A realistic rendering of a horrific period in German history.

ESCAPE FROM KONIGSBERG

At the end of World War II, a German teenager escapes the Red Army and seeks to reunite his family in this historical novel. 

In the final year of World War II, 17-year-old Walter Heinrich’s life in Konigsberg is increasingly imperiled. Germany is certain to lose the war, and the Red Army is rapidly advancing from the east, leaving a trail of destruction behind its relentless march. Adolf, Walter’s father, who was conscripted into the German army and then disappeared, is now presumed dead. Then, Carl Forsythe, a British pilot, is downed nearby and seeks refuge in the Heinrich household, which Walter’s mother, Lena, eventually provides. Carl and Lena develop romantic feelings for each other—a connection born out of fear and despair beautifully depicted by Tosoff (Point of Return, 2018, etc.). Walter discovers their relationship and is enraged by her act of disloyalty, especially when he learns Adolf is actually alive and being held in a French work camp for prisoners of war. Carl finally sets out on his own, but not before his presence is reported by a meddling neighbor; when a German soldier comes to inspect the Heinrich home, Lena is brutally raped and murdered by him. Walter flees with his two sisters—6-year-old Mila and 10-year-old Brigitte—to Berlin, where his paternal aunt lives, but the three of them are intercepted by German authorities and sent to an orphanage. The author memorably portrays Walter’s relentlessness—he escapes the orphanage and sets off for France in order to find his father and, despite finding love in a small French town near Luxembourg, refuses to surrender his quest.  Tosoff’s research is admirably meticulous—his mastery of the geopolitical currents of the day, including the details of European geography, is indisputable. He captures the impossible predicament of so many Germans at the time—loyal to their native land but also left at the mercy of an insanely criminal regime. Walter experiences the moral degradation of his own people, made mean by their abuse, but he also understands their loss of esteem before the world: “Everywhere Walter went there were stories about beatings and even random murders perpetrated against innocent people just because of their Germanic ancestry. He wanted to get out from under the stigma foisted upon him and his countrymen because of Hitler’s evil deeds.” Tosoff’s prose is lucid and crisp—the entire novel is narrated in the third-person—but lacks any poetical quality. It reads like a combination of personal anecdotes and professional history, as if the author is unsure of which to assume and unable to seamlessly combine the two. The power of the story is its quiet lack of sentimentality—Tosoff unflinchingly describes the darkest depravities without either bowdlerizing the grim details or laboriously trying to shock readers. The moral record, so to speak, is read out loud without maudlin embellishment, and readers are trusted to understand its meaning or devise their own. One could argue that descriptive restraint is itself a species of poetical accomplishment. 

A realistic rendering of a horrific period in German history. 

Pub Date: May 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-985067-00-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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