This flapper-era cocktail ultimately has more fizzle than fizz.

THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY

A spunky young woman dances her way up from a job as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel to a chorus girl and beyond during the Roaring ’20s.

Dorothy Lane is not known as Dolly Daydream for nothing. She may be washing clothes at London’s famed Savoy Hotel, but her head is filled with Jazz Age fantasies of appearing in the West End or Hollywood. The hotel is full of celebs and glitterati, the so-called Bright Young People of British society, who fill the bustling ballrooms. In the first of a number of improbably lucky coincidences, Dolly literally bumps into Perry Clements, the brother of Loretta May, her superstar idol, on the street. Shortly thereafter, in another stroke of unlikely good fortune, Perry advertises for a “muse,” and—surprise of surprises!—Dolly coincidentally answers the ad. At 32, Perry’s sister is the breathtaking beautiful darling of the gallery girls, of whom Dolly is one: shop girls and domestics who fill the cheap theater seats and live on tabloid accounts of the stars. Though she's only a few years older than Dolly, Loretta is world-weary, awash in gin and morphine, with secret health issues. In a blend of “Cinderella” and Pygmalion, (spoiler alert, but isn’t it predictable?), Dolly miraculously becomes Loretta’s protégée. Gaynor (The Girl Who Came Home, 2012, etc.), a good storyteller, mars her tale by straining too hard for profundity and relying on hyperbole; Loretta describes Dolly as “the kind of girl one discovers perhaps once in a decade, a rough diamond waiting to be polished and brought out to dazzle for all the world to see.” Though the book more than teases with romance-novel tropes—will Dolly end up with Perry or with her hometown amour Teddy Cooper, a solder broken by the Great War?—the only real romance here is between Dolly and the stage.

This flapper-era cocktail ultimately has more fizzle than fizz.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-240347-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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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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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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