Where the classic Radetsky March could woo any reader with its breadth, insight and humor, this novel offers a sentimental...

THE HUNDRED DAYS

Sympathy for characters vies with purplish prose and blaring symbols in this reimagining of Napoleon’s brief resurgence after his first exile.

Roth (Joseph Roth: A Life in Letters, 2012, etc.) focuses on the period (actually 111 days) between Napoleon’s triumphant return to Paris from banishment on Elba and his defeat at Waterloo, imagining a great man moving toward his downfall. In this slim historical novel, the author dwells on the Corsican’s solitude, ambitions and shifting emotions in two sections, while two others concern a palace laundress named Angelina, also Corsican, who is infatuated with the emperor and whose aunt tells fortunes for the great man. Napoleon has an encounter with the washerwoman that leads to an almost-tryst, as well as two brushes with her son, a drummer boy in the army. The second of these, on his final battlefield, is, like many of the book’s stronger scenes, damp with bathos. Angelina briefly interrupts her adoration of the man, “so great that everything in the world was his,” to dally with the “world of sabres, spurs, boots and woven braid” in the person of “the magnificent Sergeant-Major Sosthene,” a comic giant and the drummer boy’s dad. She will also find refuge during the Elba days in the bed of a kind Polish cobbler with a wooden leg. Aside from reviewing his troops, studying his maps and visiting his mom, Napoleon does little until his coach ride to Belgium and flight to the Atlantic and his last jailers, the British. Roth dwells at length on his solitude and his consciousness of time running short. Ticking clocks and trickling sand in “an hourglass of polished beryl” are less than subtle reminders of “his enemy, Time.”

Where the classic Radetsky March could woo any reader with its breadth, insight and humor, this novel offers a sentimental miniaturist painting soppy little scenes that maybe only a Roth completist will appreciate.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2278-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more