A rich tale set in the underexplored Wilhelmine Germany.

ALL THINGS THAT DESERVE TO PERISH

A NOVEL OF WILHELMINE GERMANY

In this historical novel, a young Jewish musician navigates the pressures of love and intolerance in fin-de-siècle Germany.

Berlin, 1896. Promising young pianist Lisi von Schwabacher has just returned home from three years of study in Vienna. Her great talent—as well as her father’s banking fortune—quickly attracts suitors, including Wilhelm von Boening, the son of a count who owes Lisi’s father quite a bit of money, and the widower Prince Egon von Wittenbach. But Lisi is not impassioned by the idea of settling down as a wife, especially since modernity is quickly supplying alternate models for how to exist as a woman in society. Her father’s cousin Countess von Kalckreuth, for example, is wealthy, unmarried, and a well-known hostess of salons—a remarkable position of independence and prominence for a Jewish woman. Lisi wants to be modern as well, leading a life built around art and ideas rather than her ability to bear children or finance a husband’s pursuits with her father’s money. With this in mind, she begins an affair with the poor but handsome Wilhelm even though she has no intention of marrying him. At first it is exciting, but a pregnancy soon reveals her incautious fling to be a life-altering error. Her options are not as clear-cut as they may seem. First of all, Lisi is convinced that Wilhelm is much more interested in the von Schwabacher fortune than he is in her. Second, her father’s warning about the latent anti-Semitism of gentile suitors continues to ring in her ears: “It’s always the same story. These noblemen who marry Jewesses want only their money, and not their children.” Can Lisi still carve out the life she imagined for herself, or has she fallen into one of the many traps laid by a society eager to squash the ambitions of both women and Jews?

Mack’s elegant prose summons the era by evoking the literature of the time period. Readers can be forgiven for thinking they are perusing a genuine Victorian novel: “This encounter, the first since the final lunch at Kleinneubach, deeply unsettled Boening. For several minutes after it, he felt a dull heat rising and falling in his innards, as well as a mental haze so acute that he was beset with the impulse to shake his head free of it.” The book often makes use of letters, which are both linguistically convincing and quivering with intimated desires. Lisi is a character worthy of Edith Wharton, compellingly driven and finely flawed. Her Jewish background, paired with the German setting, lends additional dimensions to what might otherwise be a fairly conventional bit of historical fiction. The supporting characters are also drawn in enticing detail, transcending the archetypal roles they fill as relatives, friends, and potential lovers, particularly Lisi’s parents, Magnus and Susannah, and her cousin Klara. Mack succeeds in delivering the two primary expectations of this sort of novel: Readers will be thoroughly immersed in the time period and fully invested in the fate of its hero.

A rich tale set in the underexplored Wilhelmine Germany.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73530-260-7

Page Count: 345

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

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TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW

The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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DEMON COPPERHEAD

Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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