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RAILROAD SCHEMES

An unlikely banditry duo—a 30ish Irish ÇmigrÇ and a 15-year- old girl who packs a Remington and reads Jane Austen—profit (and lose) in the 1850 railroad wars: Holland's latest gritty, action- thumping tale set in Old Los Angeles (Pacific Street, 1992, etc.). Lily Springbreeze Viner, motherless daughter of a small-time gambler and crook who taught her to shoot but wouldn't allow her to go to school, cherishes her books more than anything else, books that tell her there's a kind of life other than robbing and running. In Nevada territory, when a stagecoach job is planned with red-haired King Callahan, Lily agrees to play a part as long as there's no killing—despite the fact that she'll be riding in the coach with one-armed Brand, the shrewd and dangerous Railroad agent. A killing does take place, and, later, mean Dad gets his—as Lily is snatched away by King, who, to his own surprise, knows he'll take care of her. And eventually, in ``Sonoratown,'' a community of Mexican/Californians, Lily warms up to King. There, in the household of a cantina owner, the widowed Serafa, and her daughters, she finds a home. King and Serafa also have a smoldering affair. Serafa's late husband was a partner of King's, but now she wants King to live a steady, lawful life. Meantime, Brand, treated badly by the bigwigs of the Railroad (though he loved ``the spirit, the sheer will that blasted tunnels through mountains'') is on King's trail. There are minor jobs and a big one looming, but can King—product of a cruel childhood and son of a father hanged for poaching—really ``dance without the storm''? At the close, there are more killings, a tragic resolution, and Lily galloping off alone as Brand ``keeps hold on her with his eyes.'' A rousing, companionable tale with attractive people, full of dash, thundering hoofbeats, and clattering wheels on new-forged rails.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-86405-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

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. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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