1260 TO 1265

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Ashe brings her expansive, intricately worked saga on Simon de Montfort to a tragic, juddering close.

His knees, ankles and shins may have been shattered by Henry III’s rack, but Simon’s spirit remains unbroken. Like moth to flame, he is drawn back to the political maelstrom in England. Henry, whom Ashe portrays with consummate skill—describing the “flaccid drapery” of his palsied face and his neurotic breakdown into a haggard, gray cadaver—has turned the barons against Simon but has been unable to quell the populace, who has risen in revolt. To Simon’s utter dismay, the cult of him as the angel of the Lord who will usher in a just new age has taken hold. He protests that he wants only to secure the Provisions of Oxford, not grab England’s crown, but no one believes him. The novel’s arresting central tension emerges from the increasingly poisonous face-off between Simon and Prince Edward, whose treachery and ruthlessness is matched only by his strapping beauty. When jeering Londoners empty their chamber pots onto Queen Eleanor’s head as she travels down the Thames, Edward swears revenge. Camp Simon is initially victorious at Lewes, but in the 1265 Battle of Evesham they are fatally outnumbered. As the archbishop prophesied, Simon and his eldest son are slain on the same day, with Simon’s body being brutally mutilated. Miraculously, from under his headless torso a spring begins to gush, validating the widespread belief that he was indeed a saint. Ashe’s belabored detailing of petty campaigns and aristocratic rivalries can get exhausting—and the detour that leads Simon to meet Robin Hood, while charming, is far too long—but the more worrying concern is the sentimental halo she bequeaths on Simon, one of the most contentious figures in English history. On the whole, however, her polished, taut prose and love of historic detail brings alive the ghosts of history in all their scheming angularity. A deeply sketched, thoroughly researched, wildly imagined labor of love that is hugely enjoyable.


Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1452844237

Page Count: 525

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2011



A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020


A captivating story of a complicated woman blazing new trails.

One of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen, Hedy Lamarr also designed a secret weapon against Nazi Germany.

In her latest portrayal of a lesser-known woman scientist, Benedict (The Other Einstein, 2016, etc.) spins the tale of Lamarr, born Hedwig Kiesler, from her late teens in Austria through her success in Hollywood. Born to Jewish parents in a posh Vienna neighborhood, Hedy endures her mother’s criticism while following her father’s encouragement to pursue both science and acting. Although she finds early success with the risqué Ecstasy, the film’s nudity haunts her efforts to be taken seriously. Just as she achieves the respect of her peers as a stage actress, Hedy catches the eye of Fritz Mandl, a wealthy, charismatic older man who owns several munitions factories. Rumored to have mistreated his former mistresses and to be in league with the fascist (albeit anti-Nazi) Austrian Christian Social Party, Fritz determines to wine, dine, and wed Hedy. Once married, however, Hedy finds herself virtually imprisoned and often abused by her jealous husband. Yet Hedy proves invaluable to Fritz when she begins to gather secret information from their well-connected, politically ambitious house guests. After all, who would suspect such a beautiful woman of understanding military secrets? Yet as Germany and Italy begin to join forces against Austria, Hedy discovers just how mercenary Fritz can be. A daring escape leads Hedy to America, where she vows never to be under another man’s thumb. Once out of Fritz’s reach, Hedy not only returns to acting, but also embarks on a new career as an inventor. Remembering the sensitive information carelessly revealed at Vienna dinner parties, she develops a brilliant radio-communication device. But will the American Navy accept such a weapon from a woman?

A captivating story of a complicated woman blazing new trails.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6686-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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