JERUSALEM

Holland is back in the mists of the far past again after her forays into pioneer California (Pacific Street, 1992, etc.). This latest is one of her dark, well-paced, competent re-creations of power struggles among the mighty—here, in the wars between Christians and the Islamic forces of Saladin for control of the Holy Land in the late 12th century. The fictional linchpin in Holland's story of Jerusalem's internal battles and deadly warfare is the Norman knight Rannulf- -illiterate and disliked—who had a religious conversion (after sinful living) and joined the Knights Templar. The leper king of Jerusalem, meanwhile, Baudouin (Baldwin IV), is wise and brave, but he hasn't long to live, and his dearly loved sister Sibylla feels she's destined to be Queen of Jerusalem. Despite her brother's wishes, accordingly, she decides to marry a weak man—Guy de Lusignan—and truly rule. She'll also seek (in vain) to end the war by a summit with Saladin. Eventually, after the death of her child (Baldwin V), Sibylla will indeed be queen. In the meantime, Rannulf fights off physical and verbal assaults and wrestles with his vow of chastity. He and Sibylla have a few fleeting moments of secret love, and a Frankish knight, Rannulf's friend, finds amour in the arms of a nephew of the Sultan. Intrigue and frustrated policy thickenboth in castles and in battleground tentsas powerful nobles like Raymond of Tripoli, the King of Jerusalem, and the Master of the Templars contend. Finally, the Christian forces are defeated at Hattin, followed by a surrender with no mercy as Sibylla weeps at the destruction she thinks she's caused. Again, Holland paints inventively the faded images of real people, convincingly re-creates the sites of ancient Jerusalem, and offers both grue and understated commentary on bloodshed in the place where ``Jesus and Mohammed had stood face-to-face.''

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-85956-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1995

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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