Often engaging historical fiction that entertains and informs.

DELTA: The Men

From the The Delta Series series , Vol. 1

DeVille’s debut novel, the first in a planned series, is an expansive, detailed history of post-World War I Louisiana as told from the perspective of a principled reporter.

Newly returned from Europe after covering the war for a Maryland-based journal, Teophile Landry (“Téo” for short) finds his native Louisiana in a major state of upheaval. Prohibition has hit, the fight for universal suffrage is raging, labor unions are finding major, sometimes-violent resistance, and panics over Communist infiltration are becoming the norm. Theodore Roosevelt has just died, Helen Keller is a national figure, and Huey P. Long and J. Edgar Hoover are just beginning to rise in their respective professions. Téo takes all of this in while pursuing his new assignment—following Louisiana gubernatorial hopeful John Parker on the campaign trail. His world is populated by a diverse group of friends, including sax-playing dentist Sal and his Italian family; Paul and Emma and their two children, an African-American family trying to start a new life in New Orleans; and Jane, an advocate for women’s suffrage. DeVille has researched every last detail of this world to give readers an immersive experience. They are exposed to the music, movies, and technology of the era, and most extensively, the politics of the day. It’s centered in Louisiana but DeVille manages to provide a global perspective by having Téo follow world events throughout. That’s mostly a strength but it can be a weakness; in parts, DeVille simply lists headlines and short news items for pages at a time and the narrative starts to drift a bit too far from Téo and the main action. The book also gets into the minutiae of Parker’s campaign, including near-transcripts of Téo’s interviews with the candidate. DeVille balances that element with personal stories, however, such as Paul and Emma’s troubles when their former lives come calling.

Often engaging historical fiction that entertains and informs.

Pub Date: May 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-49-497631-6

Page Count: 470

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

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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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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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