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THE BLUE MAIDEN

A twisting narrative of the horrors of patriarchal subordination that will appeal to fans of classic gothic novels.

Noyes’ Nordic gothic follows two young sisters on a small Swedish island shadowed by witchcraft trials four generations earlier.

Berggrund Island in 1825 is a quiet, pious community with a haunting past: In 1675, the village priest coerced two orphans into accusing several women of consorting with the devil in Blockula, the “shadow realm” of an uninhabited nearby island called the Blue Maiden. This kicked off a chain of accusations that culminated in the murders of nearly 30 women. Six-year-old Beata and 10-year-old Ulrika are descendants of the only accused woman spared from death (not by any grace toward her, but because she was pregnant). Their father, Silas, the current priest, is a somber man who dismisses whispers of Blockula as superstition, but Bea and Ulrika become fascinated with witches all the same. This obsession bleeds into the girls’ greatest desire: to connect with their dead mother, Angelique. Both pursuits are forbidden in their father’s home, but, as they grasp at feminine knowledge—rifling through their mother’s things and attempting to cast their own spells—the girls increasingly suspect that Angelique had her share of secrets. It is the arrival of handsome mainlander August that propels the girls into womanhood, a place far less glamorous than they once believed. This debut novel churns with the smell of sea-damp wool, day-old bread, and elderflower-scented smoke. This is a place steeped in tradition, yet, for Bea, who surfaces as the protagonist, “history…is too far removed to feel real. What matters is its lore: Be good, or the witch will take you.” The girls must accept that the hushed stories—the bits of history blotted from the lore—are even more foreboding in their absence. While the narrative is quite fragmentary, Berggrund and its inhabitants are alluring; Noyes’ rich descriptions create a setting that, in all its consuming bleakness, is perfect for a story about the burdens of generational and gendered trauma.

A twisting narrative of the horrors of patriarchal subordination that will appeal to fans of classic gothic novels.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780802162809

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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