An ambitious and lush tale set during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

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A BUFFALO SOLDIER'S STORY - SESQUICENTENNIAL EDITION

Rogers (The Laced Chameleon, 2014, etc.) tells the story of a runaway slave–turned–Buffalo Soldier in this historical novel.

When his father is gunned down during a Union raid on a Confederate supply caravan, young Isaac Rice is understandably distraught. And yet he is fascinated that the Union soldiers conducting the raid are men like him: Gullah-speaking slaves from South Carolina’s rice plantations. Inspired by their changed lots in life, Isaac knows he must join the Union cause. With newfound certainty, he tells his sweetheart back on the plantation: “I’ma run t’night.” Isaac works his way up through menial positions in the Army until after the war, when he receives a proper assignment: he is to be a member of the new 10th Cavalry Regiment of Buffalo Soldiers. This role will take him to the frontier and America’s new conflict: not one between North and South, but one for the West, where blacks, whites, Native Americans, and Mexicans are scrambling to build a future—or to hang on desperately to a fading past. Surrounding Isaac is a cast of characters that offers other perspectives on these tumultuous times: Billy Duke, a dedicated Confederate guerrilla who keeps the war going long after the South surrenders; Rachel Black, a former slave who attains an education and battles her way to Mississippi’s postwar Constitutional Convention; Ortega, an Apache warrior who wants nothing more than to drive the whites away from his land; and Alejandra Luna, a Mexican exile seeking a new life and medical career in the United States. Rogers shrewdly balances the multiple points of view and is not afraid to complicate the reader’s understandings of the ways in which race and gender functioned during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Thoroughly researched and studded with historical cameos—both famous and obscure—the novel succeeds in its attempt to paint an accurate picture of the period. While the author’s desire to cram in as much history as possible sometimes exacts a toll on the story’s momentum and character development, the book as a whole is an impressive feat of historical fiction, offering many traditionally underrepresented perspectives in a sprawling work of love and warfare.

An ambitious and lush tale set during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63490-696-8

Page Count: 516

Publisher: Booklocker

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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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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