by James W. Nichol ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 22, 2009
The long-awaited climax, though heart-rending, is too anticlimactic to resolve the knotty problems the story has posed. But...
Slow-motion calamity awaits a girl in occupied France who falls in love with a member of the occupying army.
Adele Georges is only looking for news of her father, a Popular Front organizer who’s vanished from Arras, where he served in the medical corps. Manfred Halder, the sympathetic clerk who tries to help her get information, is only looking for a separate peace that doesn’t involve combat. But Rouen in 1941 is neither the time nor the place for these star-crossed lovers. For three years Adele struggles to keep her affair from both the Gestapo and her brother René, who’d think nothing of killing the German corporal who seduced his sister. The Allied invasion of 1944 promises liberation for her country but a fresh round of misery for Adele, reviled as a “horizontal collaborator” and torn from her family, home and lover, who’s been shipped to the Eastern Front. Nichol (Midnight Cab, 2004) presents the can’t-miss melodrama of Adele’s futile search for Manfred and her suffering as she caroms from one horror story to the next with an eye as sensitive to petty humiliations as to life-changing catastrophes, and the result is an odyssey as piercing in its details as it is familiar in its outline. Interspersed flash-forwards to the little town of Paris, Ontario, in 1946, add an additional layer of doom with the discovery of a human finger, then the decaying corpse it belongs to. Who is the man who’s been shot execution-style, and how is his fate connected to Adele’s? Suspense mounts as local police chief Jack Cullen makes the obligatory round of inquiries and Adele’s marriage to a troubled Canadian veteran draws the two stories inexorably together.The long-awaited climax, though heart-rending, is too anticlimactic to resolve the knotty problems the story has posed. But Nichol makes a persuasive case that it couldn’t possibly have done so no matter what.
Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2009
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Pub Date: March 10, 2015
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015
Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.
In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014
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