A sensitive portrayal and a well-crafted debut.

FREUD'S SISTER

Smilevski creates a fictionalized version of the life of Freud’s sister in a superb debut.

On the brink of World War II, Sigmund Freud receives permission for a chosen group of family and friends to leave Austria for England. Among those he elects to take with him are his doctor and his dog, but Freud excludes his four sisters and assures them that the situation is only temporary. Elderly and in declining health, Paulina, Rosa, Marie and Adolfina are transported with other Jews to a concentration camp, and eventually, they perish in the gas chambers. Smilevski’s award-winning narrative—he won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2010—is translated from his native Macedonian and gives voice to Adolfina. Six years younger and once close to her brother, she is the product of a distant father and a verbally abusive mother who constantly lashes out at the daughter whom she tells should never have been born. Lacking formal education and remaining a lifelong spinster, Adolfina remains in the background and, from her vantage point, offers keen insight into the Freud family dynamics. Her brother, around whom the family revolves, is a genius whose star soars while Adolfina suffers years of neglect (she is, after all, merely a woman), an ill-fated love affair, confinement in a psychiatric clinic, where silence is a prized commodity for Adolfina and her friend Klara, and the responsibility of caring for her aging mother. Based in part on true events, the book probes numerous aspects of psychoanalytic theory through the characters’ conversations, actions and reflections: the psychosexual development of the individual, the nature of mental illness, the roles of the conscious and the unconscious, and religion. Each falls naturally into the narrative and serves to enhance a balanced, provocative and poignant story.

A sensitive portrayal and a well-crafted debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-14-312145-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 22

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more