A promising debut of interest to students of modern French literature.


Crime and punishment in 1950s Algeria.

Fernand Iveton would never dream of harming a fellow member of the working class. Alas, in an act of sabotage gone awry, he has, though, and he’s been arrested for his troubles. It’s no ordinary arrest, for Fernand, though European, is a prominent figure in the movement to free Algeria from French rule. “Where’s the bomb, you son of a bitch?” an interrogator shouts before punching him so hard that “his jaw makes a faint cracking sound.” Worse is yet to come for him and some of his comrades. Iveton, a real figure executed in 1957, emerges in Andras’ novel as a rough-edged but principled revolutionary, one who “may not have read Marx like the party leaders” but whose commitment to an independent Algeria of “Arabs, Berbers, Jews, Italians, Spaniards, Maltese, French, Germans…” is very real. Fernand doesn’t budge in this commitment in Andras’ slender narrative, and neither does his faithful wife, a Polish immigrant he met in France. Andras’ scenes move back and forth in time and space from Paris and the French countryside to Algiers—in the latter, mostly a dusty prison yard where nothing much happens even as, beyond the walls, French labor unions and leftist politicians agitate for Fernand’s release. Their efforts are in vain: The verdict of guilty “falls like the blade that is now promised to him,” a verdict that Hélène and Fernand accept with grim stoicism. As Andras writes in the afterword to his book, which won the Prix Goncourt for a first novel, the case of Iveton was once so well known that Jean-Paul Sartre wrote a memorial essay about him in Les Temps modernes, and, it’s said, Albert Camus tried to plead for his freedom. It is almost forgotten today, and though mostly affectless in tone, Andras’ novel revives a lost moment in history, neatly bookending Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation.

A promising debut of interest to students of modern French literature.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-78873-871-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.


An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet