The writing is only serviceable, but this jam-packed narrative unfolds at a brisk clip—even if, in the end, the convoluted...

THE ADDRESS

Historical fiction meets real estate porn in this tale revolving around Manhattan’s storied Dakota apartment building.

Davis (The Dollhouse, 2016) tells two, eventually intertwining, stories that take place 100 years apart. In 1884, Sara Smythe is head housekeeper at London’s Langham Hotel when she accepts an offer to work at the Dakota, just opening in the wilds of Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The very notion of upper-class families living in shared space had been considered gauche, but the Dakota—a “communal living experiment,” as one of the characters puts it—becomes a showpiece for affluent families who can’t afford a Fifth Avenue mansion. In 1985, New York City interior designer Bailey Camden has just been sprung from rehab only to learn that her former employer doesn’t want her back. She gets a commission from her friend Melinda (a sort of relation—but that’s a long story), who owns an apartment in the Dakota. Unfortunately, Melinda’s renovation ideas are painfully out of step with the Gilded Age grandeur of the building. Back in the 1880s, Sara gets involved with married architect Theodore Camden and winds up in an insane asylum on Blackwell (now Roosevelt) Island. The real-life pioneering reporter Nellie Bly engineers her release, and Sara returns to the Dakota only to be accused of a grisly crime. Bailey, meanwhile, stumbles across some strange artifacts at the Dakota that will link her, inextricably, to Sara. Though her characters lack depth, the author does a good job showing how tough it could be for women in the 19th century. At the same time, the historical asides about old New York and the Dakota’s beginnings are fun to read.

The writing is only serviceable, but this jam-packed narrative unfolds at a brisk clip—even if, in the end, the convoluted plot turns have a dizzying effect.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4199-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

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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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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