Umansky’s richly textured and peopled novel tells an emotionally and historically complicated story with so much skill and...

THE FORTUNATE ONES

A missing painting connects the lives of Rose, a woman who escaped the Holocaust as a young girl, and Lizzie, a 37-year-old lawyer whose father just died.

After Rose’s parents put her and her brother on the Kindertransport from Vienna to England in 1939, she never saw them again. Also gone was The Bellhop, a painting by the expressionist Chaim Soutine. Over the years that followed, both Rose and The Bellhop separately found their ways to Los Angeles. The painting was purchased from a New York gallery by a wealthy eye surgeon named Joseph Goldstein, displayed in his steel-and-glass mansion overhanging a ravine in Los Angeles. When his daughter Lizzie, then 17, threw a wild house party when he was out of town, the painting, as well as a Picasso sketch, was stolen. Rose’s husband read of the theft in the paper; she contacted Joseph. But Lizzie and Rose do not meet until Joseph’s memorial service. By then, Lizzie’s life has been as shaped by the missing Bellhop as Rose’s has—for both, the painting’s departure from their lives coincided with a brutal loss of innocence. Lizzie is powerfully drawn to Rose, trying to build their coincidental connection into a real friendship over coffee dates and movies, and you can see why. Despite all her losses—on top of the Holocaust, her adored husband has recently died—Rose is an elegant, smart, utterly direct woman who loves the films of Roger Corman, tolerates no fools, and has strong opinions on everything. Her boyfriend is a Bruce Springsteen maniac. It is his offhand question about the insured value of the stolen artwork that drives Lizzie back into the investigation. A few of the plot developments at the end of the book are a little awkward, but when’s the last time you read a novel that didn’t have that problem?

Umansky’s richly textured and peopled novel tells an emotionally and historically complicated story with so much skill and confidence it’s hard to believe it’s her first.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-238248-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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