Trenow, who serves as a perfect example of the old adage that you should write what you know—she’s the descendant of...

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A routine World War II romance, Trenow’s debut, is distinguished by the author’s smooth-as-silk delivery.

Lily is in the twilight of life as she sorts through the remnants of her past at her rural British home, The Chestnuts. When her granddaughter finds a locked briefcase in a closet, she’s flooded with memories of her youth, including a guilty secret she’s harbored for many years. Lily’s story, told in hindsight, is the tale of a young woman who discovers love and purpose while learning the intricacies of the family business under the tutelage of Gwen, the assistant factory manager. As her friendship with Gwen deepens and the inevitability of war edges closer, Lily excitedly accompanies her brother to a party where she meets pilot Robert Cameron. He visits the family at The Chestnuts and persuades her father and brother to invest in machinery that will enable the mill to manufacture silk for parachutes. A wise venture, their business deal keeps the factory operating and enables the Verner family to sponsor three German refugees and to provide them with jobs and a cottage. Much to her father’s dismay, Lily rebuffs Robert’s romantic advances and falls in love with Stefan, one of the refugees. She’s heartbroken when England enters the war, her brother enlists in the RAF, and Stefan and the two other refugees are taken into custody and shipped to an internment camp in Australia. As the war rages, Lily becomes her father’s assistant and suddenly is thrust into the directorship, which she manages with Gwen’s assistance. She and Stefan have kept their love alive via post, and when he returns to England, now called Stephen Holmes, their romance strengthens. The story takes a predictable path and ends on a too-perfect note, but nevertheless, it’s worth reading.

Trenow, who serves as a perfect example of the old adage that you should write what you know—she’s the descendant of generations of weavers—has penned a mellifluous, impeccably researched narrative.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7945-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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