Dense and lush, filled with lyrical storytelling.

THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN

Miracles, poetry and guerilla fighters march through the 20th century in De Robertis’ winning debut, a beautifully wrought novel of Uruguay.

On the first day of every new century, the village of Tacuarembó witnesses a miracle. Jan. 1, 1900, brings a baby found in the treetops; as she flies down to the arms of her grandmother she also finds her name: Pajarita, little bird. A few years later, Venetian immigrant Ignazio Firielli falls in with a troupe of magicians touring the countryside. He is thunderstruck by Pajarita, marries her a few days later and sweeps her off to Montevideo. Ignazio begins wandering, drinking, whoring and gambling their money away, so Pajarita supports their children by mixing herbal remedies, first for the women of her neighborhood, then for the whole city. When their daughter Eva is ten, Ignazio takes her out of school to work in a shoe shop, where the owner regularly rapes her in the storeroom on top of the shoe boxes. She finally escapes to La Diablita, a restaurant filled with revolutionaries and writers, and decides while waiting tables there to become a poet. Eva moves to Buenos Aires with her childhood friend Andrés, but he mysteriously disappears. She meets and marries Dr. Santos, who introduces her to a life of ease in a city dominated by the Perons and their promises. Eva gives birth to Roberto, Salomé (whose delivery is aided by Ernesto Guevara) and hundreds of poems; when Argentina becomes too dangerous to write, love or breathe in, she returns with her children to Montevideo. There she encounters a woman named Zolá, who turns out to be Andrés after surgery, and the two fall in love. The final section follows Salomé and her involvement with the Tupamaros, a revolutionary faction that attempted to overthrow Uruguay’s dictatorship. Tortured and imprisoned for years, Salomé returns to freedom and a transformed Montevideo in the novel’s heartbreaking closing pages.

Dense and lush, filled with lyrical storytelling.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-27163-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2009

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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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