SHARPE’S HAVOC

Isolated but far from impotent, Sharpe and his trusty riflemen hold off vast Napoleonic forces in the Portuguese wine country.

With years to go before the Corsican Menace is safely quarantined, there is never any doubt but that intrepid, supremely resourceful Richard Sharpe, amiable hero of 18 previous outings (Sharpe’s Prey, 2001, etc.), will prevail, though Cornwell, always using good history and always explaining where he has fantasized, never fails to engross and beguile. Sharpe is every gentle reader’s secret vision of his or her own self: the victim of idiotic superiors, the idol of his troops, unsure of his place in the world, utterly sure of his place in battle. And doesn’t he go to the loveliest places! Now he’s in greater Oporto, home to the great red wine and the great English red wine–exporting families, where Bonaparte’s troops threaten the city and such lovely citizens as Kate Savage, heiress to House Beautiful and a port fortune, who has disappeared. Sharpe is on the scene because he and his riflemen have been cut off from their battalion and because shrewd Captain Hogan needs him around for the odd commando task. In this case, the task is dual: find Kate and keep an eye on a certain slippery Colonel Christopher. Hightailing it out of the city as the Emperor’s troops invade, Sharpe is witness to the disastrous collapse of a bridge and is near victim himself of a French ambush. His bacon is saved by a band of Portuguese irregulars led by Lieutenant Vicente, a young philosopher-lawyer-poet learning army tactics on the fly. Sharpe and Vicente’s united little bands find their way to Kate Savage’s country estate, where Kate is about to marry the perfidious Colonel Christopher. How perfidious? Not only has he arranged a bogus wedding mass, but he’s busy playing off subfactions of the French against each other. Fool that he is, the Colonel, like the French, fears nothing from the obviously ill-born Lieutenant Sharpe.

The best stuff.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-053046-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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