by Cormac James ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2015
Meditative and spare, this is not a fast read but one worth the effort: underneath all the ice, there is real emotional...
An Arctic expedition gets stuck at sea with a pregnant woman hiding onboard in Irish author James’ hypnotic North American debut that’s less a high-stakes adventure than a slow-burning psychological study.
In 1850, a European crew sets off toward Arctic waters in search of Sir John Franklin’s recently lost Northwest Passage expedition. The dangers involved for Lt. Morgan and his crew are clear: the water could freeze around them; the boat could be crushed by the ice. They could get lost—there’d be no one to rescue them. When a broken rudder forces the crew to stop at an island off the coast of Greenland for repairs, Morgan finds himself involved with the local governor’s sister, Kitty, a woman trapped by the island and desperate to escape. Their courtship, if it can be called that, is a cold one, and when the rudder is fixed, Morgan has no intention of looking back. But once the ship is again at sea, one of the crew makes a discovery: Kitty has stowed herself away on the boat—and she’s pregnant with Morgan’s child. There's little feeling between them at first: for all practical purposes (save one), the two are strangers. But as Kitty’s pregnancy progresses and Morgan comes to terms with his impending fatherhood, he begins to see her—and himself—in a new light. James expertly captures both the terror and the overwhelming boredom of sea life, of being stuck in the ice, of having nothing to do but the monotonous and sometimes impossible task of staying alive. Cold and unmoving at the start, James’ characters—Morgan and Kitty, the ship’s doctor, the cook, the elderly captain, and all the rest—slowly become fully, tragically human.Meditative and spare, this is not a fast read but one worth the effort: underneath all the ice, there is real emotional depth.
Pub Date: June 2, 2015
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Review Posted Online: March 20, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015
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
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014
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by Madeline Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
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New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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