Readers who appreciate historical fiction will find much to like, and if Goldstein could apply the same level of ability to...


Two historians journey to France to find a mysterious village with ties to historic Jewish persecution in Goldstein’s (Princess of the Blood, 2007, etc.) new novel.

When Professor Henry “Henner” Marcus receives a letter from his cousin Nina who disappeared five years ago, he has acute misgivings about traveling from Chicago to Toulouse with a large sum of money, as per Nina’s instructions. But Henner’s strong sense of family and academic curiosity drive him to commit to the adventure. When Nina finally shows herself, Henner is drawn further into the mystery through a codex allegedly written by Dina, a Jewish woman who founded a community high in the Pyrenees Mountains that has retained its isolation over the centuries; it is Valladine—the place where Nina was born during her parents’ escape from the Nazis and where she returns as an adult when she abandons her academic career. Henner and Nina’s friend Etoile set to the task of translating the codex while Nina returns to her adopted medieval village, where she may face punishment for removing the document. Parallels and reflections abound among the several interwoven plot lines: Dina’s story, Nina’s story, Henner’s family history and contemporary events. Goldstein—historian, literary translator and editor—shows a talent for making historical events feel relevant and alive. Dina’s story is captivating; Goldstein describes the various settings—a mountain village, a forlorn jail cell—with prose that is both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually satisfying. She wavers, however, on her more contemporary subjects. She uses the same language when following Henner, Etoile and Nina on their travels through 1970s France and America as she does when describing the 1300s. Even their conversations sport a pedantic tone with a liberal peppering of highbrow vocabulary; the result is a constant, solemn cadence that grows heavy-handed over 400 pages.

Readers who appreciate historical fiction will find much to like, and if Goldstein could apply the same level of ability to her modern-day characters as she does to her historical figures, the book may find a broader audience.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450251082

Page Count: 412

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2010

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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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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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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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