Lushly written, this is an ambitious, unsettling novel that takes on big issues in a passionate, personal way.

TRINITY

Seven fictional characters tell the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the A-bomb, reflecting on his complicated legacy as they talk about their own lives, which intersect with his.

Much has been written about Oppie, as friends called him, the renowned physicist hailed as a hero for his work on the bomb, then pilloried for his left-wing views and Communist Party connections during the McCarthy era. (After JFK was elected in 1960, Oppenheimer’s reputation was rehabilitated.) But in this boldly imagined, multilayered novel, author Hall (Speak, 2015, etc.) takes a new approach. Through her invented narrators, she explores themes of guilt and betrayal as well as the fallout from lies and self-delusion—in the process bringing Oppenheimer, an often aloof, conflicted man, to vivid life. Among those offering “testimonials” as she calls them: Sam Casal, a military intelligence operative, who one evening in 1943 tails the married Oppenheimer from the Rad Lab in Berkeley, California, to the San Francisco apartment of his (real-life) former lover, Jean Tatlock. Then there’s Grace Goodman, a young WAC assigned in 1945 to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the A-bomb was built and tested under Oppie’s supervision. Only the last story, narrated by Helen Childs, a journalist who comes to interview the disillusioned and fatally ill scientist in 1966, goes on too long and strains to make the necessary connection with the man himself. Oppenheimer chose the code name “Trinity” (a reference, apparently, to a John Donne poem Jean Tatlock introduced him to) for the A-bomb test that preceded the historic August 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the beginning of each chapter, as a framing device, the author provides a glimpse of Oppenheimer at work in Los Alamos in the tense hours and minutes leading up to the test.

Lushly written, this is an ambitious, unsettling novel that takes on big issues in a passionate, personal way.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-285196-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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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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