An amuse-bouche filled with secret ingredients, covert liaisons, and hidden compartments.

COOKING FOR PICASSO

In 1936, young Ondine Belange’s parents give her a mission: deliver lunch daily from their Café Paradis to a reclusive man renting a nearby villa. They swear her to silence, for the patron’s name is Pablo Picasso.

Picasso has fled Paris, his wife, and mistress for the picturesque countryside of Juan-les-Pins. Ondine soon finds herself swept up in the artist’s adventures, meeting Matisse and Cocteau; witnessing jealous fights between Picasso’s mistresses; posing for a series of portraits; and even taking him briefly as her lover. He sees her as an artist in her own right—a culinary artist. Yet Picasso disappears just as suddenly as he appeared, leaving Ondine more passionately awakened to the possibilities of her own life. Her parents have unfortunately arranged a marriage that will secure their business but personally disappoints her. Luckily, Ondine’s long-lost true love, Luc, returns in the nick of time to sweep her out of France. They land in New York, opening their own successful restaurant and raising their daughter, Julie. Years later, Julie gives her own daughter, Céline, Ondine’s notebook of recipes, a letter written the day of Céline’s birth, and clues suggesting that Picasso left Ondine more than memories—perhaps a painting was hidden among Ondine’s effects! A little sluggish at first, with chapters told from a wide-eyed young Ondine’s perspective, Aubray’s story picks up the pace and ratchets up the tension when Céline’s dastardly stepfather and twin half siblings enter the picture. Determined to cut Céline off from any inheritance, they machinate devious obstacles to keep her from her mother, setting in motion a quest for the missing Picasso worthy of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. As with any good quest, the heroine finds love along the way, too.

An amuse-bouche filled with secret ingredients, covert liaisons, and hidden compartments.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-17765-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more