Next book

THE SOUND OF HER NAME

A palatable historical novel that holds the nostalgia.

Seattle novelist Morgan’s (Deeper Waters, 2002, etc.) folksy history lesson revisits a small Welsh town 20 years after the Americans ran through in WWII.

It’s 1968, the Vietnam War rages, and young American Tim Bruce sets off on his Grand Tour of Europe after graduating from Berkeley. Hoping to dodge the draft, and having overheard his pompous law-professor father, Carlton, mention the Welsh town of Clarrach, where he once knew a beautiful girl named Gwyneth Griffiths, Tim decides to head there first (“Maybe he’d discover something about his father he didn’t know already”). And, sure enough, there does exist such a lady near the cliff-town of Clarrach, on the west coast of Wales, the respectable wife to Dr. Rhys Edwards. They welcome the naive American, who has been accepted to Harvard Medical School though he’s not sure he wants to become a doctor. Rhys, a Welsh nationalist who makes no attempt to hide his scorn of what he considers the failed experiment of American democracy, mentions, in a cruel aside, the death of Tim’s political hero Robert Kennedy, then later takes him on rounds to let him see what real doctors do. The past story of Gwyneth and Carlton’s relationship gradually, painfully unfolds, involving a baby born out of wedlock and a gruesome beating-murder of a black GI by his racist fellow soldiers jealous of then-teenaged Gwyneth’s attentions. All the while, naturally, Tim falls wildly in love with the alluring, elusive Gwyneth, and their attraction nicely sparks Oedipal electricity. English-born author Morgan deftly incorporates some forbidden history of the American presence in the country during WWII—“Overpaid, oversexed, and over here”—and she clearly relishes Welsh history and culture. After the initial heavy-handed plotting (clumsy Tim keeps hurting himself so that he has to stay with the Edwardses), Morgan conveys a story that seems to strain on its own to be heard.

A palatable historical novel that holds the nostalgia.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-34135-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

Categories:
Next book

THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 28


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 28


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016


  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    finalist


  • New York Times Bestseller

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

Close Quickview