A certain age, acutely observed.

A CERTAIN AGE

A tale of Manhattan society in the Jazz Age, spiced liberally with secrets and scandal.

Williams’ latest opens with a dispatch from “Patty Cake,” a jaded society reporter from a New York paper, covering a “Trial of the Century” in Connecticut. We don't yet know who's on trial, but two of the women in the courtroom that day take up the narration of events that led to this pass. Theresa, a 44-year-old Fifth Avenue socialite, and her lover, Octavian, 22, are surprised in the carriage house of her Long Island estate by her brother, Edmund Jay "Ox" Ochsner, who reveals his intention to marry 19-year-old Sophie Fortescue, youngest daughter of the so-called Patent King, an entrepreneur and inventor who made his fortune as his nickname suggests. The Fortescue millions will assure financial security for this pedigreed but cash-poor bachelor gadabout. There follows a retelling of Der Rosenkavalier for the Roaring '20s. Octavian, a World War I flying ace whose war wounds are mainly mental, is enlisted by Theresa to act as cavalier for Ox, delivering a rose-shaped engagement ring to Sophie at her father’s unassuming home on 32nd Street. The two young people are smitten, but Sophie agrees to the engagement to please her father, who wants a traditional family life for her, although her real desire is to exercise her own mechanical aptitude. Meanwhile, Theresa learns that her marriage of convenience is coming to an end—her husband wants to marry his mistress. Now the way is clear to wed Octavian, except that the cavalier’s affections have shifted. Sophie is repelled by Ox’s dissolute, gin-swilling ways, his peppermint hair oil, and his boorish attentions. Testimony at trial recalls a Greenwich, Connecticut, house once occupied by a mechanic, who disappeared with his two daughters after his wife was found murdered. Chapters oscillate in time, ending on cliffhangers that can be jarring, but this novel is mainly propelled by its period-perfect prose style.

A certain age, acutely observed.

Pub Date: June 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-240495-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A breezy tale perfect for a day at the beach, this one’s a real winner.

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THE HATING GAME

Lucy Hutton absolutely detests her office mate Joshua Templeman. He’s a pompous, self-important, obnoxious ass. But, she’s got to admit, he is pretty cute.

From the moment they meet, a result of the unwelcome corporate merger between their employers, Lucy and Joshua are at odds. Joshua is assistant to the CEO of what was once Bexley Publishing, a numbers-crunching, foosball-playing frat house–cum-business. Lucy is assistant to the CEO of the now-defunct Gamin Publishing, a Birkenstock-clad, free-flowing commune of literary purists. When the two companies begrudgingly become one, so does the executive suite. Thus begins this hate-at-first-sight romantic comedy. Lucy and Joshua’s daily interactions include the staring game, the mirror game, and the HR game, each played with the intensity of the Hunger Games. Their mutual antipathy grows when a new executive position opens at Bexley-Gamin Publishing and both Lucy's and Joshua’s bosses think their protégés would be the perfect choice. Here the high-stakes game begins. After yet another 60-hour work week, which now includes prepping for upcoming interviews, Lucy logs off of her computer (Password: IHATEJOSHUA4EV@) to head home, but not before her rival hops into the elevator with her. When Joshua hits the emergency button and stops the ride, Lucy is certain her nemesis is going to kill her. Instead, he plants a (completely consensual) kiss on her that awakens something she hadn’t known existed. Debut novelist Thorne delivers something nearly impossible: an entirely predictable plot that is also completely fresh, original, and utterly charming. From the opening page, readers will know the outcome of Lucy and Joshua’s relationship, but what happens in between is magic. From Lucy’s hilarious inner dialogue to Joshua’s sharp retorts, the chemistry between them is irresistibly adorable—and smokin’ hot.

A breezy tale perfect for a day at the beach, this one’s a real winner.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-243959-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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