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NOW WE SHALL BE ENTIRELY FREE

Miller is in fine form here, mixing an unforgettable cat-and-mouse chase with a moving love story.

A British cavalry officer fleeing traumatic memories seeks solace on a Scottish island, but his new refuge may not be remote enough to let him escape a dangerous enemy.

When Capt. John Lacroix returns from the Napoleonic wars in Spain to his Somerset estate, he is broken in body and spirit. It is 1809, and the evacuation of retreating British forces from the port of Corunna is a humiliating defeat. “None of this has the look of victory,” says the doctor treating him. As Nell, the housekeeper, tends his wounds, Lacroix slowly heals physically. But he refuses to talk about his battlefield experiences, saying only, “The war was very hard on horses, Nell.” When he receives orders to return to his regiment, the young man decides to flee, embarking on a journey north to the remote Hebrides, where he will find healing and love with the free-thinking Emily Frend. Traveling under an assumed name, Lacroix is unaware that Cpl. Calley and Lt. Medina, two soldiers, are in pursuit with secret orders to kill him. Calley, who identified Lacroix as the officer responsible for an atrocity in a Spanish village, is remorseless in his hunt. By alternating the narrative between Lacroix and his pursuers, Miller (The Crossing, 2017, etc.) effectively ratchets up the tension and suspense. With a less-skilled writer, naming characters after the officers and soldiers charged in the 1968 My Lai massacre in Vietnam could have come across as a ham-fisted approach, but it’s appropriately chilling in this melancholy portrait of war, culpability, and redemption. The luscious prose (“the mud was liquid clay”) adds to the mood, and Miller’s precise historical details (a horn spoon tucked into an apron pocket) feel organic and real; the author keeps his research well hidden. The dazzling, ambiguous ending will fodder plenty of book-club debate.

Miller is in fine form here, mixing an unforgettable cat-and-mouse chase with a moving love story.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60945-543-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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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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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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