The book's visual and verbal components combine to make a narrative of definite—if slightly generic—charm while hinting at...

THE WAR BRIDE'S SCRAPBOOK

In her second fictional scrapbook, Preston (The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, 2011, etc.) uses real "scraps" she’s collected to magnify the effect of WWII on a newly married couple.

The war bride of the title begins her scrapbook in the fall of 1943 when her husband leaves for active duty 20 days after their first meeting. In her first section, “Life Before Perry,” bride Lila uses magazine art, advertisements, a business card, and whatever else can be pasted down to illustrate her childhood as the bright, chubby, “bossy” daughter of middle-class parents in prewar Charlottesville, Virginia. Her upwardly striving mother sends her to posh Sweet Briar, a Southern women’s college near Lynchburg, to make “the right connections”; in reaction, Lila pastes a photo of an unhappy grad with the found caption “I Flunked in Romance.” Although a senior seminar sparks an interest in architecture, she returns home to work in her father’s car insurance business. With headlines from LIFE and Charlottesville’s Daily Progress announcing the war, Lila takes a job at the university’s Bond Drive office, begins sharing a co-worker’s apartment, and loses weight. Ads for shorter skirts and rye crisps display 1940s style in the shadow of war maps. Perry answers Lila’s ad for a new roommate, and the “Our Romance” section begins. Despite his UVA architecture degree and acceptance to the graduate program at Harvard Design School, Bostonian Perry has enlisted in the Army. Movie tickets, recipes, and architectural sketches trace the couple’s platonic first two weeks. Then come the kiss, proposal, and elopement, highlighted by a copy of Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice column against furlough marriage. A short, passionate honeymoon complete with naked sketches follows. Then Perry’s off to Europe. “Life Without Perry” follows the couple’s predictable correspondence—each facing challenges and evolving in ways that will prove consequential—within the context of war memorabilia that WWII enthusiasts will gobble up. Perry’s “Homecoming” is understandably bittersweet.

The book's visual and verbal components combine to make a narrative of definite—if slightly generic—charm while hinting at darker depths under the entertaining surface.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-196692-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

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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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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