Connie, wife of Nigel Hadley, owner of a thriving rubber plantation in Malaya, is on her way to the country club when she...


An English matron flees the Japanese with her family, in Furnivall’s ripping World War II yarn.

Connie, wife of Nigel Hadley, owner of a thriving rubber plantation in Malaya, is on her way to the country club when she loses control of her car and rams into a native market stand. A Malay woman, Sai-Ru, is fatally injured, and as her daughter Maya and Connie kneel beside her, Sai-Ru curses “the white lady.” This only adds to Connie’s burden of guilt—her recent affair with a Japanese man ended with his suicide. Nigel, a stereotypical stiff-upper-lipped Englishman, has rebuffed his wife’s affections for years. When Connie tries to make amends by employing Maya and her twin brother Razak, Nigel warms to Razak but banishes Maya, whom he’s seen working in a seedy nightclub. When the Japanese invade Malaya the English colonials are woefully unprepared, and British defenses quickly crumble. The Hadleys flee on their yacht, The White Pearl, with fellow refugees, including their son Teddy, wounded Brit flyboy Johnnie, stowaways Maya and Razak, friends Henry and Harriet Court, and, later, Madoc and Kitty, owners of a gambling den destroyed when a deal with the Japanese went south. Skippering is mysterious seafarer Mr. Fitzpayne, who, when safe harbor in Singapore is impossible, leads the group on a search for a small island on which to wait out the war. Although outwardly grateful to Connie, Maya seeks ways to carry out Sai-Ru’s curse: Harriet ingests poison meant for Connie, and an attempt to drown the family dog will alter everyone's fate. Madoc plots to shanghai The White Pearl, 7-year-old Teddy grows up speedily and Nigel is exhibiting an unhealthy fondness for handsome Razak, which, Connie realizes, explains his coldness toward her. However, even as she recognizes his dangerous depths, Connie cannot deny her attraction to Fitzpayne. 

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-425-24100-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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