SHARPE'S REGIMENT

Seventh volume in the Richard Sharpe Napoleonic Wars saga, about a former enlisted man who won a battlefield commission at the battle of Talavera in 1809, has spent six volumes fighting the Peninsular campaign in Spain and Portugal and has at last, under Wellington, invaded France in mid-1813. Sharpe is now a major, but attrition has reduced his famed South Essex regiment to half. strength, and no replacements are being sent to the regiment's Spanish bivouac. What's worse, news is that his South Essex regiment soon will be disbanded and his battle-seasoned troops drawn off into other regiments. This is too much for Sharpe to bear, especially since his regiment was distinguished for capturing the first eagle insigne from a French flag in the war against Napoleon. Accompanied by his faithful Irish giant Sergeant Harper, Sharpe sails to England to find out for himself the best way to snatch his regiment from the jaws of bureaucracy. A companion regiment stationed in England, from which he had hoped to draw troops, suddenly doesn't exist—except on paper. Everywhere that Sharpe hunts for it proves a blind alley. Somebody is carrying on a tremendous cover up and milking the War Office for gold to support a literally invisible regiment. To find out where this hidden pool of troops might be, Sharpe and Harper strip themselves of their uniforms and pass themselves off as old soldiers ready to reenlist in the missing regiment. A recruiting sergeant, in a dreadfully oppressive scene, indeed signs them up along with other recruits and ships them off to boot camp, This turns out to be a hidden mudhole on Foulness island, where Sharpe and Harper go through weeks of brutal training as recruits. Eventually, they escape from the island and pursue the trail of graft into the highest levels of the court before returning to their regiment with the needed troops and gearing up for the invasion of France. Livelier than usual, in fact quite original in that Sharpe gives up his command and finds himself in the foulest, pest-ridden depths of army life.

Pub Date: July 1, 1986

ISBN: 0140294368

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1986

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A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

CODE NAME HÉLÈNE

A historical novel explores the intersection of love and war in the life of Australian-born World War II heroine Nancy Grace Augusta Wake.

Lawhon’s (I Was Anastasia, 2018, etc.) carefully researched, lively historical novels tend to be founded on a strategic chronological gambit, whether it’s the suspenseful countdown to the landing of the Hindenberg or the tale of a Romanov princess told backward and forward at once. In her fourth novel, she splits the story of the amazing Nancy Wake, woman of many aliases, into two interwoven strands, both told in first-person present. One begins on Feb. 29th, 1944, when Wake, code-named Hélène by the British Special Operations Executive, parachutes into Vichy-controlled France to aid the troops of the Resistance, working with comrades “Hubert” and “Denden”—two of many vividly drawn supporting characters. “I wake just before dawn with a full bladder and the uncomfortable realization that I am surrounded on all sides by two hundred sex-starved Frenchmen,” she says. The second strand starts eight years earlier in Paris, where Wake is launching a career as a freelance journalist, covering early stories of the Nazi rise and learning to drink with the hardcore journos, her purse-pooch Picon in her lap. Though she claims the dog “will be the great love of [her] life,” she is about to meet the hunky Marseille-based industrialist Henri Fiocca, whose dashing courtship involves French 75 cocktails, unexpected appearances, and a drawn-out seduction. As always when going into battle, even the ones with guns and grenades, Nancy says “I wear my favorite armor…red lipstick.” Both strands offer plenty of fireworks and heroism as they converge to explain all. The author begs forgiveness in an informative afterword for all the drinking and swearing. Hey! No apologies necessary!

A compulsively readable account of a little-known yet extraordinary historical figure—Lawhon’s best book to date.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54468-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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