The history and thoroughly believable up-and-down career of an early Nazi fall victim to a strange ”what if?” anticlimax....


An early Brownshirt gets involved with Hitler’s niece and alters the course of history.

National Socialism’s lean days in the 1920s, when the party wasn’t yet just Hitler, provide the background for this debut from Newsweek International senior editor Nagorski, whose nonfiction The Birth of Freedom (1993) dealt with eastern Europe’s reemergence. Here, young Berliner Karl Naumann drifts away from the wreck of a household haunted by the death of his older brother in the Great War and by an abusive father. In the chaos wreaked by that war, the handsome and uneducated but intelligent youth is just confused enough to drift to the National Socialists, attracted by the party’s patriotism and dedication to the little man. Influenced by real-life party activists Otto and Gregor Strasser, Karl finds family feeling and a mission in the Free Corps, a paramilitary organization run by Otto that, as the S.A., would become part of Hitler’s organized thug troops. Karl is happy to leave Berlin and the scene of his young sexual frustrations in order to be closer to the heart of the party in Munich. There, in a city much more attractively German than polyglot Berlin, Karl becomes involved with Sabine, a pretty, nonpolitical nurse, and works his way from the fringes of the party to real activism as a Youth Corps leader. Hitler is very present, and Karl sees much of him, observing and sometimes falling victim to the future Führer’s magnetic oratory. But the oratory is less compelling than the attractions of Geli, the daughter of Hitler’s half-sister and a permanent attachment of the household. There are camping trips with the jugend and communist-bashing sessions with the S.A., but even though Karl marries Sabine, his heart is less and less in the party and more and more obsessed with the luscious Geli—as, it becomes obvious, is her creepy half-uncle.

The history and thoroughly believable up-and-down career of an early Nazi fall victim to a strange ”what if?” anticlimax. (For another fictional rendering of Hitler’s “love” affair with the gorgeous Geli, see Ron Hansen’s Hitler’s Niece, 1999.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-7432-3750-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2002

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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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. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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