Ambitious and demanding; one of a kind.


A woman comes of age—and then ages—against the backdrop of a changing France.

When we meet Simone Clermont (nee Vidal, soon to be Melville), she has returned to her mother’s guesthouse, now a mother herself, leaving her engineer husband behind in Istanbul in order to protect their baby from the fevers that are going around in Turkey after the First World War. She is restless and unfulfilled, though not without appetites, and when Jacques Melville and his old university friend arrive at the Vidal doorstep seeking a room for the night, the course of her future is set in motion. What begins as an affair—both of them are married—gives way to an all-consuming passion and then a bohemian life together in Paris, Simone as the mistress, Jacques slow to disentangle himself completely from his wife. But even when they do marry, Jacques remains removed and unknowable; they are simultaneously deeply intimate and total strangers to each other. They are devoted but not faithful, parts of themselves and their lives untouchable by the other. Simone will be active in the French Resistance and witness the unspeakable; Jacques will take a mistress; Simone will find comfort in sex with other, also-unknowable men. But the men—and not just one-offs, but the ones who matter, Jacques and Simone’s late-in-life lover, Pierre, and even her beloved son, Marcel—are peripheral to the novel’s primary relationship, which is between Simone and herself. Finger’s writing about the female body—not the experience of looking at it but the experience of having one—is visceral. And it is that body—lush, pregnant, starving, aging, ailing—that is the driving force of Simone’s life. The rich poetry of Finger’s (Bone Truth, 1994, etc.) language sometimes veers toward the overwrought—occasionally, it feels like the novel may buckle under its own weight—but the book’s originality, and its boldness, makes it impossible to turn away.

Ambitious and demanding; one of a kind.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941026-74-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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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. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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