Historical fiction that focuses less on history and more on those who survive it.

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THE COST OF COURAGE

One British navy family faces the horror of two wars, forcing father and son apart—and down similar paths.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Courtland is a loyal member of the British Royal Navy, a renowned hero who was thought to be the only survivor of the HMS Valor during World War I’s Battle of Jutland. But this experience has taken a toll on his mind, leaving him unable to adapt to life ashore or even connect with his children Anna and Brent, with father and son growing especially cold toward each other. Despite this distance, Brent shares his father’s passion for the sea and joins the navy himself, eventually coming to command a submarine at the outbreak of World War II. His reputation as a bold leader brings him notoriety and Brent is soon called upon to undertake a secret mission, one which will expose him to the horrors that scarred his father. Cordaro’s debut is well-researched and highly readable, blending historical fiction with military drama while providing a detailed look into British naval service during the early-to-mid 20th century. The novel’s primary focus is Brent’s military career, and there is some repetition in the younger Courtland’s earlier trials, including his constant clashes with higher ranking officers. This could have been more compelling if Brent was occasionally wrong in his protests, but his “wise-beyond-his-years” foresight and sense of justice isn’t developed realistically through mistakes or experiences, making them feel innate instead of a product of his growth. This perfection is thankfully tapered by his pigheadedness when it comes to the elder Courtland, and the discord with his father is an ever-present thread that holds the story together so that even when the two are not interacting their relationship is always in the background. The appearance of Winston Churchill is one of the novel’s high points, and his portrayal is handled with an honor and humor befitting the man’s legend.

Historical fiction that focuses less on history and more on those who survive it.

Pub Date: March 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456339951

Page Count: 321

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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