Weldon plugs in historic figures like Lord Balfour and Lady Marlborough and some interesting bits of Edwardian social...


Weldon’s second installment in the Edwardian trilogy (Habits of the House, 2013) again revolves around deciding who is to receive prized invitations, this time to Edward VII’s 1902 coronation.

Robert, Earl of Dilberne, and his wife, Lady Isobel, again hold center stage. Son Arthur is now happily married to Chicago heiress–with-a-past Minnie, who has not quite adjusted to British aristocracy. Suffragette daughter Rosina, a spinster at 31, is still hobnobbing with intellectuals and idealists. Having recovered his fortune with the help of his Jewish financial advisor Mr. Baum, Sir Robert has become prominent in ruling circles and will participate in the coronation being organized largely by Lord High Steward "Sunny" Marlborough, nicknamed for his unsunny demeanor, and Lady Marlborough, nee Consuelo Vanderbilt. When Consuelo offers Robert three extra tickets to the big event, Robert plans to give two of them to Mr. Baum and his cultured wife, Naomi (who talks about Zionism with Lord Balfour), evidence that the Baums are rising in society since it was a mere dinner invitation that Isobel resisted offering last go-round. But in a fit of jealous pique over Robert’s apparent intimacy with dashing young Consuelo, Isobel rashly sends the tickets to Robert’s estranged younger brother Edwin, an eccentric minister who lives in miserly religiosity with his wife and ethereal 15-year-old daughter, Adela. Isobel regrets her decision immediately, but the invitation has been mailed. Meanwhile, tragedy befalls Edwin and his wife, Elise, and Adela, scheduled to enter a convent, disappears. As the coronation approaches, Isobel struggles to cover her mistake.

Weldon plugs in historic figures like Lord Balfour and Lady Marlborough and some interesting bits of Edwardian social history and manners, but as a work of fiction, this entry is less than compelling.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02800-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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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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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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