by Jennifer S. Brown ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 5, 2016
A cleareyed view of the sharp, difficult choices facing women on the cusp of equality.
In 1935, as women in America strive for the rights to work, to vote, and to lead independent lives, a Jewish mother and daughter face unwanted pregnancies.
In her debut novel, Brown deftly sketches the historical context of two Lower East Side women’s domestic tribulations, alternating between their stories, reflecting upon the social consequences faced by women in different generations. A familiar nausea dismays Rose, who thought she was finished with childbearing. Who will take care of Izzy, Alfie, and Eugene, not to mention her husband, Ben? Her eldest, Dottie, has always been a second mother to the younger boys. But Dottie could be a working girl. She’s a whiz with numbers and could even go to accounting school someday with the money Rose has squirreled away. Yet Dottie, just promoted to head bookkeeper at Dover Insurance, feels her own dress growing ever tighter. She can’t ignore the signs of pregnancy, which will throw a real wrench into her plans to marry Abe Rabinowitz, her devout and devoted boyfriend. If only Abe hadn’t been so devout, he might have accompanied her to Camp Eden 12 weeks ago, and she might not have found herself in the arms of another man. Things clearly went too far, and now she faces the challenge of seducing Abe, pushing for a quick marriage, and convincing him the child is his. But Abe isn’t cooperating. Will Dottie let Rose arrange an illegal abortion for her? Or will Dottie return to the arms of Willie Klein, the handsome journalist? Willie, however, has a wandering eye, and his career aspirations include traveling to Europe, despite the rising threat of war. Or will Rose find another way to save her daughter’s future?A cleareyed view of the sharp, difficult choices facing women on the cusp of equality.
Pub Date: April 5, 2016
Page Count: 384
Publisher: New American Library
Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016
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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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by Madeline Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
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Best Books Of 2018
New York Times Bestseller
A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.
“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.
Pub Date: April 10, 2018
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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