The cave art is great, the rest less gripping.

THE CAVES OF PÉRIGORD

A fourth novel from journalist and CNN commentator Walker (The President We Deserve: Bill Clinton, His Rise, Falls and Comebacks, 1996, etc.).

Art historian Lydia Dean, 30, works for a London auction house and is offered by Major Manners, a divorced British officer, a large flat chunk of clay with a marvelously well-painted bull on it, which his father brought from France after WWII. She dates it at 15,000 b.c., obviously from a prehistoric somewhere like Lascaux. The scaled-down bull on this painting, however, is ten or twenty times smaller than a bull in any known cave painting, the smallness and excellence of the image pointing to an advance in that art. Lydia explains to Major Manners that his late father’s rock is of such high historic interest that no auction house would touch it, since it has no provenance and quite possibly will cause an international scandal should France demand it back. And then the rock is burgled from the auction house. Time leaps backward 17,000 years, and we’re with cave folk in the Vézère Valley, where the apprentice young cave painter Deer (he’s great at swimming deer) has fallen for young Little Moon, herself secretly a gifted painter. But Keeper of the Bulls, the top cave painter, wants Little Moon for himself. Then we leap to 1943 and Major Manners’s father, Captain Jack Manners, of the Special Operations Executive, landing in France to help the Resistance, which is disastrously split into political factions that foresee their own postwar battles. Even so, Jack must help blow up bridges and attract Nazi focus away from the forthcoming D-day invasion. Eventually, he stores his large stock of armaments in a cave accidentally reopened by a German mortar shell. Meanwhile, Deer and Little Moon run off and find their own white chalk cave where—freeing art from the shackles of religion—they explore new dimensions in rendering and portraiture.

The cave art is great, the rest less gripping.

Pub Date: March 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-2284-9

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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