Don’t miss the exciting conclusions.


The siege of the Dutch city of Breda in the late-16th century near the end of the Hundred Years’ War is the subject of this third installment in Pérez-Reverte’s five-volume saga.

As in its predecessors (Captain Alatriste, 2005, etc.), Íñigo Balboa, teenaged servant and battlefield companion to the eponymous Captain, narrates a tale of violent action and courage under fire engaging enough to have flowed from the pen of another Dumas. At its outset, the adventurous pair have joined Spanish infantry troops fighting in Flanders to wrest possession of a thriving (and strategically located metropolis) from the “heretic” (i.e., Calvinist) Dutch and their allies, and bring it under the control of Spain’s Catholic King Philip II. After a lively beginning, the narrative sputters, as the weight of its author’s obviously considerable research permits Íñigo to overindulge in expository detailing of military, political and religious particulars. Fortunately, his is an energetic intellect, and—like Thomas Berger’s “Little Big Man” Jack Crabb—Íñigo eavesdrops on great men’s doings, and makes his own modest marks on history, first by helping future playwright Calderón de la Barca rescue endangered books from a burning library, later by providing painter Diego Velázquez with information crucial to the creation of the latter’s masterpiece The Surrender of Breda. The author neatly sidesteps redundancies implicit in successive descriptions of not dissimilar battles by focusing on such unconventional matters as burgeoning discontent (and near “mutiny”) among exhausted and unpaid soldiers, a Dutch “challenge” which leads to an episode of “five against five” combat and, through Íñigo’s adoring yet sharp eyes, a powerful indirect characterization of his cynical, war-weary Captain (“sickened with pain and blood”). And there’s some delightful metafictional misdirection in a pair of sly appendices.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusions.

Pub Date: April 5, 2007

ISBN: 0-399-15383-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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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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