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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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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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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...


Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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