Decades later, the Holocaust continues to enslave and inspire the European literary imagination—seldom more memorably than...

GÖTZ AND MEYER

What Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil” is evoked with intensity in the prizewinning Serbian-born author’s previously untranslated 1998 novel.

The title characters are two SS officers who were—Albahari’s unnamed narrator informs us—employed to transport Serbian concentration camp “survivors” by truck to what their passengers believed would be safety (in Romania or Poland) but was, in fact, their deaths—by gas pumped into the truck from its exhaust pipe. These bodies—of women, children and old people who had “escaped” being shot—were then unloaded and buried by other Serbian Jews. This horrific scenario replays itself obsessively in the increasingly unsettled mind of the narrator, a middle-aged teacher of literature who attempts to give his young students a sense of their culture’s tortured history, during a class bus trip that retraces the route of the aforementioned death truck, whose victims included 67 of his own relatives. “For me to truly understand real people like my relatives,” he observes, “I had first to understand unreal people like Götz and Meyer.” In claustrophobic cascading sentences contained in a single unbroken paragraph (a technique recalling that of the great Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard), Albahari’s narrator seeks the human faces of the officious pair who were only following orders; who distributed candy to children they were about to murder; who presumably were themselves loving husbands and fathers, law-abiding citizens transformed by historical exigency into unquestioning, obedient good soldiers. The narrator’s imagination falters, his mind spins out of control into something very like madness and the enigma remains unexplained.

Decades later, the Holocaust continues to enslave and inspire the European literary imagination—seldom more memorably than in Albahari’s brilliantly disturbing novel.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-101141-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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