Graphic in its violence but rich in history and psychology, this novel is vivid proof that “after the war, sometimes the war...

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AFTER THE WAR

This is a bleak tale of personal vengeance set in Bordeaux, France, where memories of the German occupation remain fresh in the late 1950s as the country faces a new conflict in Algeria.

French writer Le Corre (Talking to Ghosts, 2014, etc.), known for his crime fiction, has the basics of the genre at work here while history supplies characters and motives. Andre Vaillant has returned to his hometown in Bordeaux in 1958 seeking revenge against Police Superintendent Albert Darlac, who betrayed him during World War II. In a plot with several narrative streams and expansive psychological portraits, Le Corre gradually reveals Vaillant’s experiences at Auschwitz and during a postwar period in Paris before he comes home with plans to hurt people tied to Darlac. Vaillant’s son, Daniel, whom he was forced to leave behind during the war, copes with military life in Algeria in some of the novel’s most compelling scenes. At the center of everything is the monstrous Darlac, who controls much of Bordeaux’s illicit activities with favors and sadism, as he did during the occupation, when “all cops were collaborators.” It’s an ambitious work, and Le Corre doesn’t entirely succeed in melding the many parts into a cohesive whole, but even somewhat digressive segments enrich characters and themes. Meanwhile, the police are busy with a string of murders, all blamed on Vaillant but not all committed by him. The other culprit is Darlac, who uses the investigation to mask killings he commits for his personal agenda: one cop, two henchmen, and two people close to home. He also beats and rapes his wife and barely controls his passion for their 15-year-old daughter. His unrelenting cruelty is excessive, as is Le Corre’s prose at times, but the writing is generally high-end noir or better and well served by the translation.

Graphic in its violence but rich in history and psychology, this novel is vivid proof that “after the war, sometimes the war continues.”

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60945-539-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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