Unequal to Scott’s best work (The Manikin, 1996, etc.), but her voice remains one of contemporary fiction’s most eloquent...

LIBERATION

Scott continues to swim against the literary mainstream with her seventh novel, set on the island of Elba and in the mind and memory of an elderly Italian-American woman.

In 1944, she was ten-year-old Adriana Nardi, the sheltered daughter of a wealthy family whose comfortable estate (“La Chiatta”) was a safe haven during climactic battles between Nazi and Fascist troops and the Allied armies pledged to liberate Elba (a storied place known as Napoleon’s place of exile). In the present day, she is Newark matron Mrs. Robert Rundel, who on the day after her 70th birthday, suffers a pulmonary embolism while aboard a train approaching New York’s Penn Station—as she indulges emotional reminiscences of that long-ago “liberation.” Scott juxtaposes expertly the thoughts of impulsive young Adriana and those of the Senegalese soldier she finds, hurt and hiding: Senegalese teenager Amdu Diop, who had become separated from his regiment, and who is—at Adriana’s urging—given shelter at La Chiatta. It’s a rich premise, but the story’s action lags for too long behind redundant (albeit vivid and credible) declarations of Adriana’s adoring fascination with the dark exotic stranger, and Amdu’s charmingly naïve envisionings of himself as a potential humanitarian and savior (perhaps even a saint), whose ineptness as a fighting man threaten his exile from the virtual Eden that is liberated Elba. The narrative is enriched by Scott’s renderings of the thoughts of intelligent Nardi matriarch Giulia and of her inanely self-centered brother Mario (whose actions precipitate tragic misunderstandings). But similar use of Mrs. Rundel’s fellow train passengers amount to no more than pointless distractions. Amdu and Adriana are nevertheless powerfully appealing figures, and they alone (and together) make this ungainly novel well worth reading.

Unequal to Scott’s best work (The Manikin, 1996, etc.), but her voice remains one of contemporary fiction’s most eloquent and essential.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-01053-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more