Osborne’s efforts are solid, and her book will appeal to both historical fiction buffs and romance enthusiasts alike.

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PARK LANE

Two young women from very different social classes cope with changing conventions and life-altering events in 20th-century England.

Eighteen-year-old Grace Campbell travels to London from Carlisle, a city in the northwest, to find employment as a secretary in order to provide financial assistance for her parents and siblings. But jobs are scarce, and she is forced to take a position as a maid in the Masters household. Unwilling to disappoint her family, Grace feels compelled to lie to her parents and to her brother, Michael, a clerk residing in London, about her circumstances. Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Lady Masters, recently was jilted by her fiance, John, and she is expected to quickly find a new suitor and marry. Although she and Grace are from disparate backgrounds, both girls find themselves chafing at the constraints of traditional society. Bea, caught up in the excitement of the suffragist movement, joins an underground organization that supports suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. Grace engages in an uncharacteristic and desperate act to assist her family and to hide from them the truth about her employment. Meanwhile, Bea becomes involved with a mysterious man who rescues her from potential harm during the violent protests, and Grace is strongly attracted to Joseph, another servant employed by the Masters. But when World War I intervenes, both young women’s lives veer in unforeseen directions, in part due to circumstances over which they have no control, and in part because of the decisions they make. A poignant and fascinating story, Osborne developed the plot for her first novel after researching a book about an ancestor (The Bolter, 2009, etc.). She masterfully intertwines the lives of her heroines with historical events and figures, which lends credibility to the plot and the characters she has created.

Osborne’s efforts are solid, and her book will appeal to both historical fiction buffs and romance enthusiasts alike.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-80328-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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