A complex, compassionate novel about Germans coming to terms with their actions during WWII.
A Nazi official, his wife, and a traveling performer struggle to rebuild their lives in the immediate aftermath of World War II in Kosack and Overmann’s historical novel.
With “the chaos of the Nazis” behind him, former Gestapo higher-up Franz Tegge must now “survive the peace.” After he turns himself over to the Americans, he’s plucked from a POW camp by the U.S. Army’s secret service, which enlists him to track down fellow Nazis trying to evade capture by leaving Berlin. As Franz keeps tabs on his former colleagues, his wife, Mathilde, performs forced labor with other Nazi wives, clearing away rubble for long hours, clambering over “fragments of cobblestones left by burned-out tanks, eviscerated cars, tipped over advertisement pillars.” She brings her measly rations home to her extended family, including her own two children; her sister, a pious pastor’s wife; and her sister’s two kids. On a dare, two of the youngsters climb a bombed-out apartment building, and tightrope walker Camillo Baumgartner saves Mathilde’s eldest, Karla, from falling to her death. His act of generosity sparks a slow-burning flirtation between him and Mathilde, as well as plenty of raised eyebrows from neighborhood gossips, who disapprove of Germans socializing with “Gypsies.” Keja, a performer in Camillo’s troupe, likewise objects to the budding romance; however, she soon finds out that Camillo’s involvement with the Tegge clan may have less to do with his love for Mathilde than his past with Franz. As they use elements of classic melodrama, the authors sometimes let their prose overheat: “Irrational, powerful fear tore at Mathilde’s stomach as her fear became a fear of fear itself.” For the most part, though, the duo’s English-language debut finds emotional resonance in even its smallest details, such as a 2-year-old fast asleep despite the thunder of bombs outside his door or a starving teenager relishing her first piece of spearmint gum. Although the Franz and Camillo chapters push the narrative forward, Mathilde is the novel’s emotional core—a multifaceted woman who’s all too aware that her “dread over what Franz had done” casts a shadow over her choices.A complex, compassionate novel about Germans coming to terms with their actions during WWII.
Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014
Page Count: 390
Publisher: Rockstar Publishing House
Review Posted Online: March 30, 2015
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Mark Z. Danielewski ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2000
The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...
An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.
Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad. The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized). As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses). Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture. Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly. One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.
Pub Date: March 6, 2000
Page Count: 704
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000
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by Sally Rooney ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2019
Absolutely enthralling. Read it.
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New York Times Bestseller
A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!
Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.Absolutely enthralling. Read it.
Pub Date: April 16, 2019
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019
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