The long-anticipated seventh book may reveal what's still missing from this series, because it certainly isn’t detail.

THE SUN SISTER

The sixth installment of Riley’s mammoth series about the adopted daughters of an enigmatic shipping magnate.

This volume, weighing in at 500-plus pages, concerns Electra, the youngest of the six D’Aplièse sisters—each named for a star in the Pleiades constellation—who were rescued by seafaring entrepreneur “Pa Salt.” As always, the prefatory cast of characters notes that a seventh sister, Merope, is “missing.” Like her sisters before her, Electra was bequeathed clues by Pa (who died under mysterious circumstances) as to her birth origins. But Electra, a Manhattan supermodel who’s addicted to vodka and cocaine, is blasé about her personal quest. When Stella Jackson, a prominent black attorney, claims to be Electra’s biological grandmother, Riley begins the extended backstory common to all the books, this one about Electra’s ancestor. Stella’s reluctance to spill the beans all at once and Electra’s own prodigious procrastination slow the narrative just enough to maintain suspense. The tale centers on Cecily Huntley-Morgan, a white New York socialite who, on the eve of World War II, finds herself living in Kenya in a marriage of convenience to Bill Forsythe, who spends most of his time away on cattle drives with Maasai tribesmen. This situation stems from Cecily’s broken engagement in New York, which she followed with an unwanted pregnancy courtesy of a rebound rake. Rarely for this series, both storylines hold their own. Electra checks into rehab, vowing to forswear hedonism and use her fame and wealth to help addicted and underprivileged youth. The Kenyan setting, in seeming homage to Out of Africa, is colorfully atmospheric even as Cecily remains stolidly unhedonistic amid the Happy Valley set of hard-partying and dissolute British expats who surround her. The second half of the novel plumbs, with many detours and digressions and much descriptive minutiae, the mystery of how Cecily and Stella are connected and how Electra came to be abandoned.

The long-anticipated seventh book may reveal what's still missing from this series, because it certainly isn’t detail.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1064-2

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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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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