diverting, albeit message-laden, fiction from the prolific Father Greeley (Angel Light, 1995, etc.), It's the near future, and the incumbent Holy Father has gone to his heavenly reward, bringing a flock of cardinals to the Eternal City to choose a successor. Among them is Chicago's Sean, Cardinal Cronin, an influential hierarch who's convinced the Church needs a more liberal, less authoritarian prelate than the late pontiff. While he lobbies fellow electors on behalf of Luis, Cardinal Mendoza of Valencia, his crafty aide Auxiliary Bishop John Blackwood (Blackie) Ryan works the press. Among those Bishop Blackie recruits for the cause are New York Times reporter Dennis (Dinny) Molloy and his estranged wife, Patricia McLaughlin, a gorgeous redhead who is a star correspondent for CNN. But before the progressives can get their man into the Vatican, they must do battle with reactionary forces who will stop at nothing to preserve the status quo. In the meantime, Dinny (whom worldly-wise clerics have prodded along the path toward reconciliation with Patty) is investigating the possibility that an Italian wheeler-dealer may have lost millions out of the Apostolic See's patrimony. Despite the scandal uncovered by Dinny; constant controversy in the media, and ecclesiastic conclaves over sensitive issues (birth control, celibacy, the ordination of women, etc.); a kidnapping; unchristian conduct; and a host of other obstacles, white smoke finally issues from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, signaling a new papacy and, perhaps, a turning point in Church history. Greeley doesn't shrink from using his narrative gifts to promote putatively greater goods, but the agreeable confection here is the easier to swallow for its leavening of cynical, secular takes on the doctrinal and political realities obtaining in one of the world's great religions. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-85814-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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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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An interesting premise imperfectly executed.

THE ORPHAN'S TALE

A Jewish trapeze artist and a Dutch unwed mother bond, after much aerial practice, as the circus comes to Nazi-occupied France.

Ingrid grew up in a Jewish circus family in Darmstadt, Germany. In 1934, she marries Erich, a German officer, and settles in Berlin. In 1942, as the war and Holocaust escalate, Erich is forced to divorce Ingrid. She returns to Darmstadt to find that her family has disappeared. A rival German circus clan, led by its patriarch, Herr Neuhoff, takes her in, giving her a stage name, Astrid, and forged Aryan papers. As she rehearses for the circus’ coming French tour, she once again experiences the freedom of an accomplished aerialist, even as her age, late 20s, catches up with her. The point of view shifts (and will alternate throughout) to Noa, a Dutch teenager thrown out by her formerly loving father when she gets pregnant by a German soldier. After leaving the German unwed mothers’ home where her infant has been taken away, either for the Reich’s Lebensborn adoption program or a worse fate, Noa finds work sweeping a train station. When she comes upon a boxcar full of dead or dying infants, she impulsively grabs one who resembles her own child, later naming him Theo. By chance, Noa and Theo are also rescued by Neuhoff, who offers her refuge in the circus, provided she can learn the trapeze. The tour begins with a stop in Thiers, France. Astrid is still leery of her new apprentice, but Noa catches on quickly and soon must replace Astrid in the act due to the risk that a Nazi spectator might recognize her. Noa falls in love with the mayor’s son, Luc, who Astrid suspects is a collaborator. Astrid’s Russian lover, Peter, a clown, tempts fate with a goose-stepping satire routine, and soon the circus will afford little protection to anybody. The diction seems too contemporary for the period, and the degree of danger the characters are in is more often summarized than demonstrated.

An interesting premise imperfectly executed.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1981-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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