Kosinki’s is a sad tale; he was a gifted raconteur except on the page in his chosen language, a flaw all the more obvious...

JERZY

The rise and fall of novelist Jerzy Kosinski (1933-1991) emerges in an offbeat way through real and imagined figures in his life.

The narrative moves fitfully through Kosinski’s life in five chapters that almost reluctantly form a mosaic of the whole man. The long opening section, the most charming of the quintet, touches on the entire span and the main characters that will follow. But it’s dominated by Peter Sellers and narrated by the actor’s driver as they seek an audience with Stan Laurel, dally with Lord Snowden and Princess Margaret, and then, for six years, pursue Kosinski’s blessing to let Sellers play the character Chance in the movie version of Being There. Charyn (A Loaded Gun, 2016, etc.) gives a chapter to Stalin’s daughter, who in fact lived next door to Kosinski in Princeton, looks into his strange marriage to an alcoholic heiress (her late husband changed here to the fictional Petroleum Jelly King), and revels in a dominatrix calling herself Anna Karenina who helps Kosinski, a patron of sex clubs, find the ideal editor. For a time, Kosinski was a darling of New York society, famed for colorful tales of his boyhood in wartime Poland—a period covered in the last chapter—and a serious artist, winning the 1969 National Book Award for Steps. Then came the 1982 Village Voice article that exposed his poor English skills and total reliance on the rewriting of secret editors. Charyn refers to the problem often—often enough to raise the question of how much schadenfreude is operating here.

Kosinki’s is a sad tale; he was a gifted raconteur except on the page in his chosen language, a flaw all the more obvious when conveyed through Charyn’s resourceful imagination and always-colorful, punchy, provocative prose.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942658-14-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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