An unusual historical novel not soon forgotten.

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A MATTER OF LOYALTY

Two outsiders and a monstrous dictator deal with tumultuous world events.

Beginning with the oft-rumored escape and survival of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, this novel twists and turns through some of the most significant historical events of the 20th century. Under the watchful eye of the sympathetic Count Carl Zurofsky, the girl, now known only as Anna, grows up in Romania. All the while, her country and birthright face upheaval and strife as history takes its course through world war, revolution, advancement, and tyranny. Both Anna and Carl are point-of-view characters, offering perspectives as outsiders, victims, and recipients of dramatic legacies. In fact, Carl’s family descends from Count Dracula, a history that stains him even as it inspires him to do good from the shadows. But since both Anna and Carl are somewhat removed from the centers of power they might otherwise occupy, the novel offers readers the perspective of none other than Stalin himself as he shapes history and is shaped by it in turn. The industrial backdrop of Russia’s five-year plans stands in stark contrast to the wild, pastoral beauty of Anna’s new surroundings. At the same time, her discovery of love and forgiveness is vastly different from Stalin’s struggles with power, corruption, and the fragile nonaggression pact he strikes with Germany on the eve of World War II. Logan (Time Is of the Essence, 2008, etc.) approaches this historical novel with a surprising poetic flair. The character perspectives switch back and forth frequently, although the engrossing narration does sometimes linger on one setting over the other when history demands a longer, more thorough treatment of a particular time or event. Meanwhile, the prose is flexible, readily shifting between traditional, effective dialogue and more verselike descriptions, making reading it a new experience. Fans of historical fiction may find the novel’s creative liberties a little fanciful or its short length insufficient to convey the temporal details common to the genre. But if readers keep an open mind, they’ll be treated to a lyrical, character-focused journey into events and figures rarely humanized in fiction.

An unusual historical novel not soon forgotten.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4917-5094-0

Page Count: 196

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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