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KÜNSTLERS IN PARADISE

Dreamy, drifty, and droll, studded with lush botanical description and historical gems. Schine’s many fans will enjoy.

The plight of Jewish intellectuals evicted from their homes by Hitler meets the plight of Los Angeles families trapped in their homes by the pandemic.

“ ‘I do not believe in life after death,’ Mamie said. ‘I sometimes have trouble believing in life before death: it is all so improbable.’ ” With her usual bounty of witticisms and aperçus, Schine takes on the recent plague year from the perspectives of two protagonists. Mamie Künstler is a 93-year-old violinist who came to Los Angeles from Vienna in 1939 with her parents, Austrian Jews who became fixtures in the Hollywood émigré community. Eighty-some years later, Mamie lives in a bungalow in Venice with her long-time companion, Agatha, “a person of indeterminate age and indeterminate nationality whose job description was both indeterminate and, as far as Julian could tell, all-encompassing.” Julian is Mamie's grandson, age 24. When we meet him, he is lolling around New York pursuing esoteric hobbies, such as transcribing the screenplays of Kurosawa. Desperate to jump-start his life, Julian’s parents send him to the West Coast to help Mamie, who has recently fractured her wrist, and Agatha, whose driver’s license has been suspended. Not long after Julian arrives, he’s trapped by lockdown. “I’m terrified, pissed off, and bored,” he tells his grandmother. “That is a perfect description of my childhood, Julian. Uncanny.” As the relationship between the two develops, as the rhythms of quarantine take over, including the ubiquitous “jingling tray” of the cocktail hour(s), Mamie begins to share the stories of her youth, which feature well-known real people such as Otto Preminger, Arnold Schoenberg, and, most importantly, Greta Garbo. Meanwhile, Julian is awarded a pandemic romance, allowing Schine to revisit the unpleasant social rituals of 2020 and ’21 with characteristic wryness: “With the languorous timing of a stripper, Sophie detached one elastic from one ear, the other elastic from the other ear. She batted her eyelashes at him, then slowly, slowly lowered the mask as if it were a veil, an exotic veil.”

Dreamy, drifty, and droll, studded with lush botanical description and historical gems. Schine’s many fans will enjoy.

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 9781250805904

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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