Despite being a novel, Proffitt’s book has the potential for being an effective introduction to the complexity and highly...

MANCHESTER BLUFF

A CIVIL WAR NOVEL

Proffitt’s first novel is historical fiction set against the complex social and political conflict that existed during the Civil War.

Jason Alexander is drawn into the center of both the Washington political machinations and Union military action when he is appointed as an agent for the War Department. Detecting and disrupting the Confederate clandestine courier network places him behind the scenes and in the midst of physical confrontations taking place between the two armies. Aspects of the Civil War that are so often ignored by contemporary history books—everything from lack of support by Northern citizens to the inner-workings of Washington politics and the espionage that took place—become a personal perspective through the use of Proffitt’s fictional character. One of the strong suits of this book is the incorporation of minute descriptions of places and common events of the era that lend credibility to the story. The author doesn’t attempt to explain the conflict nor present the overall scope of its battles; he commendably retains a first-person perspective in what is essentially a mid-19th century spy thriller. The story builds logically, but slowly, one short chronological chapter after another. For readers who can devote only a few minutes at a time, this is ideal. The building of suspense could be stronger, but the format works well for developing the network of characters—most of which are historical. The climax comes with a twist that seems more real than most fiction.

Despite being a novel, Proffitt’s book has the potential for being an effective introduction to the complexity and highly personal nature of the American Civil War in a classroom setting—others will find it easy-to-read, escapist literature.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461173625

Page Count: 420

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2011

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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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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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