Not the best installment of the impressive trilogy, but an intriguing conclusion nonetheless.

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BIG SUR TRILOGY

PART III, THE ROAD

The hardscrabble Allan family has faced nearly every threat their rough, self-sufficient pioneer life in Big Sur country has to offer, but it’s mankind that finally presents a challenge the family may not be able to overcome.

As in all the novels of Ross’ trilogy, Big Sur country is an entity unto itself. The land shaped all three generations of the Allans; it’s what defines them. But now the government is blasting a road through the pristine wild country Zande Allan loves, and the stubborn family patriarch is determined to stop it. His grandson and namesake, Zan, sees the road differently—it’s progress and opportunity, and he wants to be a part of its creation. When Zan defies his headstrong grandfather, Zande cuts him out of the family, and Zan begins working on the road crew, blasting away the land he’s always loved to allow more people to discover it. But after his irresponsible cousin, Tilli, kills the man who spurned her, Zan realizes he has to save the family’s reputation by taking the blame for the murder, which lands him in prison. Seven years later, he returns to a world that has moved on without him and makes no place for an ex-con—and the woman he loves is out of his reach because of it. Like all the Allans in Ross’ trilogy, Zan is a compelling character: strong-minded, honorable, hardworking. And like all the Allans, it’s his own unbending adherence to his core values that contributes to his undoing. In Zan’s case, it’s family pride that convinces him to save the honor of a cousin who doesn’t deserve his sacrifice; and later, stubborn pride—and fear—keep him from admitting his love for Lara Ramirez, the girl raised by his beloved grandmother. Co-written by Koeppel 50 years after Ross’ death, this installment doesn’t feel quite as smooth or authentic as the other two titles in the series. But like the others, it’s a fascinating character study, a realistic portrait of one of America’s final frontiers and a book that’s hard to put down.

Not the best installment of the impressive trilogy, but an intriguing conclusion nonetheless.

Pub Date: April 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-467950-08-4

Page Count: 308

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2012

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Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

THE EVENING AND THE MORNING

Murder, sex, and unholy ambition threaten to overwhelm the glimmers of light in Dark Ages England in this prequel to The Pillars of the Earth (1989).

A Viking raid in 997 C.E. kills Edgar’s one true love, Sungifu, and he vows never to love another—but come on, he’s only 18. The young man is a talented builder who has strong personal values. Weighing the consequences of helping a slave escape, he muses, “Perhaps there were principles more important than the rule of law.” Meanwhile, Lady Ragna is a beautiful French noblewoman who comes to Shiring, marries the local ealdorman, Wilwulf, and starts a family. Much of the action takes place in Dreng’s Ferry, a tiny hamlet with “half a dozen houses and a church.” Dreng is a venal, vicious ferryman who hurls his slave’s newborn child into a river and is only one of several characters whose death readers will eagerly root for. Bishop Wynstan lusts to become an archbishop and will crush anyone who stands in his way. He clashes with Ragna as she announces she is lord of the Vale of Outhen. “Wait!” he says to the people, “Are you going to be ruled by a mere woman?” (Wynstan’s fate is delicious.) Aldred is a kindly monk who harbors an unrequited love for Edgar, who in turn loves Ragna but knows it’s hopeless: Although widowed after Wilwulf’s sudden death, she remains above Edgar’s station. There are plenty of other colorful people in this richly told, complex story: slaves, rapists, fornicators, nobles, murderers, kind and decent people, and men of the cloth with “Whore’s Leprosy.” The plot at its core, though, is boy meets girl—OK, Edgar meets Ragna—and a whole lot of trouble stands in the way of their happiness. They are attractive and sympathetic protagonists, and more’s the pity they’re stuck in the 11th century. Readers may guess the ending well before Page 900—yes, it’s that long—but Follett is a powerful storyteller who will hold their attention anyway.

Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-595498-9

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

CILKA'S JOURNEY

In this follow-up to the widely read The Tattooist of Auschwitz (2018), a young concentration camp survivor is sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a Russian gulag.

The novel begins with the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops in 1945. In the camp, 16-year-old Cecilia "Cilka" Klein—one of the Jewish prisoners introduced in Tattooist—was forced to become the mistress of two Nazi commandants. The Russians accuse her of collaborating—they also think she might be a spy—and send her to the Vorkuta Gulag in Siberia. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. The narrative is intercut with Cilka’s grim memories of Auschwitz as well as her happier recollections of life with her parents and sister before the war. At Vorkuta, her lot improves when she starts work as a nurse trainee at the camp hospital under the supervision of a sympathetic woman doctor who tries to protect her. Cilka also begins to feel the stirrings of romantic love for Alexandr, a fellow prisoner. Though believing she is cursed, Cilka shows great courage and fortitude throughout: Indeed, her ability to endure trauma—as well her heroism in ministering to the sick and wounded—almost defies credulity. The novel is ostensibly based on a true story, but a central element in the book—Cilka’s sexual relationship with the SS officers—has been challenged by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center and by the real Cilka’s stepson, who says it is false. As in Tattooist, the writing itself is workmanlike at best and often overwrought.

Though gripping, even moving at times, the novel doesn’t do justice to the solemn history from which it is drawn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-26570-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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