Funnier and nastier than the two earlier volumes but still lukewarm and without much fizz.

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THE NEW COUNTESS

Weldon (Long Live the King, 2013, etc.) completes her Edwardian trilogy, a lightweight amalgam of Downton Abbey and her own Upstairs Downstairs, as Lord and Lady Dilberne prepare for a visit from King Edward VII.

Three years have passed since the last installment. Edward, now king, has invited himself and his entourage, including his mistress, to the Dilberne estate for a hunting weekend, much to Lady Isobel Dilberne’s chagrin. Since Lord Robert is actively involved in the government now, not to mention with his new mistress, she is the one who is burdened with installing new plumbing and heating and completely redecorating their large but antiquated home. At the moment, son Arthur, the car enthusiast, is living at the estate with his wife, Minnie, and their two young sons. Arthur married Chicago-born Minnie for love, not the money she stands to inherit from her rich but crude Irish-American parents, and despite knowing she was an “experienced” bride. But, devoted to his auto manufacturing company that has yet to produce a commercially viable vehicle, Arthur now takes Minnie for granted. Lonely, homesick for the United States and oppressed by Lady Isobel’s interference in her children’s upbringing, Minnie assumes the worst when she walks in on Arthur with a female journalist in an apparent state of undress. Minnie decamps to stay with Arthur’s sister Rosina. Recently returned from Australia a wealthy widow, with her finished manuscript on the sexual habits of the Aborigines ready to publish, Rosina has joined the literary and sexually liberated set on Fleet Street, Weldon’s satiric swipe at the Bloomsbury crowd. Will Minnie succumb to the temptations of Fleet Street or reunite with Arthur? Will Rosina find passion with her editor’s sister? Will Lady Isobel become romantically involved with the handsome, much younger police inspector assigned to arrange security in preparation for the royal visit? Will that visit end in triumph or disaster or both?

Funnier and nastier than the two earlier volumes but still lukewarm and without much fizz.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-02802-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2013

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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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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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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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