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PHARAOH

VOL. II, KLEOPATRA

Though Kleopatra sometimes gets lost in all the mayhem and machinations, she is still, with Essex’s provocative take, a...

In a follow-up to Kleopatra (2001), Essex again gives the Egyptian queen a feminist tweak in detailing both her love affairs and her accomplished statecraft.

Though the evidence is thin, Essex is persuasive that Kleopatra was not an evil seductress, but rather an able ruler, good mother, and devoted wife. The story picks up as the young queen, evading her enemies, arrives back in Alexandria, and, rolled up in a carpet, meets Julius Caesar. The two are soon lovers as well as strategists and intellectual soulmates: Caesar admires her mind, and Kleopatra, believing that an alliance with Rome will help Egypt, deliberately becomes pregnant. She bears a son, Caesarion; travels to Rome with Caesar; and is there when he’s assassinated. Escaping the subsequent power struggles, she returns to Egypt and continues her enlightened rule, doing all she can to ensure the survival of Caesarion, now Caesar’s only remaining child. When, in the tenth year of her reign, she decides that Mark Antony could be an important ally for her in securing Egypt’s alliance with Rome, she gains not only a political partner but also the love of her life. Charming and handsome, Antony, who has defeated Caesar’s assassins and now shares the rule of Rome with Octavius and Lepidus, is at the height of his powers. The two marry, she bears him three children, but life for ambitious queens and Roman generals is always perilous. In the 20th year of her rule, they must contend with Octavius, who is ruthlessly eliminating all those opposing his ambition to be emperor. When Antony and Kleopatra’s forces are defeated at Actium, the end is inevitable. Even then, Essex suggests, Kleopatra acts as much out of a desire to protect her children and kingdom as out of grief.

Though Kleopatra sometimes gets lost in all the mayhem and machinations, she is still, with Essex’s provocative take, a woman as remarkable as the great men who loved her.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2002

ISBN: 0-446-53025-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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

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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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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