Intriguing wartime tale well-told and cleverly plotted in an authentic historical setting.

A Tale of Life & War

A college student learns respect from a military veteran in author Morin’s debut novel.

At the University of Maine at Orono, procrastinating senior Matthew Switzer struggles to write a paper on the American GI experience in Europe. Michelle Kessler, an attractive coed, suggests he meet with her grandfather Henry “Hank” Mitchell, a former lieutenant and fighter pilot in the Army Air Forces during World War II. Initially, Matt asks some rather inappropriate questions—How many Germans did you kill? How many of your friends were killed in combat? What was it like to see your friends die?—that offend Hank: “This isn’t research,” he says, “it’s just plain disrespectful, morbid curiosity from a child who has no more concept of that time period than a garden slug!” After admonishing Matt, Hank tells of his participation in a top-secret mission in May 1944, one that took him over the English Channel into occupied France to destroy enemy targets, including a Nazi bunker. Hank and his fellow recruits had doubts about the poorly conceived mission; crew members weren’t even allowed escape kits in case they were stranded behind enemy lines. After crashing, Hank was welcomed by kindly French farmers, the Tessiers, who hid him from the Germans in Jolieville, Normandy. Eventually, Hank was captured and interrogated by SS officer Steinert, a self-declared British double agent who facilitated Hank’s escape into hiding with the LeBlanc family: lovely Pauline and her three brothers, all dedicated members of the French Resistance. As the weeks passed, Pauline and Hank grew closer, but he distrusted Steinert, who pumped him for details about the Allied invasion. This stirring wartime account of the impending D-Day features solid dialogue and careful plotting, an exciting air battle sequence, and effective use of period detail, as with, in a pivotal scene, a phonograph loudly playing “The Flying Dutchman” by Richard Wagner, a favorite composer of the Third Reich. Matt’s pre-graduation jitters as he moves from disrespect to admiration provide an entree to the past. But this is Hank’s story, tangled as it was with Steinert’s, whose psyche was split by conflicting loyalties. As sole survivor of a top-secret military mission, Hank found himself in the unenviable position of being distrusted by the Allies, an unfortunate coda for his sacrifice and service.

Intriguing wartime tale well-told and cleverly plotted in an authentic historical setting.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63381-006-8

Page Count: 571

Publisher: Maine Authors Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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