Still, a spellbinding depiction of the hardships faced by a woman fighting her own war of independence.

SEVEN LOCKS

As the Revolutionary War looms, a colonial wife struggles to survive after her husband wanders away.

The unnamed principal narrator of Wade’s first novel was born into privilege, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and shipbuilder. Her mistake is her marriage to a feckless man who uses her dowry to buy a remote farm at the foot of the Catskills. After fathering two children, a son (also unnamed) and a daughter, Judith (a secondary narrator), the husband grows increasingly recalcitrant and balks at doing any work. The wife takes up the slack with her Dutch work ethic, but her nagging (the local townsfolk will gossip) finally drives the husband off. Leaving one day in a huff with his dog, Wolf, the husband disappears into the vast wilderness surrounding the settlement. The dog returns alone, and a search by neighbors proves fruitless. Finding that she is pregnant, the woman enters the woods to seek an abortion remedy from Indian women. For the next seven years, she works and manages the farm with only her two children as helpers. She trades butter and cheese at the village market, but no one buys her sausage. Gradually, her children learn the reason she is ostracized by the village: Not only is she a reputed shrew, she is rumored to have murdered her husband and ground him into wurst. Judith, eager for knowledge, is the protégée of the local schoolmaster, while her brother grows increasingly withdrawn. When war comes, the small family scatters in three directions. The last section of the novel, narrated by Judith, who has been far more fortunate in her marriage, skirts direct revelation of what befell her father. According to Wade’s afternote, the narrative is the back story of certain Washington Irving tales. Her decision, however, to substitute Judith’s generalized observations on mythmaking and legend for a detailed explanation of the father’s disappearance, is unfortunate.

Still, a spellbinding depiction of the hardships faced by a woman fighting her own war of independence.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7470-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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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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