Hanna’s adventures, based on elliptical hints from the journal of a real-life Swedish madam in 1905 Mozambique, make a story...

A TREACHEROUS PARADISE

The chronicler of Kurt Wallander (The Troubled Man, 2011, etc.) sets his sights on something dramatically different: the African odyssey of a young turn-of-the-century Swedish woman that’s based on facts—just not very many facts.

Five years after her lumberjack father’s death in 1899, Hanna Renström’s mother, Elin, sends the 18-year-old off to businessman Jonathan Forsman’s home in coastal Sundsvall, where the chances of survival look brighter. Forsman not only treats Hanna kindly and respectfully and gives her a job as a maid, but arranges her passage to Australia as a higher-salaried cook on a ship he partly owns. Hanna finds love aboard the Lovisa, but barely a month into her marriage to third mate Lars Lundmark, a fever carries him off. Armed with £50 in widow’s benefits, and lacking any strong ties to the ship or its destination, Hanna decides on the spur of the moment to steal away while the Lovisa is docked one night in Lourenço Marques and runs smack into another world. When she finds that she’s seriously ill, she begs help from women she thinks run a hotel. They’re actually prostitutes in Senhor Attimilio Vaz’s brothel, O Paraiso, and he’s the highest-contributing taxpayer in all of Mozambique. Here, Hanna once again finds unexpected kindness and romance even before she ends up as the owner of O Paraiso, but this time, the world in which she’s landed is shot through with a racism so pervasive that it defines every human relationship, and Hanna’s closest and most enduring emotional connection turns out to be with Carlos the monkey.

Hanna’s adventures, based on elliptical hints from the journal of a real-life Swedish madam in 1905 Mozambique, make a story as magical as a fairy tale and just about as brutal too.

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-96122-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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