A standout among the many novels set in this world-changing era.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

READ REVIEW

ALL THAT LINGERS

Wittig’s decades-spanning historical novel set mostly in Vienna takes us from the 1930s to the 1970s, detailing the fallout from WWII.

We start with three women—Emma Huber, Greta Bruckner, and Léonie Salzmann—who have been fast friends since grammar school. Emma’s fiance, Theo, is killed early on in an uprising in Austria, and Emma has a miscarriage and cannot bear more children. Greta marries Otto Bruckner and has a daughter, Sophie. Léonie is married to Josef, a doctor, and their daughter is the lively Valerie. By the late 1940s, only Emma is alive of the three women. For villains, we have Greta’s mother-in-law, the grasping Elsa; her sister-in-law, the vain, shallow Marion; and Marion’s husband, Friedrich, Graf von Harzburg. All of these characters are thrown into the cauldron of Hitler’s rise, the war itself, and the struggle to rebuild their world and come to terms with the evil at the root of it. Novelist Wittig has a gift for character development and for pacing. She takes her time, raising this story to the deserved level of saga. It is Emma who holds the book together, and there are many more characters than mentioned above. Friedrich is an especially fascinating piece of work. All he has in life is his aristocratic lineage (“Graf” is the equivalent of a count) and the concomitant style and manners. And the Bruckners have money, so it is the ultimate marriage of convenience. He does great damage, not so much because he is immoral but because he is amoral, morally lazy—as he would be the first to admit. The story plumbs deep sadness. At one point, Emma wonders, “Didn’t God ever have enough of death?” There are saving graces, too, including a young British army officer and a kind doctor.

A standout among the many novels set in this world-changing era. (afterward)

Pub Date: March 20, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 409

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more