A CHANGE OF CLIMATE

Acclaimed British novelist Mantel (An Experiment in Love, 1996, etc.; see below) offers a provocative take on men and women of goodwill side-swiped by unsuspected evil and betrayal in places as far apart as Botswana and England. The story, moving between the past and recent present, is a cautionary, compassionate tale of a model family almost destroyed by its secrets. At the start, Ralph Eldred has just learned that sister Emma, a doctor, has had a longtime affair with the married and recently deceased Felix. Ralph, whose life has been spent helping ``sad cases and good souls,'' is shaken by this ``failure of self-knowledge.'' As a young man, his wealthy and devout father forced him to give up his plans to study geology and to work instead at the inner-city mission. When offered a posting to South Africa, Ralph accepted because it would take him far away from his father. He marries Anna, as principled as he, and they settle into mission life. It's now the early 1960s, apartheid's apogee, and the two routinely confront police brutality and corruption. They become activists, eventually find themselves imprisoned, and then, released from jail, accept a remote posting in Botswana, where Anna gives birth to the twins Kit and Matthew. Later, a malevolent servant stabs Ralph and abducts the twins. Only Kit is found. Back in England, Ralph and Anna have more children but never tell them about the lost baby. Kit, however, now a college graduate, is troubled by dreams of Africa; Anna, still heartsore and angry over losing her child, feels alienated from Ralph; son Julian is adrift, and Ralph himself finds his charity work meaningless. He himself now slips into an affair, discovery of which finally provides a necessary catharsis. Emotions are vented, secrets revealed, and the family's love and faith are found to be stronger than suspected. A subtle exploration in vividly detailed settings of the complex workings of the hearts of well-intentioned people. Intelligent and moving.

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-5205-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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