Middlebrow and breezy. A perfect beach read, if a touch off-season, unless you’re headed for Casablanca and its waters.

THE TIME IN BETWEEN

“You wore blue. The Germans wore gray.” So quoth Humphrey Bogart’s character in Casablanca, the tutelary spirit behind bestselling Spanish debut novelist Dueñas’ high-minded historical soap.

Rick Blaine was a soldier of fortune and a failed romantic. Sira Quiroga is a seamstress of fortune, a young woman who has just barely come of age when Franco and his fascist pals start mucking about in the roiled politics of 1930s Spain. Those who remember their history will recall that the generalissimo began his revolt across the waters in Morocco, then under Spanish rule, a place to which Sira has been swept by a dashing but ultimately dastardly lover, who maroons her in the land of the Moors without a centavo. But Sira is a woman of resources, and from the shadowy depths of the Casbah she works herself up into high society, like Larissa Antipova’s mom in Doctor Zhivago. Couturier and designer to the jet set—or perhaps better the Stuka set, given the era—Sira is well placed to hear the secrets of the fascists and their Nazi pals, learning along the way what she has always known—that no one is to be trusted, especially if they look and act like that man in the Dos Equis beer commercial. All is Horatio Alger with a lace mantilla until Sira starts getting wrapped up in the gossipy politics of the day, delivered with rhetorical flourishes worthy of Bizet: “They say Franco’s delighted with him because he’s endlessly recruiting warlike Moorish boys to him, to send to the front...He didn’t spend his whole life playing cards like the laid-back Colonel Sáenz de Buruaga, who on the day of the uprising even gave the first orders from the casino terrace.” Very well, then: Such a worthy adversary requires worthy derring-do, and Sira, now hooked up with British intelligence—for by now we’ve gone from gothic romance to espionage thriller—is just the person for the gig. Will Beigbeder, Franco and Uncle Adolf prevail, or will the good triumph? Well, you’ll just have to read Dueñas’ well-crafted but decidedly chick-lit effort to find out.

Middlebrow and breezy. A perfect beach read, if a touch off-season, unless you’re headed for Casablanca and its waters.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1688-0

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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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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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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