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

THE WHITE PEARL

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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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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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

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 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

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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

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