An intriguing, addictive peek at the early 20th century with two strong female protagonists.



This first installment of a historical fiction trilogy traces the fortunes of four close friends who meet in Paris in 1900.

In the winter of 1966, Isabelle Lavigne, a 26-year-old French reporter, arrives on Blackwater Island in Maryland. She is there to learn the truth about the mysterious drowning of her grandmother Suzanne de Lamothe in 1919. She is seeking answers from Suzanne’s best friend, American artist Jennie Latmore. For Jennie, now 82 years old, reliving the past is traumatic, and she refuses to answer Isabelle’s questions—until the young woman shows her a damning little red book and several photographs found in her mother’s trunk. Jennie relents: “To understand…You must know it all from the beginning, as I lived it and as it was told to me.” The narrative then jumps back to 1900, and an enthusiastic 16-year-old Jennie arrives in Paris to begin her tenure as assistant governess for the children of the new American ambassador to France. Her roommate in the servants’ quarters is the equally young Suzanne, a French scullery maid. Despite a confrontational start, the two become fast friends. When the ambassador holds a dinner party, Jennie and Suzanne watch from the second-floor landing, catching the eyes of two handsome, fun-loving guests, French painter Geste D’Arcourt and British sculptor Charlie Clark. Through the complicated relationships of these four protagonists—and the forces that send them, reluctantly, in different directions—Peake (Arbutus Halethorpe and the Elevator Murders, 2018, etc.) vividly brings readers back to the first few years of the 20th century. From the Bohemian Left Bank in Paris (where readers meet Matisse and Picasso) to the great expanses of the American Southwest and the horrors of the Boxer Rebellion in China, the four friends struggle against societal mores, personal frailties, violence, and tragedy. The engrossing melodrama is marred only by some editing mishaps (“It made her she had a leg up on her”). Still, four well-developed characters, numerous supporting players, and meticulous lifestyle depictions should keep readers engaged.

An intriguing, addictive peek at the early 20th century with two strong female protagonists.

Pub Date: March 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-980639-76-3

Page Count: 488

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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