For fans enmeshed in this intricate world, a welcome installment which those new to the series might find a bit too in media...

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THE PASSION OF THE PURPLE PLUMERIA

From the Pink Carnation series , Vol. 10

The 10th in Willig’s witty series about Napoleanic-era spies focuses on a far-from-drowsy chaperone.

Gwen, lady companion to Jane, aka the notorious English spy Pink Carnation, is enjoying her sojourn in Paris. There, she is not a pitied, unmarriageable spinster but a proficient and daring spy in her own right: She sallies forth at night disguised as a gentleman to learn, among other state secrets, what Napoleon’s foreign minister, Talleyrand, is up to with a certain opera diva, Aurelia Fiorila. Too abruptly, Jane and Gwen are recalled to England: Jane’s sister Agnes has disappeared from her boarding school. At the school, Gwen meets Col. Reid, who’s come from India to reunite with the daughters he sent to England to be educated years before. Now, his daughter Lizzy has gone missing along with Agnes. Reid assumes the girls have taken refuge with his older daughter Kat in Bristol. After journeying there and learning, to Reid’s dismay, that Kat is now taking in laundry and living in a hovel, Reid and Gwen are set upon by brigands. Although Gwen handily fights them off by deploying her sword parasol, Reid is wounded. Mutual attraction smolders as Gwen nurses Reid back to health. Back with Jane's family in Bath, Gwen is alarmed that Jane seems so susceptible to the blandishments of the Chevalier de la Tour d’Argent, who is either a double agent or a charlatan or both. The plot thickens when the colonel and Chevalier escort the two spies to an opera performance starring Fiorila. Gwen chronicles and exaggerates the exploits of her alter ego, Purple Plumeria, in a swashbuckling novel in progress, the Convent of Orsino. A present-day frame story features Colin, a descendent of the Pink Carnation, and his Harvard historian girlfriend, Eloise. The writing is acerbic, arch and funny, but the complex back story demands familiarity with the earlier books.

For fans enmeshed in this intricate world, a welcome installment which those new to the series might find a bit too in media res.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-451-41472-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: New American Library

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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