A well-drawn exploration of the untold stories of A Christmas Carol.

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The Life and Times of Bob Cratchit


A pastiche novel dramatizing the life of the harried clerk from Charles Dickens’ beloved 1843 novella.

Distler’s debut is a lean, surprisingly muscular reimagining of Dickens’ work from the narrative focal point of Bob Cratchit, the clerk in the firm of Scrooge & Marley who defended Ebenezer Scrooge’s outrageous behavior. The author fills in a brief back story, showing Cratchit as hailing from Bristol, England, and seeking his fortune in London. He eventually clerks for Scrooge and Jacob Marley for 15 shillings a week as he begins a family and watches it grow larger and happier. That joy is starkly countered by the atmosphere in the office, where he must deal with his miserly, inhuman masters, both of whom Distler subtly and intelligently brings to life—Scrooge as the colder and more implacably intellectual of the two (only warming for an instant when remembering his late sister) and Marley as the louder, more volatile one. The latter is prone to rages that are intriguingly prompted, in part, by his awareness of his wandering attention and focus. During one of these tirades, he actually strikes Cratchit—and later shortly but earnestly apologizes; Scrooge offers momentary sympathy but then orders him back to work. (Cratchit’s reflexive “Your servant, Mr. Scrooge” is met throughout the book with growled variations on “Yes, yes, you are, and best you don’t forget it!”) Distler indulges in a less-than-successful supernatural plotline that parallels the goings-on in A Christmas Carol. However, her evocation of Victorian London is superb, and her portrayals of Scrooge and Marley simultaneously humanize them and underscore their bitter savagery. Likewise, the story’s most pleasing innovation is in how it adds nuance to Dickens’ fairly one-dimensional version of Cratchit. Distler wonderfully details the clerk’s work tedium, his home life, and even the mundane details of a filthy, bustling London in this intriguing companion to an immortal classic.

A well-drawn exploration of the untold stories of A Christmas Carol.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4849-3235-3

Page Count: 212

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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

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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