Predictable WWII romance from the author of, among others, The Fountain (2001).

Teenaged Carrie Benedict says no to a passionate picnic with her boyfriend, a rock drummer, and instead helps her beloved granny, from whom she has inherited an uncanny emotional sensitivity, to clean out the attic. “What a beautiful trunk!,” exclaims Carrie, “I don’t think I’ve seen it before, have I?” Well, no—but the plot device looks awfully familiar. Grandmother Maude Kendall, a venerable goddess with a long, snow-white braid, reaches into the trunk and pulls out a crumbling volume of poetry, given to her by her English husband, in 1938 a don at Oxford, where Maude was studying. She explains to her rapt granddaughter how her lively intelligence and American high spirits captivated the bookish Stephen, unhappily married to the fragile and difficult Helena. But idyllic days of discussing Romantic literature and wandering through quaint English towns (and meeting for clandestine trysts at ye olde inn) soon ended when Hitler began bombing and Stephen joined the Royal Navy’s intelligence division. Very hush-hush—he couldn’t even write or call, lest he reveal where he is stationed. Unable to return to the US, Maude trained as a nurse and coped bravely with the strain of the war. Then one day she received a letter enclosing the last stanza of a poem she and Stephen both loved, which she took to mean that Stephen had forsaken her, as the stag in the poem abandoned the rose. Could it be true? There is no further communication—until a young officer delivers a cryptic crossword (this too is in the old trunk). It holds the clue to a rendezvous at The Rose and The Stag, where the lovers meet again. Helena’s machinations are finally revealed (it was she who sent the confusing stanza) and—oh, no—though Stephen’s wife doesn’t really love him, she won’t divorce him. Can true love eventually conquer all?

Tripe, served lukewarm.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-001397-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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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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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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